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Farmshine operates a platform where farmers, buyers and service providers can trade on mutually beneficial terms.
The platform also connects farmers with the information, suppliers and service providers they need to minimise costs and maximise harvests.
In addition, Farmshine’s technical field agents provide farmers with advice and support throughout the growing season, helping them to increase crop productivity while practising climate smart agriculture techniques.
Farmshine was founded by UN Food and Agriculture Organisation employee Italian Luca Alinovi
Farmshine was founded in 2017 by UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) employee Italian Luca Alinovi (pictured above, right with former Kenyan cabinet secretary for agriculture, livestock and fisheries Felix Koske)
Gray Matters Capital said in a statement earlier today that the investment will be used to hire and train personnel, including field agents, as well as to further develop the platform to connect the agriculture ecosystem.
The impact investor explained that Farmshine’s agriculture operating system enables smallholder farmers to aggregate and sell their harvests directly to large commodity companies.
It added that combined with on-the-ground support from Farmshine’s field officers, the startup’s mobile app ensures that farmers are offered clear, fair and reliable contracts from legitimate buyers.
Gray Matters Capital said that every activity takes place through the app, including contract agreement, production management, crop aggregation, and delivery and payment — ensuring full transparency among each party.
Farmshine’s platform can also be used by non-governmental organisations, the UN as well as commercial organisations to manage their agricultural activities.
This includes the registration, training and management of smallholder farmers, monitoring of crop growth and field activities throughout the growing season, early warning of plant pests and diseases and aggregation and sale to large commodity companies.
Alinovi, commenting in the same statement, said the platform was designed with a “farmer-first approach”.
“It can be easily replicated for any value chain in any country, and can scale from thousands to hundreds of thousands of farmers,” he added.
Farmshine is also rolling out its operating system to non-profit partners, expanding into higher value commodities and providing supermarkets with traceable products for its customers.
The startup plans to expand to other East African countries next year, starting with Uganda and Ethiopia.
Farmshine head of strategy Chris Mimm said by mid-2020 the startup expects to begin a partnership with a development project in Malawi.
‘Targets women farmers’
Explaining why the impact investor backed the agritech startup, Gray Matters Capital coLABS portfolio manager Jennifer Soltis said women are often excluded from Kenya’s formal economy and that it is difficult for them to find better opportunities or higher paying work.
“Farmshine’s platform enables women, who constitute 70% of its farmers, to receive significantly higher incomes by providing access to completely transparent pricing information before they plant, as well as the freedom to select the buyer they would like to supply to,” she said.
The startup’s app, she added, also helps transform women farmers to subsistence farmers to entrepreneurial small traders.
“In addition to growing more crops and receiving higher prices, women will receive an economic identity and trade history.
“Farmshine’s app records quantity, quality and timeliness of each harvest sold, as well as loan repayments, trainings received, and other indications of a successful, reliable farmer,” said Soltis.
She added that based on this, women will be able to apply for small loans, purchase inputs on credit and access more profitable growing opportunities with the entire agricultural ecosystem in Kenya and beyond.
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*UPDATE 5 December 2019. Editor’s note: The article has been updated to include the startup’s founding date as well as comments from Farmshine head of strategy Chris Mimm.
Featured image, left to right: Former Kenyan cabinet secretary for agriculture, livestock and fisheries Felix Koskei and Farmshine founder and CEO Luca Alinovi (GASTON via Twitter)