Faith Mokgalaka, founder and CEO of Puno Greenery.
Agritech crowd-farming platform Puno Greeneryis offering investors an alternative investment option, by connecting them to farmers who are looking to grow their small-scale businesses.
The new investment marketplace, currently in trial phase, will be officially launched next week by agritech entrepreneur and Wits University student Faith Mokgalaka.
Mokgalaka, who is completing a degree in computer science, says being a farmer herself, she coined the idea after struggling with financial resources to grow her business, during her early stages of entrepreneurship.
A few years later, she pursued her vision to combine her agricultural background and computer science studies to build a platform that would help farmers gain financial support to scale their businesses, while offering the investor an opportunity to invest in assets that are not influenced by financial market trends.
These assets could be livestock, crops or equity in the farm business.
Investors choose how much money they would like to invest, with the platform allowing them to invest a maximum of 20% equity per farm.
During a telephone interview with ITWeb, Mokgalaka explained it is important to help farmers with the capital they need, as they often find it difficult to qualify for mainstream business loans and funding schemes, as a result of their businesses being perceived as high-risk.
“By using data science, the platform responds to both the needs of the investor and the farmer. As an investor, you get to choose which farm you want to invest in, get a share of the profits made by the farmers, and you also get to track your investment in real-time, and remain updated on the progress of the farm(s) you have invested in,” says Mokgalaka, CEO of Puno Greenery.
The investor earns 15% of the profit earned by the farmer once the assets have been sold.The interest rates are fixed and are not hindered by the inflation rate or any other economic factors.
Mokgalaka says anybody can be an investor, with a minimum of R500 required to invest in a farm.
The investment period differs according to what the investor chooses to put their money in; for example, chicken farming takes about six weeks from the time they hatch to the time they are sold.
Investing in vegetables could see the investor waiting for a period of up to 12 months.
Fortunately, some farmers have a direct market; so as soon as they start harvesting they can sell their produce immediately, she adds.
“Puno Greenery is farmer-centric – we aim to help the farmer to see growth, rather than the farmers working for the investor. We also aim to intentionally help farmers from disadvantaged backgrounds that rely on farming as a main source of income.
“Another positive thing about crowd investment is its robustness. The crowd investment sector is ‘an independent state’, as it is not linked to other financial markets and thus remains stable in times of economic instability,” she adds.
Early this year, the platform received a R130 000 funding boost from undisclosed investors. The funds have helped to market the business, which now has over 50 farmers listed on the platform.
“After undergoing the de-risking process, three farmers that were ready to produce crops were given a financial boost to start harvesting, with some already starting to make a profit,” concludes Mokgalaka.