The cost of operation and getting to maximse farm yield for smallholder farmers appears to be two, out of many banes, facing the wide agricultural ecosystem on the African continent.
Without any significant improvement on these challenges, it would prove difficult to increase the income of farm producers, thus, increasing food supplies available to the consumers will remain a mirage.
One start-up that has appeared to understand and tending to solve this challenge is, however, based in Morocco.
The agritech start-up has developed a precision agricultural services platform that can solve the two main challenges stated at the opening of this article.
The start-up employs a wide range of data, including weather data, satellite and drone imagery, to determine the required optimum level of fertilizer and water to supply each crop.
The agritech start-up is seeking to expand its commercial activities, while at the same time, giving support to many farmers, through its freemium and premium services.
Its freemium service offers smallholder farmers and cooperatives access to yield estimates and simple crop monitoring.
Its premium service targets government agencies, NGOs, agri-business platforms and large-scale farmers.
All to provide them yield prediction, accurate irrigation and plant disease management.
In light of this, CFAMedia had a discussion, with Faissal Sehbaoul, Managing Director, AgriEdge who took us through the journey of how the start-up began, as an agriculture service platform and digital marketplace, for agro-products.
According to Faissal, the ambition to empower farmers in agricultural productivity & sustainability in Africa, through innovation and digitalisation, was the driver, behind the founding of AgriEdge.
“From the beginning, AgriEdge set as an objective, creating a bridge between advanced R&D in precision agriculture and the farmers, as well as developing adapted digital services, to the African context”, added Faissal.
After spending two complete years in research and development, while also, spending interactive experience with farmers, AgriEdge deployed its services.
The start-up involves farmers, from different regions in Morocco in field experiments, to validate its services in real conditions.
Today, AgriEdge has two platforms—AgriEdge platform, for agronomic recommendations and AgriSoo9, the marketplace that allows farmers and cooperatives to exhibit and sell their products.
On local farmers embracing AgriSoo9, AgriEdge’s Marketplace, rather than selling on their own, Faissal commented, “taking into account the current context of COVID-19, we are right now helping local farmers and cooperatives, selling their products, through our Digital Marketplace AgriSoo9”.
As it appears on the African continent, in purchasing cash products, you most often, require to get to a traditional marketplace which can be a supermarket or a popular market.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, indications have shown that many customers prefer e-commerce, rather than direct purchase in the market, for sanitary and security reasons.
“This new way of commerce has loudly affected farmers and cooperatives revenues, especially, the ones who are not familiar with the use of e-commerce.
For that reason, we created AgriSoo9, the digital marketplace that allows farmers and cooperatives exhibiting and selling their products”, stressed Faissal
AgriEdge is also, making its target users, (i.e. farmers and cooperatives), familiar with this tool, frequently organising training sessions on e-commerce and digital marketing, as well as tutorials on how to navigate within AgriSoo9.
AgriEdge’s Milestone since inception
According to Faissal, AgriEdge has shown a fast market penetration and growth.
“Our strategic approach of integrating interactive user experience and permanent interaction with the market, since the launch of AgriEdge, drives our accomplishments”.
AgriEdge milestone is in making farmers efficiently, use digital tools to compute how much water and fertilizer they should give to their crops, to predict their crop yield and to sell their products, through our digital marketplace AgriSoo9.
“Today, AgriEdge is operating in 5 African countries – including Morocco and four other countries from West Africa – with a turnover of more than $200,000.”
According to Faissal, the agritech start-up is currently helping more than 30,000 farmers, boosting their yield and reducing their operational costs and we are seeking to scale up and expand geographically, across Africa.
What AgriEgde offers an average local Moroccan
The agricultural sector in Africa, including Morocco, is still making its first steps, toward digitalisation and precision agriculture technologies.
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has helped to accelerate some of these technologies, nevertheless, smallholder farmers, are still not ready to invest in digital solutions
“From our field experience, the most efficient way to get them convinced is, by proving practically the added value of our solutions.
For that reason, right now, we are offering for free, our solutions to smallholder farmers, through Agric Cooperatives that have opened the door to AgriEdge for collaboration, either, in Morocco and West Africa”, Faissal noted.
Agriedge is, also, mobilising financial institutions to share the costs. The start-up has, also, observed that the farmers who used AgriEdge Platform, continue to use it and invite their neighbours, to do so, too.
AgriEdge Satellite data
On the cost-effectiveness of satellite data for local farmers affordability, Faissal explained,
“One of the key features of Satellite Data is its ability to cover large areas in one shot. This gives the satellite technology the capacity to fit well, with agriculture needs and serve as many as possible neighbouring farmers.
With this, the cost-sharing business model, especially, for smallholder African farmers and cooperatives, becomes more interesting and easy to implement”,
With the current advances in satellite technology, the new generation of satellites, currently orbiting earth, embed sensors that are able to capture data, from which, a bunch of insights can be extracted, to help local farmers grow and earn sustainably, more and more.
Furthermore, with the growing number of satellites around Earth, it becomes possible, to monitor crop growth continually, which allows making the right decision at the right time, especially, with the current climate disturbances.
About Agri Analytics Days
Every year, AgriEdge organiSes Agri Analytics Days, (AAD), an international scientific event.
The event gathers experts in Digital Agriculture, from different continents, to discuss the advances in Digital Agriculture Technologies, through real case studies.
The last edition featured a day, called Digital Farmers Day, to allow smallholder farmers, coming from across Morocco, to pitch their use of digital solutions, in front of a jury of international experts, invited to AAD.
The three most digitalised farmers, were awarded the label, “Digital Farmers”.
AAD allows AgriEdge to bring international experience to the African context. It, also, helps the AgriEdge team, to stay updated and on the way of innovation.
The next edition of AAD will take place in March 2021, in Morocco.
“In coming years, we see AgriEdge, a digital platform that integrates the whole agri-value chain and is used, by different agri-stakeholder segments, across Africa”, Faissal concluded.
Featured Image: Faissal Sehbaoul, Managing Director, AgriEdge
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