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Grou, the marketplace to reach small-holder farmers in Latin America

Grou aggregates supply from small-holder farmers using SMS messages and delivers the produce to business customers that order online

Photo of Juan Cadavid
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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Grou is a B2B online marketplace for agricultural products in Latin America, designed to increase market access for farmers using tools they are familiar with. The first step in this process is farmer screening. With an SMS, a farmer can contact Grou so a Produce Manager visits the farm and inspects the quality of the farmer’s products. Information regarding harvest date, produce type, quality, location and price expectation is uploaded by the Produce Manager to the platform. On the other side of the network, sourcing teams of business buyers use the platform to search for and purchase produce. We are initially targeting local restaurant chains and food processors (e.g. Heinz, Lays). Once an order from the buyer is in place, Grou makes sure to aggregate supply from different farms to fulfill the order. Time of harvest and location are the key factors that are considered in this step. From our experience, it takes 20 farms to fulfill an average order. 1. The farmer is notified the amount of his product that has been sold, the price, and the pick-up details for approval via SMS. Produce is picked up from different farms by a logistics partner and transported to the buyer at the selected time and location. Then, Grou pays the farmers in cash or with mobile money, while providing 45-day financing for buyers. We keep ratings of order fulfillment to provide feedback to farmers and help them improve on their quality.

WHO BENEFITS?

Small-holder farmers are the main beneficiaries of this platform. When farmers decide to take the produce to town markets, the high transportation costs they incur and the waste derived from this process creates a situation in which they are locked down to sell their produce on that day and in that particular town market. When it comes to information, many farmers lack pricing and demand knowledge which makes the process of selling at a fair price a time consuming task.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

Our initial market is Colombia given the teams network and knowledge of this market. However, we see this model as a scalable solution for market access in Latin America and other emerging markets. Once tested, we plan to apply the concept to Africa.

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • I'm not sure

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

Grou’s team is currently composed of two co-founders: Pablo Jaramillo (MBA Kellogg) and Juan Cadavid (MBA Stern). The co-founders have known each other for over 22 years and previously worked in family businesses in agriculture, in flower production and fertilizers respectively.

Farmers in Latin America lack access to markets, which limits sales and profitability. The fragmented markets in which agricultural goods are traded have been revealing an undeniable problem: when it comes to small farmers, demand and supply of agricultural products do not have an efficient way of encountering one another. Given the lack of information that small farmers in Latin America face about the different markets in which they could sell their products, the only alternative for them to close this gap is to take their products to a town market. Due to high transportation costs, inevitable perishability of the products and excessive amount of brokers in the value chain, small farmers are forced to sell below market prices once they arrive to the town’s public market, leaving no room for the farmer to target other markets or to bargain the price. 

Grou is an online marketplace for agricultural products that connects farmers and buyers so that they can transact in a secure and transparent way. With the aid of food brokers leveraging technology, Grou also provides real-time market information to farmers and buyers that is otherwise unavailable. The platform combines the digital channels that buyers expect, with offline mechanisms to reach farmers. This way, farmers benefit from access to markets and buyers benefit from a reliable value chain in which food waste is also reduced.

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