Agriculture in Ghana over the past few years has seen a general decline owing to a number of factors that require new strategies to promote the sector, that has for decades being the backbone of the country’s economy.

It has become evident that, with recent trends especially in other African countries including Kenya, that technology is a major driver of effective and profitable agricultural production.

The solutions to various challenges facing agricultural development in Ghana are only a click away through a technology provided by AgroCenta.

AgroCenta provides an end-to-end solution for smallholder farmers in the post-harvest value chain from farm to market, enabling them to have direct interaction with the market, rather than through ‘profit-cutting’ middlemen.

While this is extremely cost-effective, it also enables the smallholder farmer produce more without the fear of losing produce over lack of buyers.

The company, which has been operational for almost a year, has as its cardinal mandates, an objective to enable farmers upload information about their produce online, and get buyers immediately (AgroTrade), access in-land shipping/carting services for the transportation of produce from the farm site (Truckr), and provide information on market produce values and pricing, weather information among other vital information, to promote competitive pricing and quality production (Agroinfo).

Co-Founder of the AgroCenta, Francis Obirikorang told Citi FM‘s Bernard Avle on the Citi Innovation Heroes series on Tuesday that, smallholder farmers in Ghana suffer from exploitative buying from middlemen, who buy their produce at very cheap prices and resell at exorbitant prices in urban centers.

“What we provide is an online platform that eliminates all these middlemen. We connect smallholder farmers directly to buyers in the urban areas…This is where farmers are able to leverage and sell their produce at very competitive prices based on the information that they have,” he said.

With about 30 Agrocenta agents who assist farmers use the only system, the company is hopeful of redefining agriculture in the country.

Nearly 7,000 smallholder farmers have already subscribed to the service, a development Agrocenta believes, is a considerable impact that makes its model worth replicating in other parts of the country.

The experiences of the many farmers using Agrocenta’s platform includes a smallholder farmer making as much 30 cedis profit on each of the 2,000 bags of soya beans she sold.

On transport, about 3,000 smallholder farmers actively use Agrocenta’s ‘truckr’ service. The service allows for smallholder farmers to have access to ready cargo trucks to transport their produce from the farm gate to the market.

“We’ve partnered with the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), the truck division, to allow the smallholder farmer in any remote area request for a truck through a text message or a phone call. We match the truck based on their proximity and connect them. In doing this, we reduce the waiting time associated with waiting for trucks to transport produce,” Francis Obirikorang noted.

The company also reaches its subscribers will timely market information such as prices of produce among others in text and voice formats in their preferred local languages weekly, to enable them make information decisions based on the changes.

To sustain the model ran by AgroCenta, the company charges buyers what it terms ‘transaction cost’ as payment for the convenience it offers.

Mr. Obirikorang says although the company is actively operating, it seeks partnership from government and other relevant private sector agencies to scale it up.

“AgroCenta can actually be scaled up. We are looking for partnerships. We are looking at working with government to implement this solution. We have the technical know-how, we are in the field working with the smallholder farmers… We are looking out for companies to buy from us, and we are looking for government to help us replicate this platform across various platforms. ”

AgroCentra is determined to launch and be fully operational in the Upper East, Upper West and Brong Ahafo regions in the second quarter of 2017, after a successful pilot in some districts of the Northern Region.

As technology grows to become an integral part of modern-day farming, AgroCenta is positioning itself to be a key force in the sector, and is seeking to cover the entire country with its solution, and extend to other West African countries by the end of 2020.

By: Jonas Nyabor/citifmonline.com/Ghana

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