We are currently experiencing a second revolution online. The first, I would dare to say, was a couple of decades ago, when big companies ventured themselves to the web, some of these to sell books, others to rent movies; there were some others which bet on digital telephones and apps. The future of these companies was very fuzzy. Would they move forward? There was ignorance for the future and technology itself. Everything was confusing. Some of these companies grew and now they are the most valuable companies in the world, others disappeared. Those who knew how to bet on this by buying shares from these companies must be very satisfied with their returns by now.
Currently, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain, crypto currencies and FinTech are the things which have started a revolution, again, with a structural change, in the way we will manage our businesses, our finances, our health, and our lives. Thanks to the Financial Technology (FinTech) tools, you can make payments with your mobile, send money to other continents, start a worldwide collection (crowd funding), get insurance almost instantly, buy Bitcoins and Dogecoins, or pay for a car with Ethereum in a matter of seconds. You can even request a loan and receive the money within minutes.
What is FinTech? Basically, it is using technology to provide financial services such as those indicated above, and doing so with certainty, comfort, safety and speed. Imagine the algorithm that must be behind a money-lending FinTech, in order to determine if you are worthy of a credit or not within minutes. How about buying a $5 raffle ticket for a dinner with Shakira and supporting her foundation? Or sending an instant payment to Germany without needing an ABA number or a Swift code?
According to Catherine Lian, CEO of IBM Malaysia, a farming company is able to produce up to 500,000 data in one single day. It is the analysis of this information the fact which can drastically change the dynamics in the sector, being financing an essential area and therefore, the use of FinTech.
How will FinTech affect agriculture? The best way to explain this is to see what some of these companies are doing these days.
The first company we will be discussing here is called Figured (Figured.com). Based in New Zealand in 2015, it has managed to operate in 5 countries and serve over 20,000 companies within the Farming sector. Figured supports farmers in managing their accounting, cash flow and generating instant financial statements; in addition, it makes financial forecasts for better decision making. It also allows you to make production, sales and comparative reports, and with the use of AI and Big Data, you may visualize investment options for your business with many years ahead, and it shows you a variety of scenarios. Everything managed from the cloud, obviously.
65% of jobs in Africa are within the primary sector, generating 32% of the GDP. Ironically, only 1% of bank loans in the region go to agriculture. We are talking about 50 million small farmers, struggling to support their families. The little access to credit and therefore, to quality inputs has made the uncompetitive. This is why companies such as FarmDrive (farmdrive.co.ke) have emerged. Founded in Kenya by two programming students at University of Nairobi, the company provides small farmers with credits. It all starts with an SMS message or by reaching them in their app, and then you send your expense information. The IoT of the FarmDrive software, supported with information from dozens of both domestic and foreign (Nota del traductor: aquí también puede ser “national and international”, como ustedes lo quieran indicar) sources (economic, social, climatic, agronomic, in addition to individual data), determines how many of these small farmers are subject to a line of credit. The money is sent through MPesa, the system from Vodafone to send money.
MyAgro (myagro.org) is another African company that uses FinTech. The company has benefited over 90,000 farmers with input credits. Inputs are bought with an app where these are paid at a slower pace. According to its page, 60% of those who request loans are women. Not only poverty is reduced, but more food is produced and of better nutritional quality in a region with an urgent need for better food quality.
Another example of a FinTech company which has revolutionized Indonesia is Crowde (Crowde.com). Considering that almost 80% of small farmers in Indonesia have credit problems, Crowde provides in-kind financing, generates loans between farmers, provides consulting and supports crop marketing. It is as simple as entering their website and filling out some forms. It has 33,000 participating farmers and 62,000 investors who lend capital to the project. Everyone is welcome to participate: banks, companies, suppliers and farmers.
FinTechs are, unquestionably, here to stay and change companies and lives. Mexico and Sinaloa, with their thousands of small farmers, are potential clients of these. Being able to access financing in a fast and cheap manner could revolutionize the sector and grain production, but not only providing financing but freedom to the farmer. Who would dare to start the first FinTech company for the sector in Mexico?