GREENING AND ENVIRONMENT

Kenya’s Farmshine expects Malawi expansion this year after raising funding

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Kenyan agri-tech startup Farmshine expects to begin a partnership with a large development project in Malawi later this year as it starts to expand in the wake of securing funding.

Farmshine operates a global agriculture platform where farmers, buyers and service providers can trade on mutually beneficial terms. Its agriculture operating system enables smallholder farmers to aggregate and sell their harvests directly to large commodity companies.

Combined with on-the-ground support from Farmshine’s field officers, the mobile app ensures that farmers are offered clear, fair and reliable contracts from legitimate buyers.

Disrupt Africa reported last month the startup had raised US$250,000 in funding from GMC coLABS, the early-stage, sector-agnostic, gender lens investment portfolio of impact investor Gray Matters Capital, in order to finance its expansion, and that process will begin this year.

“In addition to our current operations in Kenya, by mid-2020 we expect to begin a partnership with a large development project in Malawi,” Chris Mimm, co-founder and head of strategy at Farmshine, told Disrupt Africa.

“In the near future, we will also consider opportunities for expansion in other East African countries. Farmshine’s software platform can be licensed to organisations around the world.”

So why exactly is Farmshine so impactful? Enabling smallholder farmers to aggregate and sell their harvests directly to large commodity companies has not been possible in the past because there was no way to exchange accurate information on buyers’ contract offers, or to ensure the trust needed for buyers and farmers to engage in such a contract.

Farmshine’s platform changes all that, and can also be used by United Nations (UN), NGO and commercial organisations to manage their agricultural activities. This includes the registration, training and management of smallholder farmers; monitoring of crop growth and field activities throughout the growing season; early warning of plant pests and diseases; and aggregation and sale to large commodity companies.

“Many UN and NGO organisations provide training and agricultural support to farmers, but lack the management and data analysis capabilities of Farmshine’s platform. By connecting their farmers to the buyers on Farmshine’s platform, these organisations can provide farmers with a sustainable trading solution that continues even after the project has ended,” Mimm said.

The effect of all this is to include Kenyan smallholder farmers, around 70 per cent of whom are women, to become included in the formal economy.

“In addition to helping farmers sell more crops at better prices, our platform provides farmers with an economic identity and trade history,” Mimm said.

Farmshine’s app records the quantity and quality of each harvest sold, as well as loan repayments, training received, and other indications of a successful, reliable farmer.

“Based on this record, the farmers can apply for small loans, access more profitable market opportunities with our buyers, and purchase inputs on credit. This identity and trade history is a vital enabling factor for farmers to look beyond their farm and the local markets, and to connect with the entire agricultural ecosystem,” said Mimm.

Farmshine receives a small fee from the crops sold over its platform, and is also launching a licensing model for organisations that would like to use the company’s agriculture operating system to manage their field operations, and to facilitate trade with Farmshine’s buyers.

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