What Southeast Asian ICTforAg Solution Providers Need for Success

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The Digital Solutions Directory is a comprehensive list of over 60 innovative ICTforAg providers for smallholder value chains in Southeast Asian Nations. Between them, the directory solutions reach some 2.5 million farmers in ASEAN, or about 3% of smallholder householders, with services including:

The Digital Solutions Directory is a business tool that can help agribusinesses to find solution providers to address pain points in their smallholder value chains, and investors can find promising solution provides to invest in. The directory should help more farmers in ASEAN leverage the power of digital tools.
For those of us at Grow Asia, where we are also developing a Digital Learning Series, creating the directory brought forth three very important themes:
Traceability and Advisory Opens the Door to Farmers
Of the 2.5m farmers reached by a directory solution 90% fall into just two solution types, traceability and farmer advisory.  This is not too surprising as these are essentially “light touch” solutions; they represent the low hanging fruit in digitizing smallholder farmers.  Once a traceability or farmer advisory solution are developed, the barriers to signing up each new farm are relatively low.  On the other hand, lending platforms, soil testing and drones (which could offer a lot of value to farmers) are growing slowly; each new farmer is hard work.
It seems clear that traceability and farmer advisory are going to be gateways for digitizing smallholder value chains.  Farmers are going to start out in these platforms, and then use them to access other solutions. Specifically, advisory solutions (1.5m users) are likely to become the platforms which higher value solutions such as tractor hire, insurance and finance plug into.
We Need More Visionary Company Founders
The solutions in the directory were created and driven by about 80 passionate entrepreneurs.  These businesses are young and still mostly still led by the original founder.  Attempting to scale a digital solution with smallholder farmers is tough work, involving a range of skills from agronomy to fundraising and of course a lot of facetime on farms.
These founders are unique individuals with the right combination of business acumen, empathy and long-term vision.  Sectoral growth will mean getting many more founders on board and energizing those already in the field.  If smallholder agritech is to grow, we need to alert more entrepreneurs to pain points in smallholder value chains.
 We Need More Supportive Corporate Partners
Trading companies, traders and input manufactures all struggle to engage with smallholder farmers.  The directory lists solutions to many of these company’s greatest pain points including delivering training at scale and mapping supply chain data.
The entrepreneurs behind the 63 solutions need corporate partnerships to fund growth, as well as to provide mentoring and guidance.  For many directory solutions, corporate partnerships will play a critical role to fund early growth and business model development before venture capital avenues open up.
By Paul Voutier, Director Knowledge and Innovation, Grow Asia
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