[Startup Interview] Jerry Oche, CEO, Growsel, Nigeria
Growsel is a Nigeria based Agritech startup that is working with farmers to simplify activities from farm to folk using ICT.
The startup is also involved in peer-to-peer lending and crowdfuding to create opportunities that will empower and support to local farmers.
The success of their intervention is now inspiring them to expand across Africa. Jerry Oche the CEO and co- founder of the company talked to Africa Business Communities about working with underfinanced and underserved farmers and the pivotal role of tech in agribusiness.
Give us a brief about your company
Growsel is an AgTech startup connecting under-financed and underserved smallholder farmers with supporters through peer-to-peer lending and access to market.
We train and coach local farmers on best practices to help improve efficiency and yields, provide access to enhanced farm inputs and create market access for off-taking of farm produce through our network of processing partners.
Growsel has a network of Trustees such as NGOs, FBOs, MFIs, social enterprises, agricultural training schools, agricultural cooperatives, and community development centers who are trained to support Growsel's agricultural programs.
Such as organizing workshops, extension services, farm demonstrations and agricultural field days and on-farm knowledge hours all geared to equip local farmers across local communities where Growsel operates.
Where is it located?
Our company is located in Maryland, Lagos, Nigeria
When was the company founded and why?
We were founded in 2016 to help empower and support millions of smallholder farmers across who cannot reconcile the enormous cultivatable farmland and farm yield available to them.
Agriculture contribute about 30% to Africa’s GDP and almost 70% of employment in Africa. There was a burden and a huge gap in the agricultural sector; a lot of farmers were faced with lack of funds, access to crop insurance, technology, enhanced farm inputs, access to market and agricultural best practices.
Since inception, Growsel took a bold step in 2016 tackling this agricultural menace by developing a platform where supporters have the opportunity to crowd-fund for a farm project and in turn get a Return on Support.
The farms were insured; farmers were taught on practical agricultural best practices in the farm, we also created access to market of the farm produce, where we signed MOUs with off takers to buy-off farm produce after harvest.
We also use technology to simplify farm activities such as farmers getting real-time weather updates on their phone, farm mapping, farmers saving scheme through their mobile from our technology platform; Investors also have the opportunity to get live updates from the farm. We also provide enhanced farm inputs to improve the yield of the farm.
How is the company funded?
Our initial seed capital was funded by our founders and fundraising at the moment.
What are your startup’s unique selling points?
We are focused on using technology and peer-to-peer lending to create opportunities that will empower and support to local farmers across Africa. In summary, Growsel unique offerings and programs for smallholder farmers include:
Access to agricultural best practices
We provide trainings and coaching on global agricultural best practices to local farmers to help improve efficiency, sustainability and increased yield through workshops, farm demonstrations and field days and practical knowledge hours across local communities.
Access to enhanced agricultural inputs
We provide access to enhanced agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, seeds, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, adjuvants, micronutrients and others directly from partnered producers
Access to markets
We provide access to market through our marketplace where we buy off all farm produce cultivated by smallholder farmers at harvest to help reduce market risks and fluctuations. We have pool of already partnered off-taker and processors spread across the country.
We partner and work with a network of NGOs, FBOs, MFIs, Social Enterprises, Agricultural Support Centres, Support Groups, Cooperatives, Community Dev Centers across local communities who spread the program in their local community.
How has the market responded to your services?
We operate in a dynamic and vibrate market, based on the steps Growsel have taken in the agricultural sector, and the opportunity for supporters to impact lives of farmers and grow their money, the market has been very positive and embraced our products and services with a goodwill. A lot of investors want to invest, some want to give grants and support the good course.
Who are your clients?
In as much as we work with farmers, our major clients are the supporters, investors and grant donors, they are the reason why we are in business, and as a result we see them as an integral part of the business.
What are the changes your company has gone through since inception and what do they mean to the business?
Initially, when the company started, we were searching, screening and validating farmers ourselves which wasn’t sustainable for the business, we had little reach because of the huge numbers of farmers across Nigeria and the continent, we understand we had to multiply the number of farmers and in achieving that, we had to introduce the Trustee Program
This program enables us to reach out to more local communities and smallholder farmers, while screening and verifying real local farmers in locality that indeed need our support and empowerment.
Have you had any strategic partnerships?
Yes, we have had strategic partnerships with agricultural input providers, financial institutions and technical partnerships
How is competition in your industry and how do you weather it?
The competition is quite healthy; we have a couple of AgTech companies offer perhaps just crowdfunding alone.
We do not see ourselves competing with them, we simply working to make our competitors look irrelevant by offering superior solutions and platform.
What can be expected of your company in 2018?
We are very hopeful in the 2018; we have plans to reach more smallholder farmers across specific sectors, empowering and support 5000 hectares through our Trustees Program across Nigeria working with 500 Trustees.
We are currently working with Lighting Africa Program in Nigeria to support micro small local older women who cannot meet our minimum lending criteria through our newly launched Growsel Kindness Program.
Marketplace - We are working to setup our Marketplace across major community enable to enable us off-take from smallholder farmers directly to help eliminate middlemen and value to farmers.
Fundraising – finally we are presently working with investors across Europe to seal major fundraising round to support and expand our operations across local communities in Nigeria.
What does your company need to grow and prosper?
Seal our fundraising round to support and expand our operations across local communities in Nigeria, while working with external developers and engineers to upscale our technology.
What is the latest news?
We’ve launched Growsel Kindness aimed to support underserved micro small older women who rarely meet our minimum lending criteria with agricultural inputs and tools based on zero return on support.
We are extending our Best Practices training and coaching, demonstrations and open farm days local languages in Nigeria – Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa
Who should contact your company and why?
We have key players in our business model; we expect to hear from Smallholder Farmers, Trustees, Investors, Supporters and industry partners to contact us and let work together to revolutionize agriculture across Africa.