Do you know the market price of papaya today? One papaya costs a minimum of Tk45.
Now, can you guess the farmer's selling price of that same papaya?
It is not even close to half of the price you have paid. It is an extremely disappointing state of affairs, but this is how the system works. And multiple middlemen are taking advantage of this system.
But how about a platform that ensures a fair distribution of your money and does justice to the farmers? Would you be excited enough to welcome that platform?
If your answer is yes, then let us introduce you to Deshifarmer.
Deshifarmer is the first cold chain and tech-enabled fresh produce supply chain in Bangladesh. It has the vision to empower farmers' lives by improving productivity, price stability, easy trading and reducing food waste through a traceable and trackable supply chain.
Currently, it is running a pilot project in Savar with 200 farmers. Under this project, it is supplying vegetables and fruits – both seasonal and nonseasonal – to 10 stores in Dhaka city.
To source vegetables, it has selected rural areas based on farmers' density and harvest volume. The dedicated workers of Deshifarmer visit the farms, ensure the product quality and finalise deals with farmers. The goods are collected in the morning or evening and delivered at the farmers' point. At the farmers' point, all the necessary sorting and weighing of the products are done at the fastest possible pace.
"Usually, there are a few farmers' points under one fulfillment point. Farmers' points are like a mini-hub where we buy goods from our farmers and then send them to the fulfillment point. Then, the fulfillment point completes washing, drying, grading, and packaging of the products. After that, we are ready to do dispatch in bulk," explained Rahat Kabir, sourcing and farmers point executive of Deshifarmer.
Before launching this platform, Deshifarmer did direct research to understand the market demand, farmers' interest and hurdles. In the beginning, it was pretty tricky working with the farmers as none of them were ready to cooperate.
Farmers were excited, and also terrified, of Deshifarmer's idea. They considered it as some sort of institution who will eventually add suffering to their lives. Hence, it took time convincing them to work with Deshifarmer. But Syed Md Fahim, CEO and founder of Deshifarmer, understood their insecurities and decided to proceed at a reasonable pace.
"Born and raised in a rural area, I have seen the struggles of farmers up close. When I started studying and researching this problem, I learned about this unorganised, syndicate-controlled, complex network dominating the farmers. I realised the only solution to break this system is bringing a technology-based supply chain, which will add transparency – from farming to delivery," said Fahim.
Shohag Islam, a farmer from Savar, recently joined Deshifarmer and expressed his satisfaction. Though he has been farming for a decade, he had never seen anyone receiving a fair price for their hard work.
"Forget fair prices, sometimes we did not even get back our investment. But Deshifarmer seems different from others. They are paying us 20-25% more than the syndicators and buying things in bulk. So, we do not have to think about rotten vegetables. Hence, there is no chance of incurring losses," stated Shohag.
But what does Deshifarmer do with extra or last-minute canceled products?
Sumaiyah Mousinin, chairman and founder of Deshifarmer, answered saying, "We believe in delivering from farm to plate. So, we try to deliver goods in a 12 to 16-hour time frame. Yet, sometimes unfortunate things happen. We have prepared ourselves for that too. Usually, we store the last-minute canceled vegetables in cold rooms to avoid waste and increase the shelf life of the produce."
Deshifarmer will introduce solar-based mini cold rooms for farmers.
"Our goal is to reach zero waste. And, this adoption of the cold room is the most essential step to attain that goal, because it helps to increase the shelf life of vegetables. We are also trying to collaborate with institutions to guide our onboarded farmers," Sumaiyah further explained.
In a nutshell, Deshifarmer is working hard to ease farmers' daily struggles. It seems like they are off to a good start with regards to the first successful phases of the operation.
Satisfied with the platform, Shohag has already introduced a few of his friends to farmer points and inspired them to start working with Deshifarmer.
Sometimes farmers even seek suggestions about selecting seeds, fertilisers, cultivation time and pesticides. The experts at Deshifarmer also cooperate with them accordingly, both online and offline.
Deshifarmer is trying to take their whole operation online. But will that be able to replace the physical wholesale markets, like Karwan Bazar?
Sumaiyah nodded yes and said, "Technology will eventually take over everything. So, it will also turn into an online platform. Maybe in five or 10 years or more, but it will. And someone has to take the initiative. Here, we did," Sumaiyah told The Business Standard.
Deshifarmer also plans to provide hassle-free doorstep delivery to retailers at competitive prices. Also, it is a time-saving platform both for the farmers and retailers, ensuring quality products.
Deshifarmer have set up a 2,000 sq ft farmers' point and 3,000 sq ft dispatch point at Boliarpur, Savar. Initially, it began in Savar as it is a major entrance of Dhaka from the north side of Bangladesh. It will expand its farmers' point mainly to the north and a few in the south, where farmers' density is highest.
"Right now, we are targeting delivery in Dhaka with the plan of covering the whole Bangladesh. For delivery, we are using our own and outsourced fleet. Though we are skipping the B2C model for now, we will adopt this too with solid plans in the future," said Fahim, CEO of Deshifarmer.