In Ifo, a town in the south-western Nigerian state of Ogun, a path to a poultry farm is nestled away from freeway traffic heading to Lagos, the country’s commercial hub. In a large brooder, tens of thousands of seven-day-old chicks are stretching on the dirt and dipping their beaks in and out of the feeders.
This is initiated through Farmcrowdy, a digital agriculture platform focused on giving people the opportunity to invest in agriculture. Started by e-commerce expert Onyeka Akumah, agricultural consultant, and African farmer Mogaji, the platform aims to help smallholder farmers improve their production.
Established in September 2016, the digital platform encourages Nigerians to participate in agriculture while going about their normal day jobs. Farm sponsors select the kind of farms they want to invest in via the firm’s website shop, and then release the funds to Farmcrowdy to set it up. Options for investment include maize, poultry, cassava and tomato farms.
Currently, there are some 500 farmers working on farms managed through Farmcrowdy and over 200 farm sponsors, mostly working class urban dwellers. Upon receiving investor funds, Farmcrowdy hires farmers; leases land, and help source seed or buy animals. The farm partners get bi-weekly updates about their farm progress via text, pictures, or video. At the end of farming cycle, the platform coordinates getting the harvest to market through pre-negotiated offtake deals with buyers and processors.
Farmcrowdy plans to expand into markets in west and east Africa. It already has farms in four states in Nigeria, and it intends to add another soon. Ambitiously, he would like to have 10,000 farmers on the platform by the end of 2017.
While Farmcrowdy’s model takes on some of the key issues facing smallholders, there is only so much it can achieve without more government support for agriculture.