Digital economy and agriculture
This isn’t surprising, according to Paolin Pascot, grandson of a Poitevin farmer and a young entrepreneur of e-commerce platform Agriconomie, in a recent article on Arte FuturE:
"The farmer is - indeed - a true entrepreneur".
Farmers are entrepreneurs of a future in which innovation means banking on "precision agriculture", and the opportunity to invest in a new business model: one that uses digital tools to optimize the management of common property.
Far from contemporary stereotypes, computer-savvy farmers are educating themselves in the "field of digital knowledge" and using it to promote their own interests. This subversion of the traditional economy is ultimately allowing them to adapt and anticipate the challenges of tomorrow, most notably that of feeding a planet which will be home to 9 billion people by 2050.
This ecosystem already has its online ambassadors, like the a-geek-culturist Hervé Pillaud, a farmer in Mareuil sur Lay in Vendée and author of Agroeconomicus. With 80% of farmers online today, the digital revolution of the agricultural world seems obvious in hindsight. Relationship building, the disintermediation of the value chain, a more fluid distribution model, a simplification of administrative procedures, and many more innovations connect the two worlds of retail and agri-business.
SIAL explores two key trends around the digitization of this part of the agri-food sector.
The Amazon of agriculture: A to Z service for farmers
To understand the role of the digital economy in the agricultural and food sector, one must first look at the segmentation of this emerging digital market.
On the one hand, there exists market platforms like Biagri, Machinery or Kisan Network (in India). Exclusively for professionals, these allow farmers to present all of their products online. Dubbed the "Amazon" or "Price Minister of agricultural products", these platforms aim to make the sector more flexible, digitize the market, dematerialize the value chain and create relationships between producers and distributors. Less well known than their counterparts in the agri-food industry (see: Amazon Fresh), these startups play on the e-commerce concept.
Another example is the Champagne startup, Agriconomie, a platform that facilitates the flux of supply and demand of agricultural products. Designed as an open interface, Agriconomie targets both small and large farmers. The key to their business model is hybridization: on the one hand, a commercial offer where Agriconomie becomes the new intermediary capable of putting small producers in touch with a broader market; on the other, a direct sales service in the form of Marketplaces.
With its 80,000 users per month and 3,000 customers, Agriconomie is a pioneer and leader in e-commerce for farmers. Theirs is an economic struggle aimed at defending the farms, according to Clément Le Fournis, one of the founders, in an ADN article. Every week, 200 professional farms disappear due to financial reasons.
For them, it is important to look at farms through the eyes of an economist: as an "investment in soil". In this regard, the platform provides customers with decision-making tools and 7-day-a-week service.
Collaborative platforms: or how I save money thanks to the community
Other alternatives are also emerging. Grouped under names like "economy of functionality", "division economy" or "sharing economy", they are an indicator of a major social transformation. A real opportunity for the agricultural and food sectors, they tend to naturalize the "D System", i.e. trades in goods and services among farmers, alongside startup WeFarmUp which offers "equipment-sharing" for farmers. More recently, in the food sector, Californian startup Copia has taken advantage of the trend by offering to collect excess food from companies and redistribute it to those in need via their shelter partner network.
Cost optimization and additional income... an echo of the "Uber model". There's always a fine line with collaborative consumption startups, that mirror those relative to the "food-surfing" segment, like VizEat or EatWith.
Collaborative platforms more accessible to day-to-day consumers also exist in the agricultural world. They tend to federate around hot button issues, like the war against food waste (Agrilocal) and the local eating movement (La Ruche qui dit oui). What’s more, the cultural integration of agricultural practices in urban areas due to a popular desire for shorter distribution channels is driving development.