How did Farmable adapt to drive growth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
June 3rd, 2020. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing restrictions which impacted travel, and overall uncertainty regarding the future, our team met to discuss what the next 12 months would look like.
On the one hand, agriculture is very traditional and remains less digitized compared with many other industries globally. On the other hand, the past couple of years have seen a renewed interest in building digital solutions for various activities in the sector, be it smart farming, vertical farming, carbon sequestration, internet of things, and so on. The industry is ripe for disruption.
The farmer, on the other hand, is fatigued. They have seen waves of “disruption” come and go, without mass improvement for the community as a whole. Yes, many broadacre farms have benefited from the growing digitisation in hardware, and software. However, the majority of fruit and vegetable farms have not, and as a result have had to figure out workarounds to help them manage their farms.
There is a sense of scepticism when it comes to technology, and a feeling of ‘been there before.’ As Lars Petter has covered in his blog, quite often the farmer, the person for whom the solution is being designed, is not at the table. Solutions are made and then implemented, leaving the farmer to organise their workflows to match the software.
This thinking had to change, and we were convinced we had the perfect solution for it. Designed by growers, for the unique needs of growers, we built Farmable to be a mobile-first, user-friendly, easy to self-setup mobile app. It was in contrast to the prevalent industry practice of complex and expensive software fueled by a demo-driven sales process.
The idea was to go right to the beginning – how the data is captured. Make it easy, intuitive, and, in complete contrast to the prevalent industry practices, make it free! We wanted every farmer in the world, not just the broadacre or tech-savvy farms, to benefit from and get ready for the future disruption to come.
Instead, there we were, with the whole world being disrupted. How do we continue in our mission to reinvent data management and spread the message, if we can’t even meet people?
Farmers, we believed, prefer to be met in person. Take that out, and what can we do to build trust and drive adoption?
It was a challenge… and also an opportunity.
In a sense, it forced us to pivot to new methods of building awareness and reaching customers.
In a multi-pronged strategy, we decided to start testing out digital solutions ourselves to
- Create awareness
- Drive adoption
- Build relationships
We took part in virtual events and webinars, leveraged social media, online and print media, customer analytics, video conferencing through tools such as Zoom, Google Meets, etc. Our app went from 2 languages, to 5 languages! We added multi-lingual marketing capabilities. Using agile marketing and rapid experimentation, we tried many things. Not everything worked. Then again, not everything failed either. Through it all, we learned, adapted, and grew.
It was new for us, and we could see it was new for our customers.
We were surprised, however, at how much digital adoption in terms of communication has already happened among farmers. From Australia to the UK to South Africa. Across continents, growers and advisors were changing and adapting to the pandemic themselves. From the use of Facebook and Whatsapp groups, to even niche usage of tools like Telegram. From the prevalence of YouTube, to the comfort of regional grower groups. There was no one-size-fits-all.
The results after a year: a 10x growth in farm adoption. Building a global community of 5,000 farms in 127 countries and counting. Active solicitation of feedback from our users, and accelerated incorporation of feedback into the product itself. Over 41,000 kms tracked, 20,000 fields mapped, 12,000 jobs logged, 10,000 notes created, and much more.
The road ahead is exciting, and even more challenging than the path already traveled. Coming soon is the ability to ascertain profitability per field – a key ask from farmers. By tracking all the activities, costs, and harvest per field, we are changing the way farmers interact with their data, and hence getting them future ready to really benefit from the valuable information that is currently scattered across different systems, or just lost.
Farmers have found or heard about us from a variety of sources. Active usage and positive word of mouth have been the key to product adoption. Their faith in us has only strengthened our resolve to keep moving forward in our vision to empower farmers everywhere.