Even though at launch, the most visible and touted component of EcoFarmer was the micro-insurance, the service is more than just that. The company discussed in detail the EcoFarmer offering at an event we attended a few weeks ago in Harare. The event, organised by the Market Linkages Association, brought together tech startups in agric, government, NGOs, as well as larger companies like Econet, to discuss technology solutions for agriculture that have emerged.
EcoFarmer is an all round tech solution packaged for agriculture covering not just insurance, but also access to financial services, market linkages, trading (mobile commerce if you want), agriculture tips dissemination.
To compare it to the Kenyan ecosystem, where EcoCash seems to get most of its what-to-launch-next inspiration: this is M-Farm (market linkages), Kilimo Salama (Insurance) and M-Shwari (access to credit). Maybe iCow is planned too somewhere down the road. Why reinvent the wheel I guess. The agriculture information component though seems more an eSoko than a Kenyan startup clone.
The result, according to the Econet presenter at the MLA information is a 4 pillared approach to solving the problems in agriculture sector:
Through EcoFarmer, Econet is effectively seeking to address farmers’ problems in producing as well as selling, traders’ problems buying from the farmers, financial institutions’ problems providing insurance cover and access to finance for the farmers, and lastly the problems of companies that sell inputs to the farmers – SEDCO for example that sells seed.
Econet is competing with companies locally that have all attempted in one way or the other to provide these solutions; the local Esoko and eMkambo are examples.