Device and Internet Access I am redesigning the app to bring the full benefits without farmers ever needing to connect to internet. For farmers with feature phones (voice and SMS), only registration agents will need to connect to the internet so as to enrol new farmers. Farmers will receive an SMS text confirming they are subscribed. On the Farmoji website, agents will fill in a simple phone to enrol farmers who do not own smartphones. Sales order notifications from buyers come to farmers’ phones both via SMS and smartphone text feeds. I am upgrading the Farmoji app to work on low end smartphones (testing on Alcatel One Touch Pixi with a screen resolution of 320x480, retailing at $35 in Kenya). I have also initiated the process of availing Farmoji on Facebook’s Free Basics (http://internet.org) service so as to make app accessible via free internet connectivity. The decision to design for the full range of feature phones, budget smartphones and high end smartphones is because access and affordability of devices and connectivity is very fragmented among farmers.
Trust and Last Mile Logistics To enhance trust and last mile logistics, the new upgrade will include: 1, Nearest marketplace/ shopping centre on each farmer's profile, so that transaction and pick up points for buyers is simplified 2, Farmers will be able to add their licenses, traceability codes and quality certification on their profile for pre-verification by discerning quality buyers 3, In addition, each farmer will set their competitive advantage by tagging two attributes they excel in from four choices - high quality, low price, delivery speed and year-round availability. This self assessment adds a search and selection mechanism for buyers who seek specific value options.
Team, Budgets and Product Roll Out Farmoji has so far been a solo operation on a bootstrapped budget. The focus has been on building and refining a prototype, a task that has been achieved. The next step is to structure an enterprise around the product and start commercializing. The ideal team would be 3 full time staff with roles of administration/ finance, communications/ marketing, and product development/ R&D (myself). Planned market entry will be two pronged: city launches where farmer cooperative managers are invited to a two day workshop and trained and equipped with tablets to sell subscriptions to their members at a profit to the cooperative; and social media adverts targeting city consumers to download the app and save on food costs. A working budget would need to provide a runway of 24 months for 3 full time staff. This is because of two reasons: First, we are entering into the $15-$25 low cost smartphone price range in the next 12-18 months. This affordability means that millions more farmers and the poor in cities will buy smartphones and download livelihood enhancing apps such as Farmoji. We want to have r&d resources to design for this user-base; Secondly, of the 525 million smallholder farmers, 87% are in Asia and 8% in Africa (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3557e/i3557e01.pdf - page71). So, in addition to piloting in Kenya, it would be great to have funds to pilot in at least one Asian country with knowledge learned over the first year in the Kenyan market, so as to seed entry into the massive Asian smallholder agri space.