Startup snapshot: Generate returns from farming without leaving your home

Ghana-based Complete Farmer is an agritech startup which allows anyone to sponsor farms in exchange for guaranteed returns on investment after harvest. Co-founder and CEO Desmond Koney answers our questions.

Give us your elevator pitch.

Complete Farmer is a crowd-farming platform that enables users to invest, own, and manage farms without discarding their regular routines. Users can monitor the whole farming process on their mobile device and make a healthy return on their investment after harvest. Complete farmer is a Kickstarter for farms that enables you to own your farm in your pocket.

How did you finance your startup?

Complete Farmer got its first seed round of financing after participating in the Kosmos Innovation Center’s agritech challenge in Ghana. This is a very rigorous and rewarding competition that seeks to fund teams after going through a series of activities to ensure the right startup foundations have been laid. A team of graduate students from diverse fields came together to solve some of the challenging problems in agriculture. We identified the problem of lack of investments into agriculture and the growing demand for produce by the market. We decided to come up with a solution that bridges this gap and make farming fun and attractive.

If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

We would invest heavily in machinery, research and skills development that would enable us to scale our operations across Africa and become a pioneer of innovative solutions across the agriculture chains. Agriculture in Africa lacks the mechanised boost and the application of what is found in research on the field because of the lack of innovative solutions in farming African crops. An investment would enable us to realise the necessary technologies that would make us scale our solutions to other parts of Africa and help ensure food security and achieve our vision.

What risks does your business face?

Farming in Africa is still inundated with risks although we have done a very good job of coming up with protocols and processes that mitigate these risks. The current risk we face as a business is getting data on the production of crops in different locations. Hence, we have had to build demo farms and run pilots to come up with reliable metrics to make informed production decisions. We have also consulted with experienced crop farmers to gather some level of empirical data they may have based on their experience of farming.

So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

We have had very good success with marketing on our social media channels. This gives us the ability to target our prospects and develop marketing strategies to convert them into leads. Direct marketing in the form of corporate demos has also been effective in converting leads.

Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

Our most exciting entrepreneurial moment as founders of Complete Farmer was when we made our first sale, and subsequently the number of sales we made when we launched the beta of our product. It was great to know that the market validated our product and it motivated us to work on building the product that users want.

Tell us about your biggest mistake, and what you’ve learnt from it?

One of the biggest mistakes we have made in business was to outsource many jobs that had to be completed initially. We later realised this was more expensive compared to building in-house skills and developing those skills. What we do to build capacity is to pay for massive open online courses (MOOCs) on Udemy and maintaining a staff-sharing MOOC library. This way our staff are up to date on current industry techniques and well equipped to implement better.