Isn’t it impressive how much technology is going into Agriculture these days. I think it is. ProbityFarms is one of such platforms that have decided to leverage technology to improve the agricultural sector. And trust me, they have been doing a great job thus far. You’d find out in this chat with Oluwole Ogunlade, a co-founder and CMO at ProbityFarms. Probityfarms provides a free app for farmers to manage farm operations and boost revenue.
Many people have been screaming “go back to farming” lately, but it seems ProbityFarms have pointed that we shouldn’t just go back to the farm, we should also farm right. Talking about how they came up with this realization, co-founder Oluwole opined that;
“Agriculture has always been an important part of Nigeria economy. For instance, it employs 70% of the workforce and contributes 24% to the national GDP. Despite this, most farmers are poor and their harvests are unpredictable. We think there is a big potential to improve agriculture when you harness the power of technology to grow the agric sector. That is why we started Probityfarms.”
“We started building ProbityFarms with a simple proposition— a free tool for farmers to manage farm operations and boost revenue. As a result, farmers can improve their yields by up to 80%. The app also provides information on best farming practises to improve crop yields, prevent post-harvest losses, connect them with off-takers and manage their business.”
According to Wole, they “are driven by the need to increase youth participation and access to capital for farmers. These helps us to solve the dual problem of youth unemployment and food import deficits through agriculture. Agriculture is going to be an important part of the GDP of African countries. By 2035, revenue from food and agric businesses will hit $1 trillion USD, and because Probityfarms is at the intersection of farm advisory, management and productivity, we are positioned to innovate across the entire agric value chain by developing products within the verticals and partner with other key stakeholders to drive meaningful growth with a sustainable revenue model.”
It is very true that the AgriTech sector in the country holds a lot of promise for the players. Despite this fact, Wole, just like me, does not think we have even scratched the surface Agriculture in Nigeria. He states clearly that there is a big potential for technology to transform agriculture in Nigeria. So, he believes we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.
“There are over 10 areas in Agritech through which we believe we can be a catalyst in helping other entrepreneur build solutions on, we are positioning our solution on providing the enablement to drive all these sectors. We want to be able to aggregate data from different players and layer some intelligence into it to help farmers be more productive.”
“Take for example, Nigeria has an estimated 82 million hectares of arable land, yet one of the biggest challenges to farming is unpredictable revenue because farmers lack best farming practises that farm extension workers (or agronomists) and technology intelligence can offer.
Unfortunately, the ratio of agric extension workers to farmers in Nigeria is 1:10,000 compared to 1:800 global best practises. The only cost effective way for government and private stakeholders to meet this deficit is with technology like Probityfarms, which will allow experienced farm agronomist to connect with farmers.”
Well, at this point, you might be wondering how much impact ProbityFarms have made since its launch. We thought about that too. Full interview below.
How many smallholder farmers have you brought onboard ProbityFarms?
We did a pilot launch of Probityfarms in June to 100 farmers before closing access to the application .The feedbacks from the pilot users helped us to improve the product significantly. Some of the features we have added include.. (1) a real-time task management for farm activities (2) simple book-keeping and accounting system to capture sales (3) hyper-local weather forecast to predict rain. Each of these features will improve the productivity of small-holder farmers.
We launched the full suite in December and we are working with our partners to onboard farmers to the platform.
Talking about onboarding, you’d agree that most smallholder farmers are not conversant with the internet, and technology in general. Do you meet them one on one to bypass this limitation?
We understand the importance of technology to the delivery of our product. That is why we chose to serve a segment of the market. For example, in Nigeria alone, there are more than 28 million small-scale farmers but an estimated 8 million live in semi-urban and urban areas with access to smartphones for digital farming.
We aim to serve this market and we are already offering them our biggest feature for FREE. That feature is our crop planting intelligence (it gives farmer a customised report of farm activities of any crop they want to plant). However, we are making arrangements to incorporate certain features in our product to cater for farmers who are not technology savvy or conversant with the internet, we hope to have them ready soon.
Since you want to help farmers run a successful farm, have you considered partnering with other tech start-ups in the Agricultural sector e.g Farmcrowdy & ThriveAgric?
Sure, we love what other startups are doing and we are open to collaboration. We are positioning our solution to drive the entire value chain in agribusiness, this means that we cannot achieve this alone. We are already working with established names in the agric space directly. Some of these include agric cooperatives societies, media houses, off-takers, tech startups, banks as well as several other national and international agric-focused agencies.
In your own view, what is the greatest challenge of the agricultural sector in Africa?
Farming in Africa is unstructured and there is a prominent under-utilization of data. An average farmer in Africa has poor record keeping facilities. There is also a lack of rallying point where farmers can effectively collate and utilize data on activities, costs and expenses from their individual farms.
This has led to a situation where farmers farm blindly, unable to share information and resources amongst themselves, are constantly exploited by farm marketers and cannot access funds and credit facilities. For example, there is no reliable figures on the number of farmers in the country and the amount of produce that will be harvest in a particular time. These are the part of the challenges our solution will solve.
How is ProbityFarms funded? Bootstrapped or you’ve had investments?
At the moment, Probityfarms is 100% bootstrapped. The founders have committed their resources to grow the brand.
Tell us about the team behind ProbityFarms.
Probityfarms is led by 3 cofounders; Olushola Ogunniyi (CEO), Wole Ogunlade (CMO) and Ope Adelaja (COO).
The 3 founders have experiences across strategic partnership, software development and business growth. The CEO and COO are alumni of Zoom Technologies Hyderabad, India since 2009 and have experiences in hardware and software development. Before Probityfarms, 2 of the cofounders have jointly managed a multi-million dollar Citrix application virtualization solution for a global telco leader in Nigeria and have built software for SME accounting.
Shola Ogunniyi (CEO/CTO) has a master’s degree with specialization in Internet Applications and is a doctoral student of Edinburgh Napier University Business School, Florida, USA, while Wole Ogunlade (CMO) has 7 years experience as growth and digital marketer with multiple early stage and series-A startups in Nigeria (including a Techstar-backed, hyper-logistics company and also one of the biggest online payment gateways in Nigeria)
The co-founders also recruited a team of advisors and partners with expertise in crop agronomy, weather and soil intelligence, this includes collaborations with international agencies and local agencies of food control in Nigeria.
In 5 years time, how big do you envisage ProbityFarms?
ProbityFarms is positioning itself to be the biggest data driven agri-tech platform in Nigeria, we hope to have positively impacted the lives of over 2,000,000 farmers, enabling them to benefit from a rich pool of data on farming practices, market prices and better access to funds and credit facilities.
Tell us, in two words, what has kept you going till this point.