e-Farmers' Hub (e-Hub)
The e-Farmers’ Hub (e-Hub) is a mobile, digital platform, designed to help entrepreneurs keep track of daily transactions while enabling the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) to monitor progress in real time. This technology facilitates the smooth management of Farmers’ Hubs (FHs) - agricultural input-output marketplaces for smallholder farmers established in Bangladesh - allowing the SFSA, as well as the FH Franchisor, to take sound business and data-driven investment decisions. The project was initiated in Bangladesh in 2017; as of February 2018 it is working across 45 FHs. Following the successful proof of concept, the intention is to scale the platform to other countries such as Senegal.
The project is aimed at bringing a new dimension to agro-technology – increasing efficiency and strengthening the agricultural value chain. Until the advent of e-Hub, FH owners used to store daily transactional information on paper, which, in turn, would have to be collected by the local SFSA team/FH Franchisor and then entered into computers for analysis and reporting. This made the process cumbersome, time-consuming, and prone to manual errors – leading to sub-optimal efficiency and delayed decisions, hampering productivity and performance. With e-Hub, the problem is solved. A fairly simple technology, e-Hub consists of a mobile application and a reporting web dashboard. FH owners use the mobile app to enter transactional data, generate invoices, receive credit alerts, view cash flow reports and compare prices across hubs. Meanwhile, the FH Franchisor, as well as SFSA management, enjoys the flexibility to see data from various hubs in real-time, run cross-comparison analysis, track location, and assess overall performance. Furthermore, this platform enables SMS messages to be sent to the farmers’ mobile, alerting them to crop management advice as well as market information. The app is available on Android and is capable of functioning offline, printing invoices and essentially serving as a point-of-sales system. A dedicated call center also provides round-the-clock technical support to FH owners. LightCastle Partners, a tech-enabled consulting firm based in Bangladesh, works as the partner for this initiative. SFSA aims to expand the platform to other countries and keep on building innovative technology solutions for the development of FH.
- Beginning as a pilot project in 2017, as of February 2018 e-Hub covers 45 FHs in Bangladesh, and 3 FHs and 3 CEMAs (centers for agricultural mechanization services) in Senegal.
- By gathering practical users’ experiences, e-Hub develops, modifies and matches digital solutions with the local business language of agri-entrepreneurs to increase user-friendliness.
- E-Hub is optimized in three languages: English, Bengali and French, and is planning to add some more local languages.
- As of February 2018, more than 30,000 smallholders’ farm families are benefiting directly and indirectly from this platform.
- Farmers’ Hub owners are happy to use this app and acknowledge its advantages for easy business management.
E-Hub enables the Farmers’ Hubs with on-demand transaction management, market information and analytics,” says Bijon Islam of LightCastle Partners (which works with the SFSA to support FHs), noting how ICT-based solutions help farmers to be more knowledgeable and “savvy”, able to rapidly access market information and liaise with end-consumers directly, thus encouraging a focus on quality of product. “Members are empowered with high-quality inputs, easy-to-access output markets and fair prices.”