London based startup WeFarm has raised $13 million in a Series A funding round, to build its network of smallholder farmers, agricultural suppliers, services, and informational resources, according to TechCrunch and EU-startups.com.
Globally, there are more than one billion people involved in smallholder farming, making it the world’s largest industry. Together, these farmers grow roughly 70 percent of the world’s food supply, without the involvement of large agribusiness.
In parts of the world such as Africa, poor quality seeds, fertilizer, and other agricultural products cost farmers substantial time and money, while limiting yields to a fraction of those of Europe or the US. WeFarm’s network, which currently includes 1.9 million farmers, provides access to information, products, and services that are vetted by the company and other WeFarm members.
WeFarm generated $1 million in sales during its first eight months, a rate of growth which outstrips that of both eBay and Amazon in their first years, WeFarm says. The recent funding round was led by venture capital firm True Ventures, and also included AgFunder, June Fund, ADV, and Norrsken Foundation.
Founder and CEO Kenny Ewan says the company is seeing its fastest growth in the developing world, where most farmers are still smallholders and digital services are limited.
WeFarm’s platform is free to join, and allows farmers to communicate directly with each other to share advice and information. From that foundation, WeFarm has built its network into a marketplace of reliable, vetted suppliers. Marketplace sales have grown at over 40 percent month on month. Eventually, it could even allow farmers to sell produce or exchange goods directly with each other.
And since many farmers in these regions use mobile wallets instead of bank accounts, WeFarm facilitates payments through text messages.
“For 90% of our users, we are the only digital service they use, so we have to make sure we can fulfill their trust. This is a network of trust for the biggest industry on earth and we have to make sure it works well,” Ewan told TechCrunch.
In the coming year, WeFarm hopes to provide financing and delivery services to farmers and to implement its plan to allow users to trade their produce directly on the platform.
“If we can inspire 100 million farmers to work together on one platform, we can fundamentally shift global agriculture and trade in their favour, and this round of funding will take us even closer to bringing this vision for improved farm yields into fruition.”
Photo: McKay Savage from London, UK [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]