Earlier this year, Farm Credibly was selected as a finalist in the 2018 CTA Pitch AgriHack competition. The team was thrilled to see Farm Credibly CEO Varun Baker heading to the African Green Revolution Forum in Rwanda, where this year’s Pitch AgriHack competition took place. There in the country’s capital, Kigali, Varun had the fantastic opportunity to represent Farm Credibly, competing with 26 other start-ups from across Africa and the Caribbean.
The idea behind Farm Credibly is to leverage blockchain technology so as to create positive change for agriculture in Jamaica. As a technology company focused on finance in agriculture, Farm Credibly, provides access to loans for unbanked farmers in Jamaica without requiring them to fill out any paperwork. The goal is to make productive farms more productive. This is done by providing alternative credit scoring to micro lenders. A profile is built up on farmers based on the real economic activity of farms validated by companies that farmers already do business with. Farm Credibly's customers are creditors who see value in the 86% of Jamaicans who are underbanked.
A major motivator to move from concept to viable business, came when Farm Credibly won first place in the IBM/NCB hackathon competition in November 2017. When the opportunity to apply for Pitch Agrihack 2018 arose via social media, of course the Farm Credibly jumped at it and applied.
Valley of Death
As one of the shortlisted finalists, the team was invited to participate in an investor-readiness training session conducted in both French and English by Suguba, a new initiative to support entrepreneurs in West Africa. It was a very informative session that provided practical advice about the journey ahead of most early-stage start-ups, and how best to manage company finances. A major point is captured in the slide shown below, which describes the start-up lifecycle, complete with a “valley of death” – right at the beginning:
A key recommendation is that your main sources of funding are your clients. Build a great product that has a relevant market.
Pitch Agrihack 2018 emphasised the importance of inclusiveness for women working in ICT – the theme of the event being ‘Women entrepreneurs innovate for agricultural transformation in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific’.
A record at a #PitchAgriHack edition... Honoured to have in this 2018 final, the youngest entrepreneur (14months) participating in this final phase with his parents @omololabiola and @oluwajoba ,both co-founders of @agroinfotech
Welcome young #lolu@CTAflash#AGRF2018@TheAGRF pic.twitter.com/Im9bEdPLqX
— CTA AgriHack Talent initiative (@AgriHack) September 4, 2018
Perhaps the best symbol for the mood of the event was in its inclusivity for women – and new mothers in particular, who could bring their children along to the training sessions.
The @AgriHack theme this year is, "Women entrepreneurs innovate for agricultural transformation in ACP countries" and as such, they have gone out of their way to make sure this female entrepreneur can attend and also bring along her 14 month old baby boy. So cool. pic.twitter.com/uUXBMxdnbg
— Varun Baker (@varunbaker) September 4, 2018
Indeed, inclusivity was the name of the day: as a Caribbean start-up, it was amazing for Farm Credibly to be included as participants alongside so many African companies.
Our success in Rwanda means that we now have €5,000 in funding to help us run a pilot. The main aim is to start issuing micro loans to farmers in our network, and begin testing out Farm Credibly’s existing credit scoring algorithm.
US$4 million in two years
The greatest takeaway from being a part of CTA Pitch AgriHack was the opportunity to meet and interact with the various entrepreneurs who were present. The Farm Credibly team promises to write a separate post just to highlight some of these passionate young innovators. There is undoubtedly a growing network of amazing talent across the ACP. Coming from the Caribbean, where we have a collection of small island states, it was a major eye opener for the Farm Credibly team to realise the scale of commodity markets across the African continent. For instance, one female entrepreneur from Agrisolve in Ghana hit revenues of over US$4 million after just two years of operation, having received initial seed capital of around US$100,000. In short, there is a lot of opportunity in ICT for agriculture in Africa – and we are excited and proud to be a part of a similar wave that is emanating from the Caribbean.