iProcure delivers inputs to farmers’ doorsteps using ICTs
By Omondi Julius Odera, Kampala, Uganda
Stefano Carcoforo has innovated a creative and reliable way of supplying agro inputs in rural Kenya, bridging the wide gap of the supply chain with statistics indicating that a paltry 8 thousand agro vets in the country are expected to serve over 10 million farmers.
The creative youth has set up a virtual warehouse from which a number of farmer groups and stockists order the inputs needed. The innovation, which is dubbed iProcure, is already being used by several agro input firms which are now relying on it to distribute their products to farmers.
Coming from a software development background, Stefano decided to plunge into the turbulent waters of setting up his own firm that will provide a solution to both the farmers, wholesalers and agro input manufacturers. “I first developed solutions and applications for individual companies depending on their needs. However, the quick solutions and apps I developed for the clients made me realize that I could provide a better solution for a problem that was turning out to be a menace to both farmers and input producers hence the birth of iProcure,” explained Stefano.
According to Stefano, he was creating a solution that would multi task and offer several answers just with a mere click of a button. Apart from selling the products, iProcure will enhance the relationship among all people in the value chain like providing client profiles along with geo-located purchasing patterns, real-time agent performance and transaction analysis. The service would also help retailers better predict demand with business intelligence data, improve inventory management, and streamline distribution efficiency. “There are a lot of things happening around stockists or agro vets. For instance, the products may over stay on shelves and therefore delaying the timely payment to the manufacturer. However, with the new innovation, resources are only committed after creation of demand and therefore the payments are made within a day or two,” added Stefano.
The iProcure team is working with both farmer groups or cooperatives and individual stockists. The farmer group identifies a leader who then becomes their point man to the firm. “Our plug and play last mile distribution platform ensures that farmers are located near the point of sale and are never far off from what they need. iProcure is strongly present in remote rural locations where major distances are an obstacle for broad-access to these markets.” The farmers visit their point man and make their orders. The leader of the group then logs into his account of the application on the mobile smart phone and makes all the orders with details of the individual farmers plus the cash.
After a day or two, iProcure then delivers the ordered inputs to the farmer group and the transaction is effected thus helping farmers save time and resources while making the tedious trips to the shopping centers for input purchase. They supply the products at a whole sale price and get their returns from the small margins given to them by the producers.
The firm is already working with over 5000 stockists and farmer groups mainly from around Rift valley and Central regions. Stefano adds: “We have expansion plans in the pipeline especially for non seasonal products like dairy inputs.”
The tool helps provide free marketing, tracking and traceability for the agro input firms and their products. Each agro input firm interested in using the module registers and is allocated its’ own account which displays all the needed data right from the quantity ordered, by who, from which location among other analytics. By so doing, the producer is able to trace who is using what product and what product is needed more in which area.
The application works on any android gadget and the team of iProcure gives their distributors and farmer group leaders hardware which is a smart phone which is pre installed with the application. The mobile based application can work both offline and online. “We have put into consideration that many of the farmers are located in the rural areas where there is poor internet connectivity due to poor Telco infrastructure and therefore we have designed our application to work also in offline mode,” notes Stefano.