If ever there was a time for technology to assist in how the global population produces, trades and consumes food, that time is now. With predictions showing that the world will need to produce 70% more food to feed the 9 billion people by 2050, the race is on to find solutions that will transform the production, selling and buying of agricultural produce.
A team of software developers in the Philippines think they have an answer and they call it KROPS. Built to meet the big challenges facing agriculture – demand outstripping supply, inefficient production and trade – KROPS is a mobile Azure-based e-commerce application that puts the control of buying and selling directly into the hands of farmers and buyers. As Ong Parker Vice President, Business Development describes it, “KROPS is a cloud-based platform that gives you access to every food source in the world from the biggest farms to the smallest backyard.”
The app is initially being rolled out in the Philippines, a market characterized by its agricultural diversity and connectivity challenges both in internet and travel access (there are over 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines). The KROPS app functionality disrupts traditional buying and selling practices, where a small network of buyers tends to control prices and access to markets. Farmers like Jomar Guerinia explains further: “Now I’m able to sell my produce on a level playing field where a handful of buyers don’t control everything. Now I have all kinds of customers buying my produce from many different places because of my visibility within KROPS listings.”
The process for farmers and buyers is straightforward, not unlike other common e-commerce platforms. Firstly, farmers list their location, harvested crops and the price they want to sell them at with accompanying uploaded pictures of the produce. These are then listed under location, price, produce type for buyers to view and choose from. Delivery options are either arranged by the farmer or buyer. All the buyer needs to do is scroll through the different produce listing, find what he or she needs, click on the purchase and effect a bank transfer that signals the farmer to dispatch the products. The buyer and seller can then message each other to finesse delivery or specific produce details.
Being cloud-based means that the solution is scalable. “With no need to invest in physical infrastructure, scaling up has been fast, efficient and low cost. Hosting the app on Azure means that KROPS can work virtually anywhere, benefiting the most remote farmers.”, Ong Parker explains.
Building on the prevalence of low cost smartphones and growing internet outreach, the app can be easily downloaded and KROPS field officers regularly train farmers how to use it and get the most out of its e-commerce functionalities.
Linking the app’s backend to Power BI gives field officers the ability to quickly see supply and demand trends across the country as well as regional produce patterns, and translate these back to farmers so they can adjust their production volumes or even crop types. For example, if a field officer sees on Power BI that onions are trending in a specific region leading to lower prices and a potential glut, he can advise farmers to store their current onion crop and focus on cabbage for a while until onion prices stabilize. Likewise, a field officer might advise a pig farmer that there is high demand in an adjoining province, so they might want to offer a discount on delivery costs.
Previously in the Philippines, many farmers left agriculture to find work in the cities because of the pressure on prices. KROPS is now empowering farmers to return to farming. “People are coming back to farming and the community is rebuilding itself with more resilience and security. Now we all have hope. The new call I hear is: let’s plant more crops.”, adds Jomar.
With an agricultural produce inventory of over $250 million currently listed on KROPS and over 7,000 producers and farmers actively using the app, the scene is set for a revolution in agricultural trading which the KROPS team plans to roll out in Asia and beyond in the coming months. Like all impactful innovations, it’s simple, easy to use, fills a need and empowers the people to connect on a level playing field.
So far the solution is working well for Jomar: since he started using KROPS, he has increased his crop yield and income by 30%.
To read more about Microsoft Philanthropies’ work to build a future for everyone in Asia, click here.