Agripro is a start-up that changes farming in Ghana. Its mobile application transforms farm management, enables farmers to access financial resources, and encourages younger generations to consider farming as a legitimate future profession. Flying Blue member Edison Gbenga explains how his ingenious mobile app impacts farmers in Africa.
“Farmers and ‘management’ are repelling forces”, says Edison. “The farmers we work with, eschew managerial tasks. Whereas on a farm, what you need is a systematic way of running your operations – as is the case with any business. It is important to know when your supplies come in, when to best spray your crops, and when your deliverables are due. Agripro developed a mobile app that allows farmers to track their own operations, as well as the activities of the members on their team. Because farmers in Africa like simplicity, Agripro is a low-key interface that simply tells you what to do when. We are currently running a pilot in which a few hundred farmers participate. By March 2014, we aim to have scaled up to a thousand farmers.”
Access to financial markets is a second obstacle faced by farming in Ghana, Edison tells: “For financial institutions, the risk associated with farming is a barrier to engage in lending; farmers find that interest rates can be as high as 30 per cent per year. A gap that can be bridged when farmers systematically report to financial institutions. Farms using our app significantly reduce the risk of farming, because their operations follow a standard procedure. But most importantly: risk becomes predictable. Farmers in Africa make standardised information available to banks when they use the app, which improves their chances of obtaining a loan and will drive down interest rates. We also link farmers to banks and investors directly.”
“What we at Agripro have come to realise”, says Edison, “is that young people are no longer interested in farming. Increasingly large portions of the younger generations in Ghana are highly educated and seek jobs in the service economy. Which will cause the profession of farming to die out. If the current situation persists, Ghana will be struck by food shortages not because it lacks agricultural capacity, but because society is unable to deliver enough young people willing to take on the job. We consider it our responsibility to show students that running an agricultural enterprise does not have to be different from running a business. At our demonstration farm, young professionals experience what it is like to manage a farm.”
The excitement of natural growth
“Technology is a means that helps young people rediscover the beauty of farming”, Edison thinks, “because technology is the culture of the day. In Ghana, mobile communication claims an ever-larger share of our daily lives, and is hailed by younger generations. We see that the link between farming and technology makes young people express new interest in farming. As we take them through the process of becoming a farmer, they gradually rediscover the beauty and excitement of natural growth.”