Around 90% of farms worldwide are family-run and are responsible for 80% of all agricultural production, according to FAO. But family farming faces many challenges, such as lack of access to competitive markets, lack of quality raw materials, shortage of skilled personnel and less access to low-interest bank loans. This results in lower production and income and a lower standard of living for food producers. This is the food paradox: those who feed the world live in food insecurity.
With the aim of eliminating these obstacles, the young Peruvian engineer Robinson López has developed AGROS, a start-up that seeks to empower the countryside with the best available technologies, and to promote the digital and financial inclusion of smallholder farmers. Thanks to this breakthrough, López is one of the winners of MIT Technology Review in Spanish's Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2020.
The young man became aware of the challenges of the rural world when he inherited his grandmother's land and discovered that it generated more debt than profit. "AGROS is an ecosystem of digital solutions that seek to professionalize family farming by creating a digital identity for the farmer," he explains.
The start-up records all the farmer's agronomic activity and information. Then, with the help of big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and voice-to-text conversion software, they connect the rural world with banking and commercial agriculture through the credibility provided by the digital identity created with the support of AGROS.
The ultimate goal of AGROS is to professionalize the activity of these small farmers. As a result, hundreds of farmers have already been able to receive credit for the first time, reduce their interest rates, increase their income and production, and reduce rural exodus. López adds, "We have connected farmers in rural provinces of Peru with buyers in France thanks to the digital identity we generated at AGROS."
The Peruvian innovator plans to release some of the tools in open-source form, "because the problem is so big that it is very difficult for one person to solve it." His goal for 2020 is for AGROS to help 1,000 farmers and, in the long term, to reach 200,000 of the more than two million farmers working the land in Peru.
The Director of Alliances, Business Development and Public Affairs for Mexico and Central America at Cognizant (Mexico) and member of the Innovators under 35 Latin America 2020 jury, Iván Zavala, believes that this is an "excellent project, which has social impact and is capable of scaling up, not only in the country or region." And he concludes, "It is a project of global scale."