I always enjoy my weekly email feed from Agfunder, an online ag investment platform that stays on top of emerging technologies. In today's blog they report on a series D fundraise by agtech firm Farmers Business Network. FBN was started as an online platform supplying data to US farmers on seed and farm productivity using data directly provided from farmers or through their equipment. Using this data FBN realized that seed sold under many different brands, and for a range of prices, performed similarly, which allowed their subscribers to make smarter seed choices. Well, as innovators they innovate to meet market demand that they discover, and now FBN is a growing online supplier of seed and other inputs, competing with brick and mortar retail and industry stores. They've expanded their product selection to over 1,200 different seeds, fertilizers and pest management products, and are using this new injection of money to move into crop marketing, signing up farmers with hundreds of thousands of acres of grain production for contracts in 2018. Transparent data on input costs and market prices, and elimination of middlemen, lower costs and increase profits for their customers.

 

This all sounds very familiar. But while FBN's market is 50 thousand large US farms, Partnering for Innovation is working with companies trying to crack the last mile market of 500 million smallholder farmers. We have funded Twiga in Kenya who is using an online platform to help streamline fruit and vegetable marketing from the farm level to retail outlets in Nairobi, and Baban Gona in Nigeria that is setting up hubs of smalholder farmers that they offer financing, sell inputs and buy product from. Or TECAP in Mozambique, which is expanding their last-mile input and equipment distribution by establishing retail outlets closer to the market, and also setting up networks of individual farm business advisors who go directly to smallholders to market and sell. Or Agro-Input Suppliers in Malawi which is selling inputs but also has an eye on offering customers offtaking services. Database platforms are making their way into emerging market agriculture, and with mobile phone coverage being what it is, this technology should become more commonly available. Increasing the transparency and availability of inputs and markets will put more money into the pockets of this much larger market, and contribute to food security in the communities and countries where these farmers work. Do you see your company incorporating online platforms into your business model in the coming year? What hurdles do you anticipate during this process?