Each month, Crowe Horwath will profile the startups that have been accepted into the 2017 SproutX Accelerator program.
SproutX is a joint venture between Findex and the National Farmer’s Federation. It’s an innovation hub and startup accelerator designed specifically for the Agtech sector- the first of its kind in Australia.
SproutX focuses on nurturing startups and entrepreneurs to help transform the country’s $60 billion agriculture sector by helping solve a broad range of problems in the industry, using innovative solutions.
11 startup teams have been selected to join this year’s SproutX program; each receive $40,000 in capital, access to ongoing mentoring from industry experts and office space for six months.
The core focus of SproutX is about bringing together the entire agtech ecosystem across Australia into one place. This includes government, corporate, investment, entrepreneurs, industry, and of course the most important stakeholder; the farmer.
What is your startup and what problem is it solving for the agriculture industry?
AgUnity is a tool enabling millions of developing world farmers to lift themselves out of poverty. Our mobile app is called “AgriLedger.” We work with NGOs who provide us with funding to give farmers smartphones with AgriLedger pre-installed – all completely free for the farmers. Together with the NGOs we address inefficiencies and AgriLedger becomes an indispensable part of the farmers’ daily lives. AgUnity will transform rural communities all over the world, and in doing so it becomes the exclusive platform for directing billions of dollars of new economic growth in positive ways.
Tell us more about your enterprise and what inspired this idea?
We thought about the billion small-scale farmers in the world; families with only a few acres of land surviving on just a couple of dollars a day. The people who are so poor that nobody cared to develop solutions for them. We discovered that issues which were solved a century ago in the developed world are often still insurmountable problems for these farmers, and that they mainly centre around a lack of cooperation and trust. Advancing technologies like blockchain, low cost smartphones and data coverage meant that it had become possible for the first time ever to provide an affordable solution to those small farmers who had been ignored until now. In doing so, AgUnity could leapfrog these farmers into the modern world.
What hurdles have you faced and conquered on your startup journey so far?
Despite a lot of encouragement from major NGOs, we were sceptical about how the program would really work for people who had never even owned a phone.
So… we went out into villages and jungles, and spent months living and working with farmers to make certain that it would really work in practice. One of the co-founders, John, spent most of a year living in a Kenyan village helping farmers with their daily work and ensuring we were building a product that really helped them. We’ve also spend time in Papua New Guinea and Myanmar and it worked so well it surprised even us. The farmers’ incomes increased by up to three to four times in a single season.
How can interested clients, farmers, or investors contact you?
AgUnity has the huge ambition of being the platform that helps millions of developing world farmers to transform their lives. We’ve proven it works and we are currently raising funding for our second seed round, and are looking for introductions to investors that want to be part of building a global enterprise that will improve millions of lives in the process.