A winner of CTA’s Pitch AgriHack competition, Farmart – an online farmers market – enables farmers to sell their produce for more money and reduce post-harvest losses.
Understanding what farmers need and providing an easy solution is a recipe for a transformative agribusiness. Abraham Quaye, an agribusiness graduate from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology with an interest in technology and social media, realised that smallholder farmers in Ghana were producing food but lacked a viable market for the produce. “Farmers have been farming for a long time but many have nothing to show for their hard work because they lack buyers and those who buy from them often give them low prices,” says Quaye, who decided to find a solution to farmer’s market access challenge.
Putting his technology skills to work, Quaye launched Farmart with an investment of GH¢ 4,000 (€730). Farmart links farmers to customers in a new smart way. The company sources produce from farmers as soon as an order is placed on its website, and the products are then delivered to individuals and business customers at their home and offices across Accra.
“Running an online business has helped us pay attention to the needs of our customers which engage with us online,” says Quaye. The company has also used social media – including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pin Interest – to boost their online profile. The Farmart website makes it easy for people to order, and for those who are not tech savvy, a number is listed so they can send a message, via WhatsApp or SMS, to place orders.
In 2017, Farmart won the CTA’s Pitch AgriHack competition which aims to promote start-ups that offer innovative agribusiness solutions. Through support from CTA, Farmart is seeking to recruit more staff, as well as increase the number of individual customers and the number of business customers develop new services, generate higher revenues and make the business more sustainable. CTA supported Farmart to attend the Africa Agribusiness Incubation Conference and Expo 2017 organised by the African Agribusiness Incubation Network (AAIN) in Senegal. Farmart’s CEO is also attending the 2018 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF). These kinds of networking events helps Farmart, and other start-ups promote their business.
Quaye says that business training and exposure to new ideas is the fuel needed to drive start-ups in Africa. “Pitch AgriHack gave us exposure to some of the things that we were not doing right like how best to work with farmers and how to run a farmer-focused business,” says Quaye. “Pitch AgriHack was not just about a pitch. We went through business training on pitching, financial modelling and opportunities across agriculture value chains which are important elements in sustaining a business. I recommend any start-up to enter Pitch AgriHack.”
The future is agribusiness
“We get inspiration from Alibaba and Amazon, and are diversifying as a result”, said Quaye. In 2017, Farmart launched Farmers Box; a ready-packaged and branded box of farm-fresh produce. The company has also created the Farmstore, a platform allowing accredited food processors to create their own market for niche products within the Farmart platform. In 2018, Farmart is looking to raise €12,000 to expand the business and gain accreditation from Ghana’s Food and Drugs authority so that it can enter the export market.
“We are building technology to link farmers in Ghana with customers abroad and we want to tap into a growing demand for organic produce,” said Quaye. “We are also advocating for policies that support agribusiness. The Planting for Foods and Jobs initiative in Ghana is empowering farmers to produce more which is good for us. When farmers are doing well, a country does well and there is a boost in economic growth.”