Silos are traditionally associated with the storage of value, but in agritech initiatives it points to bottlenecks that have slowed down adoption of interventions whether commercial or in beta. Everyone you speak to from the larger agritech ecosystem is focused on the small holder farmer; helping them extract more produce per acre, providing market information to avoid exploitation, soil testing services, value addition training, access capital among many other benefits. In these individual corporate or social good pursuits, the publics often keep their operations and impact close to their chest, only to be released in summary in some report or conference where the replication of effort becomes evident, especially in regards to access to capital and information.
Cash flow is the lifeblood of the small holder farmer. Money for inputs, money to bridge the punitive pay cycles from buyers and for the day to day. A number of agri focused technology companies based on their farmer deployments have been in talks with owners of capital, primarily banks to provide access to loans using that which the farmer owns or is projected to earn, as collateral. Multiple disjointed conversations over the same agenda has everyone moving slowly.
There was a national soil map that was unveiled months back. It looked resplendent in its pdf state but attempting to get the raw information that informed the map has proved a tough task. We talk of open data but important datasets such as these are missing and slowing down gains from smarter decision making by the farmer who now has to rely on paid up services by third parties driving up costs of production and eating into margins.
Market data is available, but the lack of complementary information makes it a good to know but hardly useful. Each invested organization seems to have its own extension services program solely focused on its own product line.
There needs to a single view of the farmer, an initiative best led by an agnostic player such as the Ministry of Agriculture that would allow for a number of things to happen.
First a knowledge base can be made available through which third parties can have product specific content ingested and through a trainer of trainer program, the ministry can have as many extension officers in the field as needed with a full service curriculum capable of supporting multiple service providers.
Reference Bureau anyone?
Second, a credit reference bureau of sorts can be created that makes assessing the loan worthiness of a specific farmer an api call away, with spot on risk visibility as everyone would provide details on farmer interventions that are currently live and banks will have also provided a template of what they are looking for and what constitutes a “no” or a “go”.
Third, market data could to be enriched and hyper targeted, providing benchmark logistical costs and price forecasting based on produce and market options growing the bottom line for the farmer who is no longer confined to the single hop marketplace.
It’s time we broke down our walls for the benefit of our identified consumer, the small holder farmer.