BY TOM JACKSON
Nigerian agri-tech startup Farmula is building the B2B digital infrastructure that makes it possible for farmers and bulk buyers to directly interact, driving up margins on both ends of the chain.
Formed in 2019 by Vivian Opondoh, Ahmed Madani, Jackline Kimani and Ibrahim Abdulmalik after they met while taking part in the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) training programme in Accra, Farmula allows buyers to post their requirements on its platform.
It then matches them with affordable, quality produce, handling payment and the delivery of the produce within 24 hours. Abdulmalik said the founding team had noticed that B2B sales and distribution of food in Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, is largely inefficient. Three main issues stood out.
“The first is that almost every aspect of food distribution is still manual – everything’s still on paper. So, it’s not just the sales, but even collections, reconciliation, communication, and gathering data, the whole process is still manual, and that is a core problem. We still don’t have a digital food distribution system,” Abdulmalik told Disrupt Africa.
“The second problem is there’s no data If you don’t have digital systems; there’s no way to actually collect data because you can’t collect data manually. It has to be automated, and that is still very limited. And lastly, the fragmentation problem. The trend you see across the continent, is hundreds of thousands of key players operating in silos. That interoperability isn’t there.”
Farmula is attempting to slowly but surely address all these issues, and Abdulmalik said uptake had been “good”, if slower than expected.
“There are still some market realities. Trust is a barrier to scale. We are currently building out our distribution network and are growing at 12 per cent week-on-week,” he said.
“We are running a pilot in Lagos and Nairobi working with 100 distributors. Our goal is to grow these numbers locally.”
Since launching its inventory management app in February, Farmula has recorded over US$1 million in sales on the platform. Funded by MEST in 2019, the startup currently has no plans to raise further, but is instead focusing on building out its platform in order to drive uptake. It makes money from commissions on transactions completed over the platform, with Abdulmalik saying it is “revenue positive”.