Bangladesh has always been an agrarian country. Agriculture is still the largest sector when it comes to employment with over 42.7% of the labor somehow related to agriculture. The sector also accounts for over 12% of the GDP share. Yet traditionality has always preceded innovation in this sector. Some steps have been taken to modernize the existing agricultural systems in the country. However, the impact and coverage weren’t enough to have a uniform impact. Different startups are trying to solve the underlying issues that plague the farmers and the agricultural sector. While some focus on specialized needs, others take a more holistic approach. Let's look at some Agro-Tech Startups bringing about changes to the existing process.
The Emerging Agro-Tech Start-Ups in Bangladesh
Farmers in Bangladesh face accessibility issues regarding capital, market, and other agricultural development inputs. iFarmer Ltd took a holistic approach to address these issues for the root-level farmers.
The startup was founded in 2008 in Dhaka. Initially, the organization focused on solving the Agri capital issue. Gradually they widened the horizon to include a marketplace as well as developmental input for the farmers. Today the organization has over 36000 registered farmers under its platform.
The organization has a unique voucher system that they provide to the farmers instead of direct cash. So far, the organization has been able to disseminate 745 million BDT worth of funding to the farmers. The investments have yielded over 1.1 billion BDT worth of agricultural produce.
The company has been primarily funded by the Falcon Network and Accelerating Asia. The voucher system allowed for better investment strategies. This in turn allowed the organization to see consistent growth. iFarmer also took steps to set up its own supply chain system to bypass the middlemen. The marketplace system allows the farmer to directly connect with the buyers which in turn allows for better profit.
Fashol.com is another Bangladeshi agro-tech startup focusing on the wholesale agricultural market. Price discrimination in the wholesale market has always plagued the farmers. While fresh produce skyrockets in retail now and then, the farmers seldom get the actual price for their produce.
Fashol.com works to bring about a change to that system. Founded in 2019, the startup has created its supply chain with over 500 retailers serving over 350 different types of fresh produce.
The company takes an all-around approach from sourcing to sorting to delivery. This approach has had a very positive impact. The company directly delivers the products free of cost to the customers. The price is also substantially less than the retail market since there is virtually no middlemen involved.
The agricultural supply chain of Bangladesh is lengthy. This backdated process has been intertwined with multiple third-party involvements. The change of hands or involvement of middlemen at every stage only adds up to the final cost of the product which is making both the consumer and the farmer worse off. Fashol.com is taking steps in the right direction and bringing better value across the spectrum.
Integrated Precision Agriculture and Engineering Bangladesh or simply iPAGE is another agri-tech startup in Bangladesh. The platform primarily works to develop the root farmers of Bangladesh.