Shopping on eBay for a range of consumer goods is one of the most popular online retail endeavours today. It is convenient, affords the consumer leverage on cost through competitive bidding and eliminates meddlesome middlemen. But can you imagine such convenience and efficiency in the agriculture sector?
Well, it’s more than just a thought as Project Agro, a Jamaican-based agri-tech start-up, is demonstrating the efficacy of an “agri eBay” clearinghouse called Agro Central. This eight month old innovation is Jamaica’s first digital agricultural clearinghouse that allows users to sell or buy agricultural produce.
The Agro Central functions as a sort of “agri eBay” system. It differs in that it is intended for businesses to buy directly from agricultural producers/farmers, and is not meant to be a mass market consumer focused platform like eBay.
In a one-on-one exchange with me, Jermaine Henry, CEO of Project Agro, reinforced the focused business approach of his SMS to Web and Web to SMS agri-tech platform. He adds that attending the 2014 Finance for Agriculture (Fin4Ag) Conference is an opportunity for gaining “insight into foreign markets and access wide-ranging feedback from international stakeholders as we contemplate exploring the African markets”.
Agro Central is certainly one of the most exciting innovations on display at the Conference with a highly focused business approach that seems to fit the primary context in which it operates. Specifically, the focus on transactions between farmers and businesses will work well in Jamaica where over 5,000 restaurants and 250 hotels operate and have need for the offerings of the country’s over 166,000 registered farmers.
That there is high mobile penetration (over 122 percent) also augurs well for the structure of the platform. A possible challenge is that though mobiles are ubiquitous on the Caribbean island, most are feature phones which offer less functionality for web-based offerings. However, the SMS component will be a good counter to that challenge.
I look forward to tracking the progress of Agro Central and Project Agro as they move this platform to market later this year and expand into other regions in the medium to long-term.
Agro Central is certainly adaptable to other regions! Is yours next?
Blogpost by Tyrone Hall, Social Reporter for the Fin4Ag Conference.