Startup Leads The Way For Farmers in Developing Countries
12 Nov 2019
Mayor Tom Tate has long talked about the idea of our city becoming the next Silicon Valley and while we’re a long way from that there are a number of tech innovators based here who are leading the way. Sometimes those start-ups spring from the most unlikely sources.
A tech company based in the heart of Surfers Paradise is winning international accolades for the way its changing agricultural practices across the globe. Social enterprise AgUnity has developed a platform that empowers poor farmers in developing countries by improving their agricultural practices so that they can become profitable. By using blockchain in the backend of their platform AgUnity are able to guarantee security for farmers and in doing so tackle the issues of graft and corruption which plague farming in those countries.
An App for Illiterate People
To successfully implement their platform AgUnity had to develop an app for people who were not only poor, but often illiterate. Most of these farmers had never used a smart phone before, let alone seen one, so the app had to be both intuitive and visually literate. It wasn’t easy as the company’s COO Angus Keck explains:
“We first deployed the app with wheat farmers in Kenya. We learnt a lot from that experience as our team hadn’t had any previous experience working with smallholder farmers in developing countries. It’s a steep learning curve when the user has never seen a smart phone before and hasn’t had a primary school education. You have to understand their language and much of the app revolves around a limited use of words with a lot of icons, geometric shapes and primary colours – it’s a very simple user interface.”
One of the early groups AgUnity worked with were smallholder female coffee farmers in Ethiopia, who dubbed the smart phone and its interactive app “touchy” - you touch this picture here and it does this, you touch this other button and it does that. The phones are sourced from China at a fraction of their retail value and supplied to the farmers through NGO programs in partnership with AgUnity.
Going Global From the Gold Coast
AgUnity’s Gold Coast office is the brains trust of their development team, with further staff based in Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan and Singapore. CEO David Davies began the business in Singapore, but moved the base to the Gold Coast because ‘it’s an idyllic location and a great place to raise your kids.’
The innovative IT company is also keen to support women in what is a typically male dominated industry. With the help of Study Gold Coast AgUnity has just hired their first female software engineer, Vicki Suzuki, an outstanding IT graduate from Southern Cross University. Vicki says AgUnity appealed to her “because they’re dealing with people who aren’t digitally aware - it’s made me think about people’s accessibility to technology from a totally different perspective.”
Since launching three years ago AgUnity has picked up a swag of international awards, including ‘Best Innovation by a Start-up’ at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture and ‘Agripreneur of the Year’ at the FAC Global Agripreneurs Summit. The Gold Coast start-up is about to embark on a new round of equity crowdfunding, allowing anyone to become an investor in their enterprise. Learn more at www.agunity.com