During tough times, it may seem like nothing can help get you back on track. To help local farmers get back on their feet amid the Covid-19 pandemic,Zamokuhle Thwala from KZN has created a digital crowdfunding platform that empowers smallholder farmers.
AgriCool is an online marketplace that links smallholder farmers and buyers to a fair and reliable market. The online platform also helps farmers secure financial assistance and gives them access to real-time information that they need to improve production.
The entrepreneur, who was once a smallholder farmer himself, knows how hard it is to secure the money needed to get started, and then to find good markets for your products. “I would farm and lose most of my produce to spoilage due to lack of access to markets. I decided to quit farming so I could solve these key problems in the agri-value chain,” said Thwala.
Through AgriCool, street vendors can get their fresh produce delivered to them, saving them time and transportation costs. “we will also be linking formal smallholder farmers with market access opportunities,” he added.
AgriCool is one of 10 start-up companies chosen for the AlphaCode incubation programme, which is powered by Rand Merchant Investment.The companies take part in a 12-week intensive pre-incubation programme valued at R500 000, including R150 000 in grant funding for each participant.
“It’s a golden opportunity for us.The insight we are gaining is invaluable and is going to contribute immensely to our success. I like that it’s very practical. With regards to the funds, we will be investing it in the improvement of the technology behind AgriCool,” said the AlphaCode incubation programme beneficiary.
Although 2020 proved to be a tough financial year for Thwala and his business, things are looking up for the company. Thwala said AgriCool has managed to seal deals with Boxer, Save Hyper and Farm Fresh and gradually, other smallholder farmers are coming on board.