Small Farmers Get a Boost With Online Food Shopping Startup

By Akudo McGee 6 Min Read

AgroCenta is an online trading platform startup based out of Ghana. Their platform allows businesses to request staple foods from local farmers and small farming collectives online. AgroCenta, which has its headquarters in Accra, Ghana, is a still owned entirely by Ghanaians and their mission is to empower and support smallholder farmers in the staple food chain.

AgroCenta was founded in 2015 by two former Esoko employees, Francis Obirikorang and Michael K. Ocansey. They started the company when they noticed that there was a significant lack of access for smallholder farmers located in rural, remote areas and that this vacuum in the staple food chain left room for exploitive buying practices. Their vision was to eliminate middlemen and become a one-stop shop for farmers and buyers.

They wanted to connect all members of the staple food value chain, which includes farmers, suppliers, off-loaders, buyers, and more through an online interface that is easy to access, navigate and use. Once buyers complete the setup process, which should take under 5 minutes, they can start trading. They are able to request wholesale quantities of staple foods like corn, millet and soybeans and once their requests is put in, it will be delivered and fulfilled by AgroCenta’s truck service, TruckR. This trading process effectively replaces the need of business owners to send buyers out to remote areas or various markets to purchase the same goods.

Their TruckR service completes the staple market chain by allowing farmers to request trucks at the click of a button to pick up their produce. They say it’s similar to an "uber for trucks."

Trading on AgroCenta is easy as blinking.

AgroCenta’s focus remains on smallholder farmers and farmer based organizations. They help these smaller actors gain a window into a larger market online, since they are unlikely to have exposure to as many buyers as larger, more accessible farmers. A percentage of their sales are re-invested into the purchase of farming supplies like fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, and tractor services.

Farmers looking to sell are connected to AgroCenta’s online market directly. AgroCenta’s agents assist farmers with registering, setting up their accounts and entering their prices and product details online. The buyers offers fair prices and farmers are given access to market information that allows them to determine the best selling prices and avoid accepting offers at rates that are lower than what is fair.

So far AgroCenta has helped more than 8,000 farmers improve their earnings. Once an order is due to be fulfilled, AgroCenta handles all logistics, so shipping and distance no longer pose a threat to farmers’ livelihoods.

AgroCenta eliminates the common practice where middlemen/brokers act as exploitative buyers, purchase produce for less than a third of its actual value from smallholder farmers and re-sell in urban markets for huge profits.

They also say that they are looking to ultimately change the face of agriculture across Africa, which is still largely agrarian. AgroCenta has three core values which reflect UN Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are first, to eliminate poverty by eliminating exploitative buying practices so farmers can become financially independent and take care of their families. Second, to eliminate hunger by creating a concrete and sustainable method to ensure food security. By helping smallholder farmers obtain information about best farming practices and giving them greater earning capacity, they hope to ensure greater food security. Their final goal is gender equality. According to their site, in Ghana approximately half of the smallholder farmer population is female and face issues with access to land for farming. AgroCenta works with chiefs, community leaders and opinion leaders in local communities to change the exclusion of women in land ownership, which has historically been more accessible for men.

Their suite of products include: AgroTrade, which allows farmers to upload their produce information and prices online for buyers, TruckR which is an on-demand shipping logistics service that transports goods from the farmer’s location to buyers, AgroInfo, which provides information to famers about community pricing and trading rates so they are able to choose appropriate prices and AgroPay, their payment platform which allows farmers to access credit, layaway and complete transactions over their mobile phones, even if they don’t have a bank.

After securing several awards for their amazing ideas and advancements, AgroCenta has definitely cemented its status as a startup to watch.

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