Pioneering technology in the Caribbean is aiming to help financial institutions make better farming investment decisions in order to provide unbanked farmers with credit.
In a first for the Caribbean, blockchain technology will soon be used to create an alternative credit score for Jamaican farmers who want to increase their bankability. The technology will store farmer records and create profiles using information regarding farm revenue, expenses and profitability to create secure digital ledgers. Farm Credibly is the pioneering start-up behind the system, which collects and evaluates the farmer data.
Most small farmers in the Caribbean find it challenging to access credit because the majority of farming activities are paid for using cash and so, typically, there is no paper trail to validate a farmer’s economic activity. However, using the profiles and credit scores made available on the Farm Credibly website, financial institutions will be able to establish a farmers’ creditworthiness. The profile information will be sourced from verified business transactions, as well as through third-party partnerships with suppliers, distributors and consumers, so the farmers will not have to provide any data themselves. “It means that once a farmer is ready to get a loan at a bank, it’s a much easier process for them because, suddenly, they have a track record,” explains Varun Baker, Farm Credibly’s CEO. And, while the farmers’ personal details and transactions will be protected, a public, trusted operational track record will be created.
A winner of CTA’s Pitch AgriHack in 2018, Farm Credibly is using the award money to enable the company to launch a pilot project in August 2019 to assist 10 farmers to expand their Scotch Bonnet chilli pepper production. The pilot, which is also supported by a grant from the Development Bank of Jamaica, aims to facilitate farmers’ access to micro-loans through its blockchain platform. Through the same platform, Farm Credibly will simultaneously launch an accrued funding option, whereby individual investors can view farmer profiles, and directly invest in the Scotch Bonnet farms.
“To date, Farm Credibly has access to a database of more than 200,000 registered farmers, and we are embarking on an engagement with the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, which will greatly enrich our credit scoring,” Baker continues. After the company’s pilot is completed towards the end of 2020, Baker anticipates that the more farmers and financial institutions will be attracted to the platform.