In 2016, I was privileged to visit groundbreaking projects by Ashoka Fellows in Lagos. Ashoka is an international organisation that is committed to identifying and investing in community changemakers.
One project that caught my attention was a Farmer’s Cooperative led by Africanfarmer Mogaji. I had heard of him before; the man who legally changed his name to reflect the passion for and commitment to his profession – farming. During a tour of his cooperative farm, we fell into conversation. Africanfarmer laid out a grand vision to revamp the export of Nigerian agricultural products through technology. He also introduced a groundbreaking tech-based model for agricultural finance – FarmCrowdy. What really piqued my interest the most was Africanfarmer’s incisive analysis of the Nigerian agricultural industry, and its potential as an entrepreneurial and investment goldmine. As a woman who did not come to Lagos to count bridges, I was intrigued.
I understand technology and I understand business models. My LinkedIn profile states that I turn raw ideas into products, markets and systems. Therefore, I could clearly see the business potential of FarmCrowdy. With the right political & regulatory backing and a good customer retention strategy, it was poised for a very bright future.
Essentially, this is what FarmCrowdy is about: The company crowdsources cash from investors – professionals with idle funds (e.g salary earners). The cash is used to meet the short term funding needs of farmers (e.g money required for agricultural inputs). The investors then earn interest on the sums provided. The interest is notably higher than what they could have earned from government treasury bills or bonds.
Because farming is cyclical in nature, many times the timeline for agricultural loan applications to banks does not match urgent farming needs, hence the value of crowdsourcing. FarmCrowdy acts as a broker and provides insurance for any capital invested on their platform through a credible insurance company – Leadway Assurance. Your principal is thus assured.
When I visited the FarmCrowdy website, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Co-founder & CEO of the company was Onyeka Akumah. I know Onyeka from Autogenius, an online insurance broker. I am on the Board of Autogenius and Onyeka served as a marketing consultant. It was a great comfort to see that FarmCrowdy was run by 2 individuals I already knew. Another plus for me was that FarmCrowdy was listed in The Rockefeller Foundation’s Intelligence Report on Food Loss & Waste Africa (FLWA). This is their citation: “FarmCrowdy is one of the stories that are particularly innovative, looking for scale and have a strong local focus on tapping into new technologies.”
My first investment in FarmCrowdy was a sponsorship of and investment in 5 farms. The tenure was a few months. The subscription process was easy and I had the option of registering with my email address or logging in via Facebook. I filled all the information on the website and paid via WebPay at 8pm. (As a social media professional, I loved the fact that I could conduct the entire process remotely, without talking to anyone on the phone.) I received fortnightly updates on the farms with pictures, and was given the option of visiting the farms in person to verify progress. After the investment period, I received my principal and profit (of about 20%) as a credit to my bank account (which I had previously supplied while signing up). The payment to my account was automated via the SimplePay platform.
I had discussions with FarmCrowdy about whether a company could sponsor farms and not just individuals. I was told FarmCrowdy would be happy to invite representatives of the company to their office to facilitate due diligence. If the company did not wish to register on the website in its name, they could nominate an individual as the touchpoint but input the company’s corporate account to receive the funds upon maturity of the investment.
I wish I had been given the option of rolling over my funds when the investment period ended, via an email reminder, instead of my money being returned automatically. This is one aspect the operators should fix. It will lead to enhanced investment retention. However, you can reinvest once the money is returned to your account by starting the process again. The company also needs to respond better to email and telephone inquiries. You cannot operate a seamless technology business without efficient customer service.
I’m increasing my investment portfolio in FarmCrowdy because I think it’s a brilliant investment option for professionals with disposable income (or anyone who wishes to save and earn a return). But like all investments, it should be approached with knowledge and due diligence.
If you would like to try FarmCrowdy, here’s the simple process:
1. Go to www.farmcrowdy.com and register with an email & password.
2. Click on Farmshop to select which farm you want and it will reflect in your shopping cart.
3. Go back to Farmshop to add another farm to your shopping cart, if you’re investing in more than one.
4. When you’re finally done, choose a payment method for your debit/ATM card (SimplePay or Paystack), add a referral code in the space provided and click checkout.
5. You’ll get a receipt and you’ll see your farm investment in the space on the website titled Dashboard.
6. The first time you invest, you must use someone else’s referral code at checkout, before yours becomes active. (Hint! Hint! Mine is E978ED9E). So start with one farm first and complete one transaction. Then, activate your own referral code. That way, you can use your personal referral code for all subsequent transactions after the first farm. (For every 15 farms you invest in using your referral code, you get a free farm. But note that your referral code does not work with poultry or soya beans.)
Edit: Since I wrote this post, FarmCrowdy has suspended its referral reward programme. (They may reintroduce it, so keep an eye out.) A new kid on the block and competitor, Thrive Agric, has also emerged.
Feel free to share this post and read my other posts on Money: What I Wish I Knew 15 Years Ago and How to Invest One Million Naira. If you would like to be informed of investment opportunities from time to time, kindly join this email list.