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Farm Connect

The Farm Connect platform allows stakeholders in the agribusiness value chain to earn from selling agro-inputs, agro-services and produce.

Photo of James Makumbi
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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

My idea is to setup a platform, Farm Connect, administered by a company, Farm Connect Uganda Limited, that will solve Uganda's "last mile problem" by training unemployed youth in agro-business. These youth will then use our platform to register and manage willing small hold farms (for free) using our platform. My idea is to then take the farm information and use it to attract major stakeholders in the agricultural value chain. Stakeholders such as bulk buyers of produce who lack knowledge of where the produce is, produce transporters who are under utilized as well as micro finance companies looking for viable farms to back with funding. These stakeholders will, for a quarterly or annual fee, use our platform to know when, where and for how much the opportunities in agro-business are in Uganda. They will be able to make purchases, sales and executive decisions based on real time data. This platform (and company) solves the small hold farm problem whereby farms are too small to be commercially viable and yet either too big for subsistence or provide too little revenue for a good quality of life. This idea also solves the resource allocation problem (rural-urban migration) as well as maing the small hold farmers, "bankable".

WHO BENEFITS?

The beneficiaries mainly will be small hold farmers. They will benefit from enhanced incomes, access to capital and both cheaper and regular agricultural extension services. They will also have better bargaining power. Other key beneficiaries are the young urban unemployed. They will be (re)skilled in agro-business and shown that working in their own villages can not only be lucrative but also have stature. Investors in Agri-business will also benefit from this by seeing the entire value chain

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

I would like to start in central Uganda but my vision is for a regional solution that unites all African agricultural efforts.

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

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!

We are a business called Farm Connect Uganda Limited. We are partnered with Vision Group one of Uganda's largest media houses and we are working on getting a University (Mukono) as well as a major financial institution (DFCU Bank) on board as well.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

Yes, this idea is new for me. I am a software developer with training in Human Centered Design (Stanford dSchool Bootcamp) as well as training in setting up and running a successful business (Regent University Business Development Center). My core skill is in developing tailored business information management solutions. The Farm Connect idea is different because given past experience in Uganda, we can't just develop a solution and then walk off. Experience has shown that development, support and usage of such systems stops as soon as funding stops. This means I have had to register a company and build a sustainable business structure around it.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

My idea is unique in that we GUARANTEE satisfaction of our users. We WILL provide employment to youth in their villages. We WILL provide well paying markets for farmers products. We WILL provide cheap or affordable agro-inputs to farmers. We WILL provide value to ALL stakeholders in the agricultural value chain. Other similar systems only look at one aspect such as markets for farmers. Other similar solutions/ideas have not solved the "last mile problem". We have SOLVED the, "last mile problem".

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

I personally will devote time to this. I have a team of software developers as well as a commitment from http://uganda.dotrust.org/ to provide the skilled youth to participate in a pilot study. My business partner a leading lawyer is also devoting his time to bring on board the necessary industry partners (telecoms, banks and universities) in order to have a successful and meaningful pilot study.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

We initially thought none of the farms could manage themselves but much to our joy, we found many farms with not only access to the necessary ICT but also knowledge of how to use it. We have also altered our model somewhat in order to take advantage of the available ICT centers setup via the Uganda Communications Commission's RCDF programme that seeks to provide ICT hubs to rural communities.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

I am still trying to figure out how to pay the farm managers. Whether they should be on commission, on retainer to the farmers or on the payroll of my company.

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

Because no one is willing to build a self sustainable solution that has measurable value for all the value chain stakeholders.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

I would like to get this up and running with 100 farms, 4-5 products and two successful product cycles from planting to market.

MEMBERS OF MY TEAM HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER FOR:

  • Less than 6 months

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Under $100,000

Farm Connect is a platform used by Farm Managers, agro-input suppliers (fertilizer, pesticides), agro-service suppliers (transport, finance and consultancy) as well as exporters and bulk buyers of agricultural produce to harness synergies and economies of scale to maximize revenue, service delivery and production.

The platform allows a farm manager to manage  three to five contiguous or nearby small hold farms as one large farm. He or she will be able to coordinate the production, buy more inputs and services cheaply, as well as command a greater market presence than the normal small scale farmer.

The other users (Service providers, Land owners, Agro input suppliers and Produce buyers) of this platform will also be able to make smarter and better informed decisions based on the instant information they receive. Sellers will know not only who is buying but where they are, what quantities they need as well as be able to predict when next to supply them. They will be able to know where the market is and when. They will also be able to fulfill transactions on the platform using mobile money.

Attachments (1)

Farm Connect Uganda Limited.pptx

Powerpoint presentation explaining the problem, the need and the solution we propose

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Spam
Photo of Bahenda Joseph
Team

Hello James Makumbi,
I like your idea since it tackles unemployment (unemployed youth/rural-urban migration), and help small farm holders get access to the commodity market. My question is though, how many young people do you intend to train (in how much time)? Are you going to pay them or they will do a voluntary work? How about the role of your management team?

Best regards,
Joseph

Spam
Photo of James Makumbi
Team

Thank you for your question Bahenda Joseph , we thought of this as one of our fundamental challenges. That is why we partnered with http://uagnda.dotrust.org/ who are already training youth in ICT skills. We would like to get those youth give them a short 10 - 12 month "skilling course" on how to manage an agri-business. So far Mukono University has been identified by my business partner while I personally am in talks with UCU to help put together this course. 
I am confident a 10 week course will work because I personally am a graduate of one such course from http://bdcuganda.com/ and know it can change ones life. We are opting for skilling whereby people are taught hands on and on the job because we have seen that this approach gives the most mileage in the least time. It also allows us to weed out poor performers early before any damage is doen to the programme.
The question with regard to pay is a good one. I am not ashamed to say I am challenged by it. On one hand I am tempted to offer these youth support and facilitation with the promise of commission on sales just as my company will be getting. I am also considering asking participating farmers to pay a modest retainer fee to their managers which might establish an employee-employer relationship. lastly I am considering putting them on my payroll. The latter is a huge risk given that the company runs off subscription and will not have much in capital to begin with.
My team are already gainfully employed and are currently volunteering their time. After the first pilot, we should have demonstrated sustainability and a small team including myself should then be able to work full time as paid employees.

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