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Farming business is rich but starved of key data

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 A farmer sprays fruit crop. Investors need facts on demand and risk. FILE

A farmer sprays fruit crop. Investors need facts on demand and risk. FILE 

By Mbugua Njihia

Posted  Wednesday, January 15  2014 at  17:56

Some opportunities, such as those found in agriculture, are too big to be fully addressed by one entity. This means there is a real possibility of several successful and sustainable niche services pegged on technology.

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The key is to understand the market, thrash out the business model and build scalable technology that degrades gracefully if the environment so dictates.

Agricultural initiatives still form the bedrock of many African economies and despite the push by many governments to increase the contribution to GDP by service and extractive industries, agriculture will forever remain core to growth and development that a country may have.

So where can one play in this large ecosystem?

Information curation

Kenya’s research institutions are choke-full of information and data on how to drive productivity per square foot whether invested in crop, fish or livestock farming.

Unfortunately, the format and the language of this information is often unpalatable to those who need it most. There is a opportunity to curate, digest and index this knowledge and provide multiple access channels for consumption.

Recent quail fever is indicative that market analysis on the level that is given at the bourse for listed companies is lacking.

We operate on word of mouth, running the risk of creating bubbles that will leave many in the red once markets crash. Who has the real-time pulse on market demand, down to pricing and is able of forecast it and therefore orchestrating supply?

Financial services

Access to capital remains a challenge to the small holder farmer; not that they epitomise poverty but more that they live off the land and are not quite represented in the mainstream financial system.

There are ways to calculate both the value and risk to allow for financial support to trickle down and make a difference at the grassroots. Think insurance plus product and service fronting.

Devices

Somewhat sidelined in agriculture, as focus has mainly been on text based deployment, the increased utility of smart enough devices could tip the scales of productivity and food security.

We unfortunately do not do enough to up sales, demystify and make the technology affordable to the millions of smallholder farmers. Leasing and linkages are the key words here.

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