Kenny Ewan, founder, and CEO of Wefarm (wefarm.org) trained as an engineer and architect originally but it was an early job at an NGO in Latin America, where he assisted with engineering projects, that gave birth to his current career passion. Ewan leads an informative discussion about the dynamics of small-scale farming and how information can truly make the difference between success and failure for farmers.
Mr. Ewan’s Wefarm is a free service that allows farmers, anywhere in the world, to share information via SMS, without internet, and directly from their farm. Wefarm’s platform enables farmers to ask important questions on farming issues and get quick answers from other farmers, usually within minutes. With hundreds of millions of small farmers working globally, many in sub-Saharan Africa, access to information is vital, and timing is critical as crops must be attended to properly in order to survive and thrive. And as agricultural and livestock farming requires skill and meticulous care, global farmers often have specific questions regarding crop disease, animal sickness issues, and variations for planting, etc.
Ewan explains that Wefarm’s platform utilizes machine learning to gather a complete understanding of each specific farmer’s question. With a complete profile, Wefarm can then better address the farmer’s issue, and ultimately match them with consulting farmers who are best suited to their needs. As timing is critical, especially in regard to crop or livestock disease, Wefarm is able to match farmers quickly and get vital information that they can act on, which can mean the difference between life and death for crops, or livestock. Ewan states that his company’s service is utilized by about 900,000 farmers currently, many in Kenya and Uganda, with 2000 new farmers joining daily.
Disease patterns, ripening, and drought issues are but a few of the many that Wefarm stays current on, to keep their network of farmers up to date and flourishing. Additionally, farmers can access information on soil conditions, etc. that can help them to make good decisions on which crops will be successful based on the soil of their specific region. Wefarm is able to monetize via transactions as they are expanding their marketplace to allow farmers to connect, to trade or buy and sell. Ewan details how collective buying power is also an asset, for as Wefarm brings a network of farmers online, Wefarm can sometimes position itself into a negotiation role with feed and seed type distributors. As their system grows, Wefarm will be moving further into peer-to-peer messaging as well, to allow farmers to communicate back and forth, beyond just question and answer.
As Wefarm expands it stands to serve millions upon millions of new farmers yearly, for with hundreds of millions to potentially billions of small-scale farmers and workers operating globally, small-scale farming is perhaps the largest industry in the world. And though their central office is in London, to enable them to have direct access and better communication with investors who are coming on board, Wefarm maintains offices in many of the very areas that their farmers inhabit. Wefarm team members interact regularly, and often in person, with small farmers across the globe, for sometimes there is no better way to understand the issues of a region than to actually be in it and talk to the people.