Top 10 tech companies working
in the smallholder market

James Alden

1 Feb 2022

3 min read

Introduction

With the world’s population set to hit 10 billion by 2050 there is an unprecedented need for a more productive, efficient and resilient agricultural system. Technology plays a key role in transforming this sector, helping the world grow more food, faster and more sustainably.

Two-thirds of this population growth is set to occur in Africa - an agricultural system predominated by smallholder farmers. It is therefore critically important that the use of tech is not limited to large scale farms, but also delivers substantial benefits to the smallholder market.

In this article we list the top 10 tech companies working within the smallholder market.

Climate Edge

Climate Edge is an all-in-one smallholder engagement platform; giving businesses all the tools they need to serve the smallholder market. Their customers include some of the world’s largest agribusinesses and NGOs, including Ekaterra (a Unilever spin-out) and JustDiggit (an award winning re-greening NGO).

At the core of the platform lies an intuitive SMS communication system, enabling organisations to connect directly to their farmers through accessible and affordable feature phones. But what makes the product so innovative is that Climate Edge has gone on to build a complete set of CRM, operational and analytic tools upon this foundation. Organisations can run farmer awareness campaigns, manage their networks at scale and even deliver complex agronomic services.

See how this technology is being used by reading their customer stories here.

WeFarm

WeFarm is an innovative peer-to-peer farmer social network. The core insight of WeFarm is that farmers themselves often hold the knowledge they need to support each other, but lack the means of sharing their expertise with each other.

WeFarm enables farmers to post a question on farm management and receive answers from their peers. While originally focused on SMS technology they have recently released a smartphone app with a wider range of functionality, including group conversations.

Having first launched their service in Kenya they are expanding their operations across East Africa.

Learn more about their approach here:

AfricasTalking

Africa’s Talking is a highly successful mobile aggregation company working across the African continent. By simplifying access to mobile telco infrastructure they enable developers to easily build applications incorporating USSD, SMS, IVR, airtime and even payment gateways.

This infrastructure provides the conduit needed to communicate with smallholder farmers and build rich and powerful solutions. See a full list of their applications here:

CropNuts

CropNuts is East Africa’s leading soil test and agricultural testing laboratory & agronomy advisory services company. They are included in this list due to their pioneering use of technology to transform how soil tests are provided to smallholder farmers.

Their breakthrough dry soil testing process is powered by AI - enabling CropNuts to deliver cheaper and more accurate soil tests in a fraction of the time taken by traditional wet labs. A key innovation for Africa’s 33 million smallholders.

Safaricom

Africa is a global leader in the use of mobile technologies and M-Pesa is a shining example of this innovation. Mobile money is used by over 70% of the rural population and many businesses serving smallholders rely on mobile money solutions. Their Daraja platform enables developers to plug directly into their API and build upon this foundation. Safaricom Developers' Portal: Daraja

Hello Tractor

One of the biggest challenges facing smallholder farmers is the difficulty in accessing high quality, physical equipment. The upfront capital costs of machinery, such as tractors, limits uptake even if ultimately mechanisation is a profitable strategy.

Hello Tractor are solving this problem by making the process of hiring a tractor simple and affordable. This ensures that all farmers can improve their productivity through the use of state of the art tools and technology.

Microsoft FarmBeats

Microsoft is one of the world’s most famous tech companies, and they have consistently invested in supporting agriculture. Their Azure FarmBeats product is specifically built with agriculture in mind and is available on the Azure marketplace

Azure FarmBeats enables companies to build cloud based apps with easy plug and play connections to agricultural data providers. There are no additional costs for using FarmBeats, so if you’re already building upon the Azure cloud it makes it a fantastic resource which can save you time.

Precision ag for dev

Precision Ag for Dev is a global non-profit that advises large scale projects on how to design their digital interactions with smallholder farmers. They frequently provide consultancy support to governments looking to harness technology and behavioural economics for good. They are working across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Ignitia

Weather is the single most important factor affecting Agriculture lies, and it is impossible to manage a farm productively without taking into account the current and future conditions.

While it is common knowledge that weather forecasting is never 100% accurate, the highly changeable tropical climate presents an even greater challenge to both forecasting companies and the smallholder farmers experiencing these rapid changes.

Ignitia uniquely specialises in tropical weather forecasts. They state they have achieved over 84% reliability, and that their proprietary forecasting model predicts tropical weather patterns down to a hyperlocal range. They deliver these forecasts to West African farmers via SMS in partnership with mobile network operators.

Arifu

The final company on our list is Arifu, a digital content and interactive learning platform. They deliver learning content at scale via SMS and WhatsApp. Access to this knowledge is key for smallholders, who often lack formal training on key skillsets such as financial management. Delivering content through SMS ensures that all farmers can access the training content regardless of their access to smartphones or mobile internet.