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How sharing platforms empower the agricultural industry

How sharing platforms empower the agricultural industry

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Published by Crowdsourcing.org

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Apr 15, 2012
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02/03/2013

 
 
Despite technology‟s pervasive tendencies, farming and disruption were,
until recently, completely unrelated concepts. Though popular in certain,well-informed circles, community supported agriculture was hardlycompetition for corporate farms, which are empowered by their ability todistribute quickly, widely and cheaply, much to the dismay of thosefamiliar with the consequential low quality of their produce.Fortunately, technological advancement also means greatertechnological access, placing the necessary tools for communication inthe hands of even the most dated markets. Recently, this came to includethe agricultural industry, to drastic gains in both developed nations likethe US, whereFarmigo is connecting local farms to consumers, and developing nations like Kenya, where iCow and M-Farm are connecting local farmers with one another to compete with mass producers.
At the core of these brands‟ ideologies are lofty but realistic dreams – 
 most notably, the alleviation of poverty. As smaller farms encroach uponmarket share, consumers will be provided access to higher qualityproducts, while those who provide those products will have access topreviously out-of-reach capital. The key to their success is sharedresources
 – 
a demand increasingly enabled by web and mobileplatforms.
 
 
MFarm
M-Farm is a Kenya-based startup that usesSMS technology for a triplicate of need-based causes: enabling farmers to inquireabout the current market and regionalprices of specific crops, aggregatingorders of farm supplies to lower overall purchase costs, and allowingfarmers to sell collectively while better connected to the market. Co-founded by Jamila Abass and Susan Eve Oguya, the startup was inspiredby a constant cry for help from Kenyan farmers, who, said Abass, were
complaining “on a daily
-basis about lack of transparency in the market,having middlemen as their only channel of selling their produce, as well
as high costs of farm inputs.” The founders‟ goal, with that in mind, was
to circumvent existing power structures to better distribute resources.Their mission ultimately came to fruition out of IPO48,a 48-hour boot
camp. After leaving with the grand prize of €10,000, they developed the
 
SMS-based system that formed the foundation of their product. BecauseKenyan farmers still function with limited access to technology morecommonplace in developed nations, M-
Farm‟s strength is that it only
requires users to send a text message to the number 3535, which thenc
onnects them to whatever resource they need. “The use of technology
in the agricultural sector is still a young and not-so-
mature concept,”Abass explains. “Most small scale farmers are still below the poverty
line because they lack the information necessa
ry to empower them.”
 By circumventing this shortcoming, thetechnological gap between small- and large-scale farmers is alleviated; the market istransformed to include conglomerate-likepartnerships of farmers whose progress waspreviously subject to untrustworthy
middlemen. “With this, groups have been created, relationships among
farmers have been e
stablished and enhanced,” Abass said.“Traditionally, groups fell apart due to a lack of transparency and groupleaders who do not pay the farmers once work is done.” Beyond access
to market prices, which provides transparency and leverage innegotiations, M-Farm provides automated aggregation to farmers innearby geographical areas, so buyers only see the aggregated produce,its prices, and when and where to pick it up. On the other end of thescale, farmers can group their orders for farm supplies, keeping theirown costs low.Though M-Farm has already proven its capability to double profits,according to the 73 farmers involved in the pilot program, an addedlasting effect will be strengthening the relationship between farmers and
technology. “Farmers are
becoming more responsive to technology and
no longer see it as a tool for the urban middle class people only,” Abass

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