e-Farmers' Hub (e-Hub)
The e-FarmersHub (eFH) is a mobile light, 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 Network Managers, to make sound business and data-driven investment decisions. The project was initiated in Bangladesh in 2017; as of August 2021, it is working across 617 FHs in different countries including Senegal, Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. Following the successful proof of concept, the intention is to scale the platform as an ecosystem enabler for the agriculture sector connecting smallholders, agribusiness, insurances, and finance. For commercial test out of this platform, it is rebranded as “Soluta Ag” for the sectors and approached by a commercial entity LightCastle Partners.
The project is aimed at bringing a new dimension to agro-technology – increasing efficiency and strengthening the agricultural value chain. Until the advent of eFH, FH owners used to store daily transactional information on paper, which, in turn, would have to be collected by the local SFSA team/Network Manager 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 eFH, 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 Network Manager, 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-sale 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.
The proof of concept of eFH platform in different countries for Farmers’ Hub business operation and enterprise management shows the opportunity to scale it in another agribusiness with a sustainable business model. In this regard, SFSA has contracted with LightCastle Partners in Bangladesh to manage this platform, create additional values (eg. marketplace) and commercially offer to use this platform to the different Agribusiness Companies who want to trace the last-mile smallholders’ visibility, Financial Institutes who want to minimize the hassle of small-enterprise and smallholders financing, and Development and Govt. Org. who want to get synthesis smallholders and agriculture data. For this purpose, the eFH is rebranded as “Soluta Ag” for all external users from a neutral point other than SFSA’s own designed Farmers’ Hub project. It will also create the flexibility of developing interoperable systems for connecting another platform for a wider range of impacts. The ultimate goal of this contract is to transform this model into a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the next level of sustainability and scaling up.
As of August 2021,
- The platform is operational in 6 different countries in Asia and Africa
- A total of 617 Agri enterprises (Farmers’ Hubs) are onboarded in this platform for their business management and data-driven decision making
- 180,000 unique farmers have been registered on this platform
- 300,000 transactional data have been collected for different shorts of business and performance analysis and enable for accessing services
- Two external clients (other than SFSA Farmers’ Hubs) JOIKKO - an agribusiness start-up and Oxfam B D- a development organization have been using this platform for their enterprise management in Bangladesh
- The tools are optimized with offline capabilities, 5 languages, and an interoperable system connecting AVENEW platform for processing loans to smallholders in Kenya