E-agro to help Armenian farmers find buyers more easily

Armenian farmers are in no different situation than other farmers around the world.  As each country develops its own agricultural strategy, some countries try to maximize and capture the value generated by the crop season, others provide subsidies to inefficient farmers and don’t allow more competitively produced agricultural goods to be imported. Other countries completely fail in their agricultural policies and because of this failure the villagers remain the poorest parts of society. Production and trade of agricultural products is one of the most important problems of the Armenian economy. You’ve seen it before at iTechnology.am (click here) that Agriculture represented 20% of Armenia’s 2011 GDP but is one of the slowest growing sectors (approximately 10% annually between 2007 and 2011 and with very low productivity (gross value added per employee working in the sector was $4,438 dollars versus $30,178 dollars per employee working in the Armenian IT sector).

What the situation  is like in Armenia. Besides well known problems in production such as lack of adequate machinery, inefficient production techniques, expensive fuel and fertilizers, there is another really big problem: getting agricultural production to market at and selling it at an attractive priceCurrently, the villagers spend a lot of money to send the products to the capital city and to find buyers. The process is difficult not only for the villagers but for the buyers as well. The buyers also spend time and money to find agricultural products with a convenient and reasonable price.

Today, in the century of technology and innovation, every problem is to find its tech solution. iTechnology.am is happy to bring you the story of the team who found a proper solution to this problem. Our readers know that Microsoft Innovation Center is a unique cradle of innovative ideas. The E-agro project was born from it to make life easier for farmers and to become a real solution that significantly impacts people’s lives.

“Before launching any project we consider two important factors: whether there is a need for it and whether there is an infrastructure to implement the project “, notes E-agro coordinator Ani Manukyan.

What is E-agro. It is a virtual market of agricultural products, which is available on the web and on mobile phones. It is a meeting place for all interested parties: sellers, buyers and intermediaries. Project coordinator Ani Manukyan, says different countries have similar experiences: “Developed countries have such projects at very advanced levels of development. For instance, in South Korea, the villager can sell the products online through mobile phones even to other countries”.
How it operates. The interested parties sign in on the website and then can publish and receive needed information about the prices, quality and quantity of the given product. This is a two-sided system, which enables to sell or to buy products wherever the parties are.
Services. The main function of this project is to serve as an efficient link for the seller and the buyer. But this is not the only one.  The website provides with agricultural consultancy, business consultancy, educational information, statistics, weather forecast, etc… And all this is FREE. There is also a section on the website in which companies and farmers can publish and read announcements about agricultural machinery, production insurance, agricultural loans, etc.  ”Now in Armenia computer and the Internet are available in almost all villages. Taking this fact into consideration we are sure that our project is convenient for all parties “, notes the project coordinator.

What one needs to use these services: People don’t need a very developed phone or high-speed internet access. Even with the simplest phone villagers/farmers can receive phone messages containing the much needed information. The E-agro project has regional coordinators for handling organizational issues: “we already have coordinators in four regions, who also handle issues concerning other regions not yet integrated”, adds Ani Manukyan.
At what stage the project is. The negotiations with mobile operators are almost complete. According to Ani Manukyan the team tried to fix a minimum fee for sending messages. The villager can write about a problem paying just the standard message fee. Next month the mobile part of the project will be ready and introduced to the users.
Cooperations. The project works in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Armenia and Republican and Regional Centers for Agriculture Support. These cooperations help  the project get a marketing boost and villagers become more aware of the projects directed to the agricultural development which are  implemented by the government.
Future steps. The mobile message part will be included and the advisory section will be available on the website soon.
The villagers would not have to spend money and time to travel from the village to the capital to sell their produce. The buyer, in its turn, would not have to buy a product at a much higher price. The E-agro project creates all the opportunities to find each other more easily, to fix an average price and to organize a convenient trade process for all parties interested.
iTechnology.am has high hopes for this project. It has the potential for high impact, improving thousands of farmers’ lives if its goals are achieved.

This post is also available in: Armenian