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How Complete Farmer is Revolutionising Access to Global Markets for Smallholder Farmers in Africa

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Complete Farmer is working on a scalable agritech solution for farmers in Ghana and Togo. Image courtesy of Complete Farmer.

In recent years, Ghana’s agricultural sector has attracted a growing amount of investment and interest due to its potential for sustainable growth and the fact it could employ much of the country’s population, particularly those in rural areas.

USAID launched a $19 million dollar project in the country earlier this year, which is aimed at catalysing $261 million in private sector financing to boost the agribusiness sector in Ghana over the next five years. Such investment has created opportunities for a new generation of agritech entrepreneurs who are seizing the moment to create innovative solutions to bolster farming value chains in Ghana.

The Org spoke to Desmond Koney, Co-founder of Complete Farmer, about the journey to creating a scalable agritech solution that is helping farmers in Ghana and Togo access global value chains using the company’s technology.

Complete Farmer Co-Founder Desmond Koney

Complete Farmer Co-Founder Desmond Koney. Image courtesy of Complete Farmer.

Koney, who is a mechanical engineer by profession, got into agriculture after his dad, a smallholder farmer, passed away and he had to take over the responsibilities of looking after their farm. In the first two years under his helm the farm failed, and the engineer in him wanted to understand what the attributing factors to the failure were.

The answer to this problem was to build Complete Farmer in 2017, which is a digital marketplace that links FMCGs/commodity traders needing high volumes of agricultural commodities with farmers that are linked to the digital platform. Commodity buyers get matched with farmers that can supply the commodities based on the buyer’s specifications, using data collected through the platform.

“We are like the Amazon for the commodity traders and Uber or Shopify for the local farmers,” Koney said. The company has proprietary protocols which allow the farmers to follow a systemic approach on how to grow crops, and it then ships the products on behalf of the farmers to the buyer. Complete Farmer´s revenue is derived from taking a commission of the farmer’s net profit for the produce sold on its platform. Koney acknowledged that success for the company lies in linking up as many farmers as possible onto the platform. To do so, the team has introduced a service offering where ordinary people can buy a farm in a local country and Complete Farmer gives them the ability to manage it remotely using satellite imagery.

“The remote farmer can decide which buyers they want to sell to and make the money on the production and most of the data collected is put on the blockchain so there is full transparency,” Koney said. The platform supplies commodities to buyers in Singapore, Japan, China, India, the UAE, Germany, Netherlands and the U.K. It currently operates in Ghana and Togo and it is planning to expand into East Africa and Southern Africa by Q2 2022.

Marketing Team at Complete Farmer

Marketing Team at Complete Farmer. Image courtesy of Complete Farmer.

To fund this expansion Complete Farmer raised a seed round of $1.5 million during 2020 from Ingressive Capital and the team is planning to raise a series A round of $ 7 million dollars later this year. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic a lot of buyers were looking to secure their food supply and export demand grew. This has not been without any challenges, which were magnified during the heavy lockdowns when the global supply chains were disrupted. It was evident on Complete Farmer’s side that there is a heavy reliance on importing chemicals and fertilizers into Africa.

Complete Farmer is looking proactively at how climate change might affect its business model and is looking at ways to help farmers invest in climate resistant technology and irrigation systems. The team is also looking at how it can leverage the data gathered to help the farmers get access to financing, by building a credit record through the information they gather on the platform.

Currently, Complete Farmer has a youthful team of 30 who have brought diverse skill sets and approaches to getting problems solved. “What we've gotten in return is a lot of creativity and innovation, but at the expense of experience,” Koney said. “We are investing in a lot of training to counter this and are building capacity for the company. Domain specific roles like agronomists have been given to highly skilled individuals with technical experience.”

He said the long-term objective was to do farming in Africa what Alibaba did for manufacturing in Asia. “We want to build a platform that revolutionizes the agricultural industry in Africa and want to be the go-to marketplace where industries and farmers connect and suppliers can have a credible platform to source from, '' Koney said.

The team has started doing lots of research to make sure they are pioneers in finding innovative ways to keep feeding growing populations, and they are currently building protocols that use regenerative agriculture and localizing the approach. Koney added they were just scratching the surface of what they could do to revolutionize agriculture in Africa using a data-driven approach.

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