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Grou

We help displaced farmers move back to the Colombian countryside by bridging the gap between agricultural production and urban demand

Photo of Juan Cadavid
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Explain your idea

At Grou we believe farmers are key stakeholders in Colombia's quest to bring peace and prosperity to our whole country. During 60 years of war, farmers where displaced either through terror or through cocaine harvesting, resulting in more than a 5 million rural population moving to the cities. The increasing conflict brought poverty to the cities as there were not enough jobs to fulfil the needs of these families. Now, with the signing of the peace treaty, it’s in the country’s best interest to create demand for labor in the countryside. Agriculture is the pillar of labor in the countryside. Colombia is rich in natural resources, with the world’s leading biodiversity. However, displaced farmers have a difficult task at hand. Not only have they lost knowledge of their trade, but also have they lost motivation to work in the countryside. Farmers will only move back if they get fair compensation for the risk they take and the hard work they put into agricultural production. Additionally, farmers have also lost their land. Part of the post-conflict challenge is to redistribute the land, with the government needing help in formalizing land titles and in people relocation. These challenges are why Grou exists. There is a need to rejuvenate an industry in need of technology and organization. Farmers alone will not get the job done, and we need to act now before we see new generations flock to other endeavors. Our solution is to create “Grou Communities”, groups of farmers with access to information on food demand in the cities. With information and transparency around prices, we create a huge advantage for farmers. Instead of going to the central market where farmers are forced to settle for whatever price they get, Grou provides a sales channel that identifies the products that buyers need and the appropriate price to pay given market conditions. On the other side of the supply chain, Grou helps with the sales process so buyers can purchase online instead of sourcing from wholesalers or multiple brokers. We believe this process can be more efficient by creating a channel that links both sides. Grou Communities provide additional benefits to farmers. By grouping displaced farmers, the land titling process becomes easier, helping the farmers in the process of securing their land and organizing their families around labor in the countryside. It also becomes easier to retrain farmers and provide guidance in harvesting techniques as they work together in self-supporting communities. We believe providing these non-monetary benefits are key in the creation of trusting and long-lasting bonds between Grou and the farming communities.

Who Benefits?

Our target market is comprised of displaced farmers in Colombia. We are focused on food distribution from small farmers, the segment of the population that was most harmed by the conflict in Colombia and can benefit most from Grou’s value proposition. Grou will provide for farmers the means to access land, get the proper training and information about the produce they need to plant. Grou will also provide the sales channel to sell their produce in the cities. On the other side of the supply chain we serve B2B customers who buy produce in bulk. Initially we are specifically targeting restaurants who are looking for fresher, high quality food. These restaurants value a direct channel to farmers as they can market their dishes as “farm-to-table” and can target customers who pay a premium for fair trade. By providing the sales channel online, the purchasing time has been reduced 10-fold, with added value for the buyer in terms of user experience in order tracking and repurchasing.

How is your idea unique?

Agricultural products are traded at local markets in Colombia. Small towns host local fairs so sellers and buyers can meet. This process repeats itself at regional and urban levels, making it inefficient for food to reach the main hubs. Digital competitors have emerged trying to disrupt this industry, such as last mile delivery apps like rappi.com and merqueo.com. These apps focus on finding demand, buying produce from supermarkets at higher prices, not reaching the farmer directly. What Grou does differently is to connect the buyers with farmers. By creating Grou Communities, we have a bigger incidence on what farmers plant and the quality of produce. Margins are higher by cutting down the supply chain, resulting in better prices for farmers and buyers. We believe that having a trusting relationship with farmers not only results in better produce for our buyers, but also creates a prosperous rural environment where more people find agriculture as a just and worthy way of life.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about you

Grou is a for profit business created in 2015 by two cofounders: Pablo Jaramillo and myself (Juan Cadavid). Pablo and I have been friends since we were 9 years old. We grew up in Bogotá, Colombia and met in primary school. Since then, we shared the same high school, university, and we even planned our MBA's at the same time in the US. Our friendship has always been supportive of business plans. We started saving after college in a shared stock portfolio. With this money we later created Simplonomy, a co-working space in Bogotá to support early stage startups. Pablo and I come from families tied to farming. Pablo's family has a flower plantation outside Bogotá, where he grew up. This family business led him to see firsthand the problems farmers had when dealing with markets. However, it also taught him the importance of building relationships with farmers in order to have a successful business. My family had an agrochemical business which was sold a couple of years ago. During the internal conflict years, I could see how damaging the war was for agribusiness. Sales went down, employees quit to avoid working in the countryside, and the government couldn’t support the burden given it was fighting the guerilla. Both of our experiences drive us to change how agriculture works and bring back prosperity to this industry. After we both completed MBA’s in the US, we have completely devoted our time to Grou. Pablo is focused on operations and sales, while my role is in tech and finance. We have also hired the son of a farmer working in Pablo’s plantation as an operations specialist. He’s in charge of finding produce suppliers that meet the requirements of our restaurant customers. The past 6 months have been all about finding product-market fit. In September we focused on doing in depth interviews with restaurants in Bogotá and with farmers in the outskirts of the city. Mid-October, we used insights from these interviews to develop an MVP, which was ready to launch mid-November. Since then, we have started serving restaurants using the MVP, growing the amount of monthly orders at a 25% rate. We have used this experience to develop new features such as repeat purchasing. Our strategy is to gather demand before we create our first Grou Community. We are certain that information about consumer behavior is key for us to guide the planting process and increase the probability of success of our first harvest. We plan to raise seed funding in the next 6 months to support the next stage of the company, both from individuals and institutions. Grou has just been accepted to the NXTP Labs Agtech Accelerator, a program based in Argentina, during which we expect to share our progress with as many third party Agtech leaders in order to identify the gaps in our long-term strategy to make Grou scalable and profitable.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

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Photo of Eric Won
Team

Hello Project Grou. While your target market appears to be in South America, our group (HarvestLink, which also has posted an idea...) is focusing on Africa. Our effort employs mobile technologies to give subsistence farmers direct access to local markets, closing the gaps between producers and consumers. Moreover, our approach builds the bridge between farmers and consumers (be they households, schools, restaurants, or processing plants) so that commercial transactions can occur and economic development can promoted for these farmers. Check us out and let us know if there is any potential for collaborating. We are a consortium of not for profits, small businesses, and an academic institution and recognize that you are a for profit company. We can work that out, I'm sure... Ciao.