Kenya’s WeFarm, a peer-to-peer agtech network, has managed to raise $1.3 million in seed funding through an initiative led by LocalGlobe, a U.K.-based venture capital firm specializing in seed investing. The funds will go towards extending the benefits of WeFarm to thousands of new farmers across the world. Currently, more than 100,000 farmers in Kenya, Uganda, and Peru are using this technology.
Kenny Ewan, WeFarm founder and CEO, explains how WeFarm is taking a novel approach to farmer education and development,
“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 crowd-sourcing model to unlock generations worth of grassroots knowledge, ideas, and experience among farmers.”
How It Works
The peer-to-peer mobile network was launched in 2015 and is designed to allow small-scale farmers, especially those who are in remote areas without Internet access, to obtain and share crowd-sourced information and advice with other farmers from around the world.
By sending a free SMS-text message, a farmer in Kenya can receive accurate answers to any questions related to farming from another farmer in Peru in a matter of seconds.
The technology does not require the farmer to be connected to the Internet to receive or send information.
The service employs machine-learning technology to send incoming questions to users on the system that have displayed unique expertise in certain areas of agriculture.
So far, the company says it has managed to share more than 15 million answers from farmers all over the world.
“WeFarm is building and empowering a community of farmers, [while] dramatically improving their experience of obtaining advice. In doing so, WeFarm has created an SMS and web-based network that’s enjoying real user growth and engagement,” LocalGlobe partner Saul Klein said.
Many farmers in Kenya are now enjoying the benefits of using WeFarm as they can receive accurate answers to their farming queries from anywhere on the globe.
“Since I do not have anyone to ask most of the farming problems, WeFarm is helpful to me. It’s a great place to learn,” Kenyan farmer Festus Tonui said.
According to Ewan, WeFarm is planning to connect 100 million small-scale farmers to the network in the next five years.
He adds that the company is committed to ending the current massive global inequality around access to information for farmers.
“By designing services for basic mobile phones, you can create social impact on an unprecedented scale as well as develop a highly profitable social business.”
Due to its crowd-sourcing approach, the company is generating unique user data on the world’s supply chain and commodities.
WeFarm makes money by supplying businesses, NGOs, and governments with actionable insights from the data shared by farmers.
The company has won several awards in the past few years, including the Impact Challenge Award 2014, MEFFYS Award for Innovation in Technology 2015, Messaging and SMS World Awards’ Best SMS Solution 2015, Business Rocks’ Global Startup Pitch Battle 2016, Chivas Regal’s The Venture Competition’s UK Award, and the European Union Commission’s Ideas from Europe Prize 2016.