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Democratising agriculture

26 Nov 2021

The future of Agtech

A few weeks ago, the Impact and Sustainability team hosted its first ‘Octopus Climate Exhibition’ to raise awareness around the climate crisis and to help educate employees on small but impactful changes they could make to their everyday lives. It sparked a conversation with a colleague from Octopus Ventures who introduced me to the term ‘Agtech’.

Agtech refers to digital platforms and new software within the agricultural sector designed to make production more efficient, help farmers adapt their practices in preparation for the inevitable change in weather, or empower small-scale farmers across the world to reach their economic potential.

The scale of the opportunity is striking. More than a quarter of the world’s population derive their livelihoods from agriculture, with the average farmer looking after less than five acres and living on less than $2 per day. One of the problems is the lack of information available to these farmers. The vast majority of them don’t have access to the internet and have had to build their farms through the power of their local communities, or word of mouth.

Wefarm

While this method has clearly worked, it feels like there’s far more we could, and should, be doing. Technology should enable best practice, knowledge and problem solving to be shared more widely, and more quickly. That’s where a business called Wefarm, one of our portfolio companies, comes in.

Wefarm is the world’s largest platform for small-scale farmers, generating bespoke, crowdsourced information to help farmers increase yields, gain insight into pricing, tackle the effects of climate change, source the best-quality seeds, fertiliser or loans, as well as diversify their agricultural interests.

Its platform has effectively enabled thousands of communities to come together collectively, allowing them to compete on a more level playing field in global markets. So far, over 37 million conversations have taken place on Wefarm SMS, making it one of the most valuable agricultural services in the world.

Breaking down barriers

Jamilla Mohamed, Country Director of Wefarm tells the story of an isolated Peruvian farmer struggling to afford fertiliser to grow food for his family. With the help of Wefarm, he was able to send an SMS in Spanish that was then translated into Swahili and received by a Kenyan farmer who could reply, sharing his knowledge of how to make low-cost fertiliser. The Peruvian farmer was then able to take this information, apply it to his own farming practices and continue to feed his family.

The power of communities

Perhaps there’s something we can all learn from companies like Wefarm. In a world where governments, countries and people are increasingly focused on their own interests, Wefarm has recognised and harnessed the power of communities. By enabling farmers to communicate across borders and providing a platform to amplify their expertise, Wefarm is breaking down language barriers, facilitating knowledge exchange and bridging the gap between the problem and the solution.

Read more about other Agtech businesses and the rising software revolution in farming on our Octopus Ventures page.

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