¥ WeFarm enables small-scale farmers to access crowdsourced advice without internet
¥ More than 100,000 farmers now use the service across Kenya, Uganda and Peru, with more signing up daily
¥ Investment round led by LocalGlobe, founded by former Index Ventures partners Robin and Saul Klein
¥ WeFarm’s fundraise bolsters the fast-growing UK agtech sector, worth an estimated GBP 14.3 billion according to the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills
London, United Kingdom — 17 November 2016 — WeFarm, a peer-to-peer agtech network that enables small-scale farmers to access and share vital agricultural information even without internet, has reached over 100,000 users and secured GBP 1.3 million in seed funding. The round is led by LocalGlobe, a UK-based venture capital firm focused on seed investing, whose other investments include Citymapper, Lovefilm, Moo, TweetDeck, TransferWise and Zoopla. The seed round will go towards bringing the benefits of WeFarm to thousands of new farmers. Approximately 500 million small-scale farmers around the world provide over 70% of the world’s food. However, up to 90% have no access to the internet and they are often isolated and lack access to even basic agricultural information and new ideas. With the world’s population projected to grow from 7 to 9 billion by 2050 and climate change an entrenched reality, increased pressures on the global food supply chain will only persist. Farmers and businesses without access to problem-solving technologies and data are at risk of being left behind.
WeFarm has developed a peer-to-peer mobile network which enables small-scale farmers to access crowdsourced information and advice from other farmers, even when offline. By sending a free SMS, farmers can receive accurate answers to any agricultural queries. The service uses machine learning technology to connect incoming questions to those users on the system who have the most relevant knowledge. Topics discussed on the network range from how to stop baby chicks from dying to where to find a market to sell onions.
WeFarm launched in 2015 and now boasts a community of over 100,000 farmers across Kenya, Uganda and Peru. This is an unprecedented rate of growth considering the ‘off-grid’ nature of their end users, and to date they have used the service a huge amount; sharing more than 15 million pieces of information. In 2015 WeFarm was part of the Wayra UK accelerator in London, which supported the business in its growth trajectory.
WeFarm Founder & CEO, Kenny Ewan, said, “Connecting farmers to relevant advice from other farmers is a completely new approach. The majority of information delivered to people living in poverty is top-down, whereas we are using a crowdsourcing model to unlock generations worth of grassroots knowledge, ideas, and experience among farmers. This is why WeFarm has already secured more than 100,000 registered members in an industry where less than 0.1 % of mobile apps ever reach even half that number.”
LocalGlobe partner Saul Klein said, “WeFarm is building and empowering a community of farmers, dramatically improving their experience of obtaining advice. In doing so, WeFarm has created an SMS and web-based network that’s enjoying real user growth and engagement. We believe that this network, whether delivered on feature or smart phones, will, over time, become an important channel for farmers into the wider food supply chain. We are thrilled that WeFarm has reached over 100,000 users and look forward to working with Kenny and his team.”
Continued Ewan, “In five years time we want to connect 100 million small-scale farmers to our network. There is still massive global inequality around access to information, but by designing services for basic mobiles phones you can create social impact on an unprecedented scale as well as develop a highly profitable social business.”
As a result of WeFarm’s crowdsourcing approach, the firm is also generating unique user data on the world’s supply chain and commodities, as well as on populations in the developing world who are yet to have internet access. WeFarm generates revenue by supplying actionable insights to businesses, NGOs and governments. The impact of this important data could be extremely significant in the fight to eradicate poverty and hunger in the developing world. Using this data, governments can track major issues such as disease and drought, and businesses can save millions of pounds by preventing crop diseases from ravaging their supply chains.
For more information see www.wefarm.org, follow WeFarm on Twitter @we_farm and connect with WeFarm on Facebook and LinkedIn.
WeFarm is a free peer-to-peer service that enables farmers to share crop and livestock-saving information via SMS, without the internet, and without having to leave their farm. Farmers can ask questions about pressing agricultural issues and receive crowd-sourced answers from other farmers around the world within minutes. For instance, small-scale farmers can learn how to improve crop yield or how to start a micro-business, enabling them to increase household income. With 90% of smallholder farmers now able to access a basic mobile phone, WeFarm’s goal is to connect millions of farmers around the world to the information they require. The platform’s technology brings scalability, improved user experience and machine learning algorithms to the unique demands of WeFarm users.
WeFarm was originally developed as a project by the Cafedirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF), a non-profit that works with smallholder farmers around the world, by Kenny Ewan and Claire Rhodes. After early pilots rapidly attracted users, CPF saw the potential for WeFarm to be scaled sustainably as a mission-driven business.
Since its founding in 2015, WeFarm has won Google’s prestigious Impact Challenge Award (2014), the MEFFYS Award for Innovation in Technology (2015), the Messaging and SMS World Awards’ Best SMS Solution (2015), Business Rocks’ Global Startup Pitch Battle (2016), Chivas Regal’s The Venture Competition’s UK prize, and 2nd place in their Global final (2016), and the European Union Commission’s Ideas from Europe Prize (2016).
The company is headquartered in London with field presence in Nairobi, Lima and Kampala. For more information see www.wefarm.org, follow WeFarm on Twitter @we_farm and connect with WeFarm on Facebook and LinkedIn.
About Local Globe
LocalGlobe is a UK-based venture capital firm that focuses on seed and impact investments. Founded by former Index Ventures partners Robin and Saul Klein, LocalGlobe has been seeding ambitious UK founders since 1999, including Citymapper, Lovefilm, Moo, TweetDeck, TransferWise and Zoopla.