Our tagline:Leveraging technology to provide Ghana's farmers with market access and information empowering them to trade fairly and improve their incomes.
Our pitch:In Ghana and across Africa, rurally living populations face higher levels of poverty and have less access to markets and services. Despite these structural problems, agricultural contributes to significantly to the GDP of most African countries and rural production accounts for a majority of the agricultural output of Sub-Saharan Africa. Improving and increasing rural development and employment opportunities are now major development priorities for many African countries as well as national foreign policy objectives for many countries economically involved in Africa. AgroCenta developed its web and mobile agricultural platform to solve problems of market access for rurally living farmers. The platform offers a suite of services that empower rural farmers to improve their incomes and trade fairly. The platform leverages web and SMS features to provide farmers with weather and crop pricing information, a sales platform to offer their crops for sale and logistics options to help deliver crops and prevent spoilage. Through relationships with large offtakers, the company is able to offer rural farmers a ready market and premium pricing. The company also offers farmers training in agricultural best practices and business management, as well as micro-credit facilities and in-kind loans for agricultural inputs. The company is in the process of implementing it AgroPay mobile money solution in partnership with MTN and Premium Bank to further facilitate payments to farmers, as well as to expand their access to finance and financial services. Thus, through technologically assisted market linkages, AgroCenta helps rural farmers fairly participate in the agricultural economy.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Tema, Ghana
The dimensions of the Challenge our solution addresses:
What makes our solution innovative:AgroCenta offers a ready-market for rural farmers where the primary challenge is organizing rural production to meet demand. The company's platform is tailored to rural technological infrastructure and usage, lowering adoption barriers for farmers to benefit from the platform's services. In the past two years, the company has gained valuable operational experience, identified a successful business strategy, and is well-positioned to capture a majority share of rural Ghanainan production in 5 years. Within Ghana, AgroCenta is the only company to provide an all-in-one solution that leverages technology to provide farmers with market linkages.
How technology is integral to our solution:AgroCenta applies 'Sharing Economy' concepts to the Ghanaian agricultural sector, leveraging technology to provide market linkages for rural farmers. By tailoring the solution the existing technological infrastructures (limited connectivity, non-features phones, semi-literate users), the company can offer its services to the broadest group of beneficiaries (e.g. voice, SMS, USSD services). The company profits through organizing rural production and benefits from technologically-enabled operational efficiencies in logistics and supply and value chain connections. The company is developing an agricultural commodities exchange platform, to provide further market and value chain linkages and broaden the company's customer base.
Our solution goals over the next 12 months:AgroCenta measures its success through a tripple-bottom-line lens, balancing profit with social and environmental benefits. For 2018, the company hopes to:
1) launch the AgroPay mobile money solution and signing 5,000 farmers up to the service;
2) mobilize over 8,000MT of crops;
3) close a $750,000 funding round to support further growth and scaling. Launching the AgroPay solution will help with operational efficiencies and facilitate the disbursement of farmer payments. The production goal will be important for the company to reach to prove the validity of its scaling and revenue models.
Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our solution to affect the lives of more people:In five years, AgroCenta expects to be active in active in several African markets, including Nigeria, Benin, and Burkina Faso. It will directly target its services to the large numbers of rurally living and economically disenfranchised farmers. By tailoring its services to address common pain-points for farmers, the company offers an all-in-one solution which helps rural farmers improve their farms and their livelihoods. By tailoring its model to address inefficiencies across the agricultural value chain, the company hopes to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of farmers and improve African food security.
Our promotional video:
The regions where we will be operating in the next 12 months:
How we will reach and retain our customers or beneficiaries:AgroCenta's platform targets Africa's rural smallholder farmers. Although mobile phones are common in Africa, features phones and data plans are prohibitively expensive for rural farmers, 70% of whom earn less than $1 US/day. Both their financial status, technological adoption, and rural positioning stand as barriers to these farmers participating in the digital economy. By tailoring its services to rural farmers, the company offers its core services to farmers via voice and text, thereby including the vast majority of the semi-literate population.
How many people we are currently serving with our solution:Since founding in 2016, AgroCenta has recruited more than 5,000 farmers to its platform, generating $100,000 in revenues in 2017. The company ran a pilot of its PlantRite program with 350 farmers in 2017, increasing production and revenues for participating farmers. On average, farmers realize 17% better prices than available at local markets through AgorCenta's platform. More than 5,000 additional farmers have pre-registered for the company's AgroPay service as well, demonstrating demand for the company's services. Thus, AgroCenta's platform helps farmers both increase their production as well as improve their financial livelihoods through improved revenues.
Explaining our organization:
The company is operationally supported by GreenTec Capital Partners, a Germany based impact investor, who provide additional capacity for the company's finances, investor relations, and fund raising. The company earns revenues on the sales of agricultural commodities to major offtakers in the food and beverage industry, providing a range of farmer extension services and technologically assisted market linkages to help meet demand. The company's co-founders direct the company's operations and technological development, while agents and regional managers provide farmer and logistics support for the company's rural operations.
The skills our solution team has that will enable us to attract the different resources needed to succeed and make an impact:The company was founded by Francis Obirikorang and Michael K Ocansey. Both founders are still full committed to the company's growth in their respective roles. Both founders have previous entrepreneurial experience from a previous venture as well as experience in providing digital services to farmers from working at Esoko, a Ghanaian agricultural information service. Both founders know the limitations of rural technological infrastructure, From their previous experience at Esoko, where they saw first hand the service's limitations, and designed their own solution to bridge the gap between rural farmers and markets with a solution tailored to rural technological infrastructure.
Our revenue model:AgroCenta has established relationships with multiple offtakers in Ghana's food and beverage industry, which provide the company with a ready-market for rural production. Our PlantRite program provides in-kind micro-loans and training in exchange for a right of first refusal. We plan to build regional storage and aggregation centers to further increase efficiency. Currently, the company's primary constraint on growth is having sufficient capital to cover operational expenses for constructing aggregation centers and to purchase surpluses with seasonally fluctuating prices. The company is in the process of closing a $750,000 funding round to raise funding for further scaling. In 2017, we earned $100,000 US with 618 MT mobilized; in 2018, the company projects to earn $750,000 and increasing to 120,000 MT by 2022 with revenues above $40 Million US.
Why we are applying to Solve:The company will apply any award to operational expenses related to the further growth of its business and the development platform. The company aims to make personnel additions to its development and agents teams. If awarded the prize, the company would benefit from the exposure and prestige of MIT. We would predominantly market the award through our social media channels for investment and traction purposes, minimizing the needs for additional marketing expenses.
The key barriers for our solution:The primary external challenge is building up sufficient funds and infrastructure in order to better capitalize on seasonally varying prices. We are planning aggregation and storage centers to allow the company to purchase year-round and safely store surplus. Technology adoption by rural farmers also poses a challenge; we address this issue where possible with training.
Internally, AgroCenta faces challenges of identifying and recruiting top talent to its team. To mitigate this risk, AgroCenta leverages its partners' network to recruit from an international talent pool. Locally, AgroCenta works closely with techhubs and regional accelerators and can identify and mentor talented local developers.
The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Solvers:
- Francis Obirikorang CEO, AgroCenter LLC