Lean Startup Term Project – E Farmers
We designed for farmers in Kenya by connecting them with willing buyers of produce, farming tools, and supplies.
Our mission is to revolutionize the way farmers carry out farming and conduct agribusiness by introducing modern technology. Through our mobile app, we offer farmers and businesses a central, online marketplace to shop for better prices and better quality. Farmers who need superior equipment at low prices, businesses looking for better deals on products, and even businessmen looking to lease and own land will now have an up-to-date, advanced community in which to shop for the best deals.
We want to be the safest, most efficient and most effective medium in which farmers can sell and advertise their products, get agricultural news, and get advice on where to buy genuine farm equipment. We hope businesses will welcome this direct-to-producer interface in which they can negotiate for and get better agricultural decisions without the need or expense of a middleman.
We applied Lean Startup as our methodology to refine and test and describe every details of this product. During the process, we listed all hypothesis about this product, build and articulate our MVP (minimum viable product) and get out of the building to talk with real users and potential customers. The core of lean startup is to shorten the iteration period of each “build-measure-learn” loop, design and pivot MVP in the cheapest way to test whether our hypothesis of our user requirement are tested. It is also called Agile development methodology.
One metaphor I would like to use to explain MVP is that: Imagine you are trying to find the best size of a your new book, you don’t need to finish all content in this book; All you need to do is find a bunch of white paper and ask opinions of your potential reader. That bunch of paper is your “MVP”. Changing the size of your book after setting type of the book would increase unnecessary workload. That’s the meaning of MVP.
For information about Lean startup, please check here.
Below is the hypothesis listed concerning the project. We divided all hypothesis into several categories. Among them, “Leap of faith” is the most significant one. Leap of faith assumption is defined as if an act of believing in or attempting something whose existence or outcome cannot be proved, the whole product idea would be ruined. So we need to test the leap of faith hypothesis firstly, and otherwise, we need pivot.
Leap Of Faith
- Farmers have access to the internet.
- Farmers know the basic concept of the internet.
- Farmers would trust an app to help them sell their products.
- Businesses will trust an app/website to buy products.
- Farmers have trouble getting access to better marketplaces to sell their products.
- Farmers have limited knowledge on what marketplaces to buy good agricultural tools and inputs (i.e fertilizers etc).
- Buyers (especially from the city) do not want to buy small volumes from different sellers, they would want to buy in bulk quantities.
- Farmers would prefer to sell their products without middlemen/brokers.
- Farmers want to know and compare market prices in different markets.
- Produce quality (fresher) would increase if farmers sold directly to customers.
- Farmers are open to new ways of farming and selling (i.e using smartphones to sell their products).
- Customers would want to know the quality of the products before buying them.
- Farmers are open to their products being inspected for quality assurance.
- Customers would want to deal with farmers directly instead of middlemen/ brokers.
- Farmers producing similar products in low volumes would team up and sell their products together as bulk to one customer.
- Farmers make most of their income from bulk consumption.
- Farmers want an easy, efficient and safe means of selling their products profitably.
- Farmers want a consistent market for their farm products; Farmers would want to know that there is an available buyer for their products.
We picked up several hypotheses to test by using our MVP. Since target users of our products are farmers in Kenya or China, one way we reached out to them was through the Internet i.e through Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat etc. Although our final implementation focused on Kenya, China was found to be an analogous market, so research into China proved to be beneficial for implementation in Kenya. After getting feedback, we measure the effectiveness of our current function, and learn how to improve that.
Conduct an interview directly with farmers to test whether they are willing to sell products online.
Since we don’t have direct access to many farmers locally in Kenya, China, and India, we posted the following message on our social network: “If you have farmer friends can you refer his contact number to me?” This process also helped us test whether farmers have internet. We chose to avoid contacting them directly through phone calls; instead, we reached out through internet platforms. Our assumption was that if we could contact them through the internet then our leap of faith hypothesis would be validated.
We sent 2 questionnaires to our potential users, including both farmers and customers to get quantitative feedback.
Results indicate that farmers are open to the idea of moving their commerce online, and that they would feel that this is a step in the positive direction. Based on these results, we can inference that this app would be well-received, though more region-specific information is needed.
Research was conducted on the current rate of mobile usage rate in China to test whether farmers have access to internet.
Farmers commonly cannot afford iPhones, however, and most of them use smartphones with Android-based systems. Therefore, our initial focus would choose an Android platform and also include a web site for farmers. Bridging farmers and customers through smartphones is a working hypothesis.
There is a massive technological breakthrough in Kenya currently. Added to this is the fact that the smartphone penetration rate is increasing rapidly as well. According to a report by Safaricom, the Kenya’s leading mobile network operator in April 2014, there was 67% smartphone penetration rate in Kenya and this rate is projected to increase by at least 5% per year as more people take advantage of the technological spread. With this data therefore, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for our product.
Backbone of Kenya
Most of Kenya’s adult population has grown up being taught that agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy. The fact that agriculture employs three in every five people in Kenya (60 percent); accounts for 27 percent of Kenya’s GDP and contributes more than 50 percent of the export earnings means that the importance of agriculture to Kenya’s economy cannot be overemphasized. It is what it is; a particularly important aspect in the lives of every Kenyan.
A 2013 study titled “Global Financial Markets and the Right to Food: A Focus on Small and Marginal Coffee Producers in Kenya” found that even in times of highest coffee prices in the global market, small-scale farmers get no significant improvements in their livelihoods. This begs the question – where is the money from the sales of Kenya’s coffee going if livelihoods of small-scale farmers are not improving? The contradiction is explained by price volatility; Farmers limited understanding of the global supply chains, lack of information on pricing; increasing costs of inputs; delays in payments and the huge number of players (brokers) between farmer and retailer; all of which result in this contradiction. This give us chances on entering this market.