Farmerline is an application that allows Ghanaian farmers to see bigger. Through this application, the daily life of farmers has changed and allows their businesses to become profitable. Interview with Alloysius Attah, CEO of Farmerline.

Interview by Jules Hervé Yimeumi

Could you please introduce yourself?
I'm Alloysius Attah, Co-Founder and CEO at Farmerline, a social enterprise that strives to transform millions of farmers into successful entrepreneurs. I hold a BSc in Natural Resource Management from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana.

At Farmerline, I lead the company's overall strategy and vision. I also focus my efforts on business development and product design, a responsibility that has seen me receive numerous awards including « Echoing Green Global Fellowship » in 2014 and « Cordes Fellowship » in 2015.

Can you tell us more about about Farmerline?
Our proprietary software platform, Mergdata, allows us to disseminate and collect information to and from farmers through mobile technology adapted with voice messages, local languages, and offline-enabled data.

Through this platform, we send farmers good agricultural practices (GAPs), weather reports, and market information systems across nine (9) crops in their local languages using voice. Mergdata also offers data collection, allowing value chain actors to survey and profile farmers, map farm plots, manage supply chains with inventory tracking and cataloguing, and pay users via mobile money. These dissemination and collection tools from us provide support to every level of farming infrastructure across West Africa.

In the medium term, we aspire to be the “Amazon for farmers”: an offline & online marketplace in rural Ghana and on the mobile phone where farmers can quickly access products, services, and companies across the entire agricultural ecosystem through our proprietary mobile apps and field agents.

Our long term goals are to inspire an Africa that is not reliant on aid, and a forward market led by trade where there are fewer people at the bottom of the pyramid. The youth have a major role to play in realizing this new economic system, and we want Farmerline’s work to inspire the young generation to take charge and create sustainable businesses from the bottom up. Our goal as pioneers is to improve incomes for millions of small-scale farmers, and in the process, to build the most conscious technology company on the African continent.

What is your target?
We aim to reach one million farmers by 2020, all of whom we strive to empower to improve their livelihoods, improve their yield, increase their income and create global change.

What inspired you the creation of this application?
At five years old, I had to move to live with my aunt, who was a small-scale farmer in rural Ghana. Whilst there, I experienced first-hand the challenges that small-scale farmers go through to produce food as well as support their families. Having made it to college, I became determined to give back to all the smallholder farmers who supported me. This drive, together with Emmanuel Owusu-Addai's, is what has led to the creation of Farmerline Ltd in 2013. My focus for this company is what keeps me committed to empowering small-scale farmers, like my aunt, who are facing similar challenges across Africa.

Are the farmers able to work easily with the application?
Our farmers do not work with the application directly. They benefit from services that our Mergdata platform channels out. It allows us to share information with farmers, affordably, in mass quantities, in voice or in SMS, and in any local language depending on the farmer’s connectivity, literacy, and language. This breaks existing language and communication barriers.

Do you think that the farmers can optimize their production thanks to the technology?
Yes, we truly believe that technology can help farmers tighten their profit margins, support them to operate more efficiently, and with greater ease than ever before.

What about the use of drones in agriculture in Africa?
With the global population projected to reach 8.1 billion in 2025 (most growth occurring in developing countries and more than half in Africa), there is a bigger demand for food resources. According to a Harvard Business Review report in 2016, this demand for food is expected to increase anywhere from 59% to 98% by 2050. In order to meet the food needs of the world’s increasing population, farmers across the world must find ways to improve current farming practices and processes so they can produce more food, increase productivity and make sustainability a priority. Whilst other regions are already observing a strong trend towards rapidly evolving technologies like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles-UAVs (popularly known as drones) to achieve this high productivity and sustainability goal, Africa has largely been left behind. But we at Farmerline want to change that trend. Our Software Development Associate, Pascal Adomako participated in a hands-on, intensive UAS training in Paris, France and is currently exploring and experimenting ways to make the most of land, crops and resources in Africa. We are confident that at the end of this process, we would have come up how to use drones to provide farmers with precise data of their farmlands and to detect issues well before time and act upon them (as well as help make regular visits to check on their crop health knowing exactly where to go on their farmland and which crops to focus much attention on).

IT4Africa Business is a platform in french dealing with information related to tech. We also promote digital innovations on the African continent.