[Interview] Natalie Miller, CEO, GreenFingers Mobile, South Africa
Natalie Miller is an American entrepreneur and business development professional with over a decade of experience leading and growing organizations across Africa. In April 2018, Natalie joined agritech solutions provider, GreenFingers Mobile, as its CEO.
Tell us about GreenFingers Mobile?
GreenFingers Mobile (GFM), operating in Cape Town, South Africa, bridges the gap between small farmers and large buyers through enabling real-time data and transparency in the value chain. GFM replaces traditional pen and paper based farmer management systems with a digital platform to: collect farm details, farmer profile information, baseline and household data, track yield and commercial transactions to build farmer credit worthiness, monitor field extension staff, and ensure that effective and timely technical assistance is provided in the field.
When was GFM founded and by who?
GFM got started in 2016 by Maximilian Pichulik and Tanner Methvin. Hivos Food and Lifestyle Fund has provided several rounds of seed funding. Last year we re-developed an enhanced full SaaS platform version of GreenFingers Mobile that allows scaleability and that lowers the barrier of entry as we were able to cut pricing by 2/3.
Who makes up your clientele?
GFM end users are any entity working with small farmers.
GFM customers are:
- Agribusinesses or cooperatives working with small farmers in contract farming
- Commercial farms or other entities that have small farmer in-grower schemes
- Food corporations looking to procure from small farmers but desiring a transparent value chain and real-time data from the field
- Funding agencies supporting agribusinesses that see the value of helping them to upgrade their traditional paper and pen systems
- Strategic partners that are supporting or funding multiple agribusinesses and want access to aggregated data for monitoring and reporting purposes
- Financial institutions looking to capture details on the farmers they are lending to including, profile, baseline data, training and loan balances
- Reforestation projects using small farmers that can track and monitor trees through the GFM Tree Tracking module
What are GFM's best selling points?
• Affordable digital farmer management system with a low tiered model vs per user license fee
• Simple, clean and easy to use with best in class UI/UX
• Device agnostic with the front end being a Progressive Web Application
• Super user functionality that will allow entities working with a large number of agri-businesses to access aggregated data for reporting and tracking purposes
• Access to micro-finance providers that can replace the clients’ role as credit providers to farmers decreasing risk and increasing liquidity
How is the company funded?
GFM is revenue positive and have received seed funding from Hivos Food and Lifestyle Fund. We also became a finalist in the Google Impact Challenge and were awarded $125k USD last year but we are still awaiting the funding.
What has been the market response to your services since you launched?
GFM launched an enhanced version of our product last year and tested it with 4 clients across 3 countries. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback. We have a solid pipeline and are deep in dicussions with both clients and strategic partners across multiple markets. We have over 8000 farmers across Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and we are in discussions with players in Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia as well. We have what we can Resellers (Ag professionals who believe that GFM can add value in their markets and get a commission for introductions that lead to signed contracts) in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
What are the growth plans of GFM going forward?
Our goal is to have 30,000 farmers benefitting from the GFM system within the next two years in at least two new markets (as per above.) This year we are working on a micro-finance pilot with a MFI to enable access to finance for the small farmers in our system. We will also be adding some additional functionalities to our system. In May we will launch the Tree Tracking module in which over 8000 small farmers in Zim will be provided over a million trees by our local partner which will be tracked and monitored by GFM. This reforestation project will help provide supplmental income to the small farmers.
We also look forward to the Google funding which will enable us to invest further into our system and are in the process of closing a follow up round from our seed investors to give us some breathing room to enable us to onboard new clients.
Are you currently involved in activities to engage farmers in Africa?
Always! I was in Zimbabwe yesterday (Sunday) to speak at a Smart Farming Conference and will speak at TMT Finance Africa in Cape Town this Thursday.
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