Agriculture startup seeks to empower farmers through digital sale platforms

By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Reporter

AGRO-DIGITALPH, a startup, hopes to organize a new “digital ecosystem” of farmers to encourage greater use of technology in the industry with the end goal of raising farmer incomes following the disruptions caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

In an interview with BusinessWorld, Agro-DigitalPH Founder Henry James M. Sison said the company hopes to empower farmers through greater adoption of digital platforms.

“Farmers can also use gadgets nowadays. It is ironic that the people feeding this country are among the poorest members of society,” Mr. Sison said.

Mr. Sison said the startup’s primary service is its production management module, which forecasts demand and likely prices for crops selected for planting.

“The problem usually for farmers is that they don’t usually record. They just plant their crops,” Mr. Sison said.

“If you plan out what you plant, and guarantee that somebody is going to buy your produce at a certain price point, it is a game changer. Our farmers should not be thinking of where they will sell their produce” he added.

Mr. Sison said the company also organizes smallholder farmers into cooperatives and associations and advises on which crops to plant.

The digital platform also links farmers directly to institutional buyers to cut out middlemen.

“We forecast what crops the farmers should produce and we bring them upfront to these distributors and marketplaces,” Mr. Sison said.

“With our digital platform, farmers can solely focus on production, which also raises their productivity,” he added.

However, Mr. Sison said not all farmers who subscribe to the platform are tech savvy, but added there are workarounds to bring them around to using the platform proficiently.

Mr. Sison said before the company teaches farmers how to use their platform, it teaches the basics of using other digital platforms such as social media.

“You don’t expect a 60 or 70-year-old farmer to use Facebook and our platform. But there are some farmers who really want to learn,” Mr. Sison said.

For technology-challenged farmers, Mr. Sison said one solution is to enlist the aid of their children or nieces and nephews.

“We ask the farmers to bring their child or any member of the family who is capable of using technology and get them involved,” Mr. Sison said.

Established in February 2019, Mr. Sison said the digital platform currently has 84 partners consisting of institutional buyers and cooperatives. By the end of the year, Agro-DigitalPH aims to add 20 more partners to its system.

“Our platform is really striving to change and transform the lives of our farmers and our producers in general,” Mr. Sison said.