Mercy Corps Ventures, an investment arm of Mercy Corps, is known for its strategic investments in startups that are focused on building financial and climate resilience for communities across the globe. With a track record of supporting over 32 ventures, helping them scale and raise more than $125 million in follow-on capital, Mercy Corps Ventures has now embarked on a new initiative. This article is the first part of a two-part series discussing this initiative. The second part will provide valuable insights after the completion of the pilot project.
The agricultural sector in Kenya has been facing a significant challenge due to decades of conventional farming practices. The excessive use of synthetic inputs, monocropping, and deep tillage have led to severe soil fertility degradation. While many smallholder farmers understand the benefits of transitioning to regenerative practices, the lack of immediate payoff and limited access to regenerative inputs and services make them hesitant.
In response to this challenge, Mercy Corps Ventures has partnered with Farm Star, a leading distributor of organic fertilizer in Kenya, to launch a pilot project. This project aims to promote the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices among smallholder farmers in Kenya through the use of Web3-enabled rewards. These rewards are interoperable and can be used across various ecosystem platforms.
Farm Star boasts a customer base of over 10,000 smallholder farmers and a country-wide network of more than 1,000 resellers. The company’s flagship product, Evergrow, is a fully decomposed organic fertilizer made entirely from organic materials. Farm Star is a subsidiary of Sanergy, operating under the Regen Organics division, and was recently recognized as a finalist for the prestigious Zayed Sustainability Prize.
In an innovative move, Farm Star is launching a customer loyalty program designed to encourage repeat purchase behavior. Unlike traditional loyalty programs that limit how participants can use their points, this pilot project offers farmers Web3 reward tokens that are interoperable with third-party services. This flexibility gives farmers more options on how they can use their reward points.
Farmers who purchase Evergrow fertilizer will receive reward tokens that can be redeemed for additional fertilizer, services or products from other ecosystem partners, or even converted to fiat via M-PESA, a popular mobile money transfer service. This means a farmer could potentially use their Farm Star rewards to buy insurance from ACRE Africa or purchase products on Nuzo.
The loyalty platform will be accessible both through a USSD menu and a downloadable smartphone app, making it user-friendly for farmers. Each bag of Evergrow will have a unique identifier, allowing participating farmers and agrovets to input this into the app or USSD menu to redeem their reward points.
This innovative approach to promoting regenerative agriculture practices is a significant step towards sustainability. It not only incentivizes farmers to adopt these practices but also provides them with a crypto education platform to understand the benefits of blockchain technology in agriculture. Moreover, it allows farmers to download digital wallets and engage with a crypto exchange service in the United States, thereby broadening their financial horizons.
In conclusion, the partnership between Mercy Corps Ventures and Farm Star is an excellent example of how technology can be leveraged to promote sustainable agriculture practices. By integrating blockchain technology into their business model, they are set to revolutionize the way farmers in Kenya approach farming, making it more sustainable and profitable in the long run.