Agritech startup iFarmer in talks to raise US$500K investment
iFarmer, an online platform that connects small-scale farmers with retail investors in Bangladesh, is in discussion with investors to raise US$500,000 investment.
The Dhaka-based startup looks to close the round in April this year, its Co-founder Fahad Ifaz told e27.
iFarmer has previously received S$100,000 (US$730,000) in investment from the Accelerating Asia VC fund as part of its startup programme. The agritech venture also has the backing of Startup Bangladesh of the Ministry of ICT and the UNCDF Fintech Innovation Fund.
Established in mid-2018 by friends Ifaz (CEO) and Jamil Akbar (COO), iFarmer enables anyone to sponsor farmers and invest in livestock easily.
How it works
You can create an account on the iFarmer mobile app or website and transfer funds into it. Once done, iFarmer will start sending you purchasing opportunities for new assets like cattle as they become available.
The farm selection involves going through the available farms (currently, it offers cattle and livestock farms) and picking the farm you want to invest in. When you click on a farm you want to invest in, the details such as the investment/contract period, expected RoI, the harvest period, available units to be sponsored, etc. will be available.
After successfully making payments to invest in a farm, iFarmer deploys the funds to verified and trained partner farmers. iFarmer facilitates the availability of quality farm inputs, technical support, training, farm and farm produce insurance, marketing assistance and logistics.
You can then start monitoring your virtual farm on iFarmer’s online dashboard and receive reports on your assets’ value and performance. When the assets reach maturity and are sold, the proceeds are deposited in your account. You can either withdraw it, hold it, or reinvest in new opportunities.
“We also work with farms to increase their production capacity and grow their products through its technical field experts, who guide farmers,” Co-founder Ifaz said.
Targetting 20M farming households and 30M middle-income population
About the 20-million farming households in Bangladesh are iFarmer’s targets. Most of these people are unbanked and rely on informal moneylenders and microfinance for capital.
To date, iFarmer, which is also the winner of Seedstars Bangaldesh 2019, claims to have worked with 1,000 farmers.
iFarmer targets the growing middle-income population as investors. Currently, Bangladesh has close to 30 million people falling in this space, and the number is likely to grow. A majority of them do not have access to a wide range of retail investment opportunities.
“They usually keep their money in the bank or invest in bonds; most of them are shying away from stock markets or do not get into it because they don’t understand how it works. So by investing in farms through iFarmer, they can have an annualised return of 16-40 per cent from their farm investments, which is higher than the return from bank deposits and other retail opportunities.
The farming and agriculture industry in Bangladesh — a country with roughly the size of New York but with well over 20x its population — is at an inflexion point. While the sector has so far done a great job of feeding its 170 million people, a growing population coupled with falling agri land and profitability is a cause for worry for the government and farmers.
“The population of Bangladesh continues to grow and is estimated to reach 230 million by 2050. The agriculture land is, however, disappearing and profitability is falling. Plus, farmers are finding it difficult to invest in new technology. Unless there is a technological innovation, the sector will suffer,” Ifaz said.
Ifaz and Akbar embarked on their startup journey with a mission to address this problem.
Before starting iFarmer, Ifaz worked in agriculture development and financial inclusion space for almost ten years in several countries in South Asia. He worked with organisations such as Swisscontact, World Bank, CARE Australia to design and manage projects to improve the economic conditions of smallholder farmers.
Akbar has experience and expertise in technology and technology-based project management.