We Are Not Alone

Farmer using tablet in field

Agri platform businesses are springing up all over the globe – and we like it

Mention the term “platform business” and some of the most successful startups of recent years spring to mind: Airbnb, Uber and Alibaba. Recently platforms in the form of online agribusiness marketplaces have been popping up in the agricultural industry in countries such as the USA, Argentina, the UK, Brazil, France and of course in South Africa. Broadly speaking, their aim is to make it easier for farmers and suppliers to buy and sell goods while also making the industry more profitable by reducing costs on both sides of the transaction.

 

Why agribusiness marketplaces and why now?

Purchasing is moving online. This is confirmed by online retail giants such as Amazon who are steadily adding new products and services to their portfolio to make it possible and desirable for customers to bypass brick-and-mortar stores. Agricultural retail has been slow to follow the trend, and most purchases are still done through person-to-person communication. However, as a new generation takes over the farm, one which relies on Google and smartphones, it is becoming apparent that both farmers and suppliers can benefit from a new way of doing business.

In addition to this, agtech investment is booming. In 2017 global agriculture and food technology startups received a record $10.1 billion in investments. Money is being poured into the industry to develop anything from robotic crop sprayers to virtual fences and everything in between. Agribusiness marketplaces are also benefitting from this massive cash injection, which is an indication of how much potential they hold for the industry. To name only two companies that recently benefitted from investment, American startup AgVend raised $1.75 million in seed round funding while Farmers Business Network (FBN) raised $100 million in Series D round funding.

While these up-and-coming agri marketplaces are all looking to facilitate the exchange of products between buyers and sellers, most are working from a unique perspective. FBN, for example is based on the collection, analysis and interpretation of data to help farmer’s make better decisions about purchases, which can then be made through the platform. HarvestPort acts as a procurement advocate for farmers while also helping retailers save money on sales and marketing. Mkulima Young is a marketplace based in Kenya and it allows both farmers and suppliers to sell anything from broiler hens to cabbages to piping. There seems to be an agri marketplace for every corner of the market and only time will tell which becomes a true success story.

Our roundup of some of the most notable agri marketplaces

AgVend

What do they do?

Agvend is an online marketplace that enables farmers to purchase inputs and services directly from trusted retailers. Farmers can browse for products in their area and easily compare prices and make purchases online.

What’s good about it

We love the simple design of Agvend’s website which focuses on the things most important to farmers: the product, how much it costs and when it can be delivered. Agvend hides the identity of the retailer until farmers have made their purchase which helps to ensure transparent pricing.

Farmer's Business Network

What do they do?

Farmers Business Network (FBN) started life as an ag data platform. The idea was to help farmers manage their data and gain insights from other farmers using the network and farming with similar crops. FBN has grown significantly and now sells inputs to farmers from a variety of suppliers. They also help farmers to market and sell their crops.

What’s good about it?

FBN provides farmers with the technology to manage their whole operation. From analysing practices to buying inputs and finally selling crops, FBN provides the full service. We love their community driven, but high-tech approach.

HarvestPort

What do they do?

HarvestPort don’t place themselves in direct competition with retailers, but rather help both farmers and retailers to make transactions more efficient and more profitable. HarvestPort aggregates the overlapping seasonal resource needs of many farmers to negotiate a volume-based discount from retailers or manufacturers. They also help suppliers to reduce costs by helping them to save money on marketing and refereeing disputes.

What’s good about it?

HarvestPort helps farmers save money on purchases by helping retailers to navigate some of the challenges they face in the industry.

Agrofy

What do they do?

Argentinian agri marketplace Agrofy sell farm machinery, tools, equipment, land, insurance and other financial services. Since launching in 2015, they have signed up more than 5,000 companies and recently received funding from a range of big names including Syngenta Ventures.

What’s good about it?

Agrofy works with suppliers to create a platform that works for them and benefits farmers. We love their persistence in growing ecommerce in the agricultural sector.

Yagro

What do they do?

Yagro helps farmers to reduce the time and effort spent on procuring farm inputs while also improving transparency in pricing. With Yagro farmers can request quotes, place and manage orders, manage deliveries and monitor spending all in one place. They can even access data and analytics on their purchases.

What’s good about it?

Like HarvestPort, Yagro doesn’t aim to replace existing farmer-supplier relationships. It’s a tool for farmers to manage relationships in an organised and transparent way.

The number of agribusiness marketplaces springing up all over the globe shows that farmers and suppliers are looking for new, easier ways of buying and selling farm inputs. What’s even more encouraging is the large amounts of funding being poured into marketplace startups. Marketplaces are attractive because they help to improve price transparency for farmers. However, the deal is far from one sided. Marketplaces hold many opportunities for retailers, from saving money on marketing to building new customer relationships and streamlining their internal order processes.

More agri marketplaces to check out