IDH released new market insights drawn from more than 2 million data points across 120 inclusive businesses, 20 countries and 25 value chains.

IDH through their Farmfit Program has convened key business and thought leaders in smallholder markets to introduce a new data-driven paradigm for inclusive agricultural development in what has been termed as putting years of learning into action in the smallholder sector.

The event that took place at Radisson Blue in Nairobi brought together agri-SMEs, global traders and consumer brands, investors and smallholder practitioners from Africa and across the globe to introduce and validate a new data-driven paradigm for investing and innovating in inclusive smallholder business models at scale. 

The organisation showcased practical insights and examples of data-driven innovation in smallholder business models with participants sharing experiences poised to deepen learning and spur collaboration with peers and new partners. 

The event shaped a path on how organisations can leverage data in the service of data-driven innovation for inclusive agricultural development.

Speaking during the opening ceremony of the event, Iris van der Velden, the Global Director for Innovation and Insights at IDH noted that smallholder markets face systemic challenges, including a weak enabling environment, information asymmetries and market power imbalances, that lead to poor value distribution in smallholder value chains, limited-service provision, and an overall lack of capital. She explained that challenges are being exacerbated by today’s global trade shocks and a ramping climate crisis thus putting smallholders most at risk.

“The data-driven paradigm is specifically important in understanding the outcomes of business model innovations and making smart decisions on where to invest, noting that agriculture development has remained stagnant for lack of credible data and data-driven intelligence,” she explained.

Iris also noted that the smallholder sector management broadly, and the support for smallholder farmers specifically, has been through public or development programs and has heavily focused around pilots. She highlighted that global food systems are under high pressure and smallholder farmers are particularly at risk and that more and better investment is needed to realize lasting transformational outcomes for farmers, rural communities and the businesses that engage with them.

On his end, Sygenta CEO Fred Otieno reiterated that for an organisation like Sygenta that is focussed on helping farmers around the world to grow safe and nutritious foods sustainably while mitigating the effects of climate change, intelligence driven by evidence-based data is paramount for the company’s decision making. 

“Our company is committed to promoting sustainable agriculture and one of our core values is innovativeness and use of technology. We cannot achieve this without data that is verifiable and credible. This new paradigm is thus a great launchpad for organisations that are seeking to innovatively work with smallholders,” he explained.

Part of the key learnings from the event included the need for more and smarter investment 

to reach and accelerate transformational outcomes in smallholder markets. Clara Colina, the Program Director at IDH Intelligence Center, noted the place of data and intelligence   on what defines and what drives successful service delivery to smallholder farmers to allow players to start benchmarking performance, challenging perceptions, and deploying capital more efficiently and effectively. 

“To design and scale business models that are inclusive and commercially viable for both businesses and farmers   you need both aggregated data insights and practical, context specific insights on the ‘how’,” Clara explained. “There is appetite for pre-competitive collaboration, and it is time to translate this willingness into action.”

IDH Farmfit has taken the lead in inculcating the data-driven framework in the decision-making of organisations across the smallholder agriculture value chain having done comparative data analysis and drawn insights from more than 2 million data points across 120 inclusive businesses, 20 countries and 25 value chains. 

These insights will be key in assisting organisations to identify key challenges in smallholder value chains, assess and benchmark performance at business and farm level, and understand the how to’s of designing - and scaling - business models that reduce the cost and risk of serving smallholder farmers, increase the value delivered to farmers and optimise commercial returns. 

The organisation has noted that this is an inclusive journey and has urged sector players to collaborate with it, inputting data at the heart of innovation for inclusive agricultural development at scale.

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