WeFarm, a peer-to-peer mobile AgriTech network that enables small-scale farmers to access and share vital agricultural information without the need for internet access, has reached over 100,000 users and secured US$1.6 million in a seed funding round led by LocalGlobe, a UK-based venture capital firm.
The seed funding will assist with expanding the platform across the globe to more farmers. WeFarm enables small-scale farmers to access crowdsourced information and advice from other farmers even when offline. This is done by sending a free SMS which then allows farmers to receive answers to any agricultural queries or questions they have.
The service uses machine learning technology to connect incoming questions to those users on the system who have the most relevant knowledge.
The AgriTech startup was launched in 2015 and now boasts a community of over 100,000 farmers across Kenya, Uganda and Peru. In 2015 WeFarm was part of the Wayra UK accelerator in London, which supported the business in its growth trajectory.
“Connecting farmers to relevant advice from other farmers is a completely new approach. The majority of information delivered to people living in poverty is top-down, whereas we are using a crowdsourcing model to unlock generations worth of grassroots knowledge, ideas, and experience among farmers. This is why WeFarm has already secured more than 100,000 registered members in an industry where less than 0.1 % of mobile apps ever reach even half that number.”Kenny Ewan, WeFarm Founder & CEO
LocalGlobe VC partner Saul Klein said that they believe that WeFarm, whether delivered on feature phones or smartphones, will, over time, become an important channel for farmers into the wider food supply chain.
“In five years time we want to connect 100 million small-scale farmers to our network. There is still massive global inequality around access to information, but by designing services for basic mobiles phones you can create social impact on an unprecedented scale as well as develop a highly profitable social business", Ewan continued.
As a result of WeFarm's crowdsourcing approach, the firm is also generating unique user data on the world’s supply chain and commodities, as well as on populations in the developing world who are yet to have internet access.
WeFarm generates revenue by supplying actionable insights to businesses, NGOs and governments. The impact of this important data could be extremely significant in the fight to eradicate poverty and hunger in the developing world. Using this data, governments can track major issues such as disease and drought, and businesses can save millions of pounds by preventing crop diseases from ravaging their supply chains.