By Johan Burger
Homegrown DigiExt was launched in 2017 with the aim of allowing farm cooperatives to grow and sell their product. It does so by means of technology-based platforms. DigiExt targets farm cooperatives and organisations that support farmers.
In addition, DigiExt also enables farmers to access credit and gain access to low-cost ICT-enabled agricultural extension services. DigiExt achieves the latter by gathering and analysing data by means of satellites and drones. As part of its value proposition, DigiExt offers rental services for expensive farm equipment like tractors and drones. Smallholder farmers are mostly unable to purchase equipment such as this, more so when it is only used periodically.
The operating model entails processing companies and export agencies registering and providing lists of the required crops. The various farm cooperatives then utilise DigiExt’s farm management and digital tools to provide produce to these companies. As banks and insurance companies know that many of the risks are managed by the technology tools and extension services provided by DigiExt, they are willing to provide credit to the farmers and insurance them against such other risks as weather, pests, and diseases.
DigiExt currently supports more than 200,000 farmers on a land area of approximately 810,000 hectares. It currently has operations in West and East Africa and intends to expand into North and Southern Africa.
The company’s revenue model is based on having farm groups pay for access to its value proposition. They also generate revenue in the form of origination and interest fees from the credit facilities given in the form of productivity services and goods. In addition, banks and insurance companies pay a fee for access to DigiExt’s digital tools for risk mitigation.
DigiExt reminds one of FarmCrowdy in Nigeria, which has been successful in connecting investors to farmers, in addition to providing access to markets. There are many other such organisations in Africa, including Cowtribe in Ghana, Hello Tractor in Nigeria, FarmDrive in Kenya, and myAgro in Mali and Senegal. These are just examples and by no means constitute an exhaustive list. Given the huge number of smallholder farmers that are in urgent need of access to credit and markets, as well as support in the form of extension services, we will see many more such startups see the light. The need is great, and farmers will need all the support they can get to become more productive and reap the benefits of more commercial farming practices.
DigiExt. nd. Data-driven farming for smallholders. DigiExt. nd. Available at https://www.digiext.com. Accessed 23 October 2021.
Jackson, T. Data-driven farming for smallholders. Disrupt Africa. 2 August 2021. Available at https://disrupt-africa.com/2021/08/02/how-ghanas-digiext-helps-farm-cooperatives-develop-and-grow/?utm_source=Africa.com&utm_campaign=11a87324dd-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_05_27_09_40_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_12683c81a6-11a87324dd-29147709. Accessed 23 October 2021.
Traore, C.T. 2020. Five start-ups that are transforming Africa’s agriculture. Malabo Montpellier Panel. 6 September 2020. Available at https://www.mamopanel.org/news/blog/2020/sep/6/five-start-ups-are-transforming-africas-agricultur/. Accessed 23 October 2021.