Farmforce – Complete access to farm-level data to empower farmers and streamline field operations

Original case study appeared in Farmforce on Sunday April 29th 2022 

Thanks to crop market analyses, financial advice, weather data, good agricultural practices, and other inputs provided by Acceso, farmers improve their productivity, profit, and prospects. Delivering a unique and self-sustaining model of economic development, Acceso’s mission is to level the playing field by bridging gaps between farmers and markets to not only reduce poverty but to provide a genuine path to upward social mobility. 

“It allows us to be experts in what we do and not have to reverse engineer our entire supply chain down to the farmer and build an entire software ourselves, so that’s been our logic when using Farmforce. We’ve compared it to a number of other software, and, to this day, it still stands out to us as the right tool.” Robert Johnson, COO, Acceso

“Where the impact really sits is when a farmer gets inputs, market access, training, and credit from us and that’s where incomes increase up to more than 600 percent,” Robert Johnson, Chief Operating Officer at Acceso, said. 

However, with businesses across the region, the organization needed an operating system to trace their field technicians, store farmer data, and control credit transactions among other functions. Plus, they had multiple variables to control such as pricing volatility, climate issues, and complex logistics. 

That’s when they turned to Farmforce, recognizing our network management tool as an all-in-one solution for effectively managing all those components: arranging visits and training, providing credits and inputs, value chain traceability, and so on. 

“It allows us to be experts in what we do and not have to reverse engineer our entire supply chain down to the farmer and build an entire software ourselves, so that’s been our logic when using Farmforce. We’ve compared it to a number of other software, and, to this day, it still stands out to us as the right tool,” Robert said. 

An attentive partner, not just a software provider 

Acceso started using Farmforce in Haiti to manage the rotation of seasonal crops like peanuts and sorghum. They soon realized the platform already incorporated useful information on what Acceso’s businesses and local teams needed to streamline their work and maximize their impact for smallholders. 

“When we looked at it, we said, ‘wow, this is someone who knows the sector and knows what gaps there have been’. This isn’t a tool that’s only for one crop in one location,” Robert said. 

After analyzing the promising results obtained by Acceso in their Haiti framework, Farmforce believed Acceso was ready to evolve. Therefore, we suggested they extend our software application to their more complex field operations in El Salvador. When guided through this stepwise introduction of our solution, the customer felt a true sense of partnership. 

“It felt kind of like a partnership that we were rolling it out, not just that Farmforce was a software provider,” Robert said. 

Farmforce has been helping Acceso to translate the data collected by our digital system into actionable insights. This allowed the customer to achieve cost-effective improvements to their programs. 

“Making that data real is so important to us and, again, Farmforce made adjustments to what we can do and what we can correct in the system,” Robert said. 

Gaining trust through seamless accountability 

When comparing Farmforce to a conventional financial enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, Acceso noticed the difference in terms of team building. 

“We’re regularly in touch with our issues, we work those out, there’s very much kind of a shared attack rather than this kind of transactional approach,” Robert said. 

While acknowledging the benefits of our partnership, the customer admitted there is an intrinsic lack of trust in new tools within their field. Accordingly, it took time to engage their teams in fully utilizing our software. 

Another problem was to figure out how to make the most out of Farmforce. In this regard, Acceso appreciated Farmforce’s guidance throughout the years, leading them to roll out the solution in phases rather than all at once. 

After years of steady and efficient support, the customer team dramastically reduced our software questioning and is ready to implement our solution into new markets. A better understanding of our solution potential along with the challenges in developing these types of tools enabled this behavioral shift. Acceso also acknowledged our team’s genuine and seamless availability to help over the years. 

An all-in-one shop to find your digital solution 

“You guys are a solution center, rather than a straightforward vendor,” Robert said. 

With the aim of enrolling tens of thousands of new farmers soon, Acceso identified our digital communication solution as the most cost-effective way to meet their ambitious growth plans. Having data housed in Farmforce and ready for operations also cuts down farmers’ upfront digitalization costs when launching a new business. 

In addition, Farmforce’s integrated nature streamlined the management of Acceso’s hub & spoke model. To be more specific, each of their field technicians (i.e., hub) normally branches out into tens of farmers. By harnessing our collective database, the customer not only keeps track of all farmers’ data in one place but can also proficiently monitor the performance of their team members. 

“It’s kind of like the one-stop-shop for everything we do,” Robert said. 

But there are also some gaps to fill on our digital shopping list. Acceso observed some limitations in Farmforce’s real-time analysis capabilities. Nonetheless, they believe that our ongoing brainstorming will catalyze the software response over time. 

“We’re collectively working through that to find the sweet spot of how we get that analysis out quick and clean and tell a story we want to tell,” Robert said. 

Continuously problem-solving for a shallow learning curve 

Acceso found our software super easy to learn and roll out. Yet, they valued the continuous Farmforce’s assistance in sorting out any issue coming up in the post-implementation phase. While their team mastered the basics of our tool, we regularly checked in on Farmforce performance and that’s what made the difference to them. 

“The real kind of value is that three months, six months, a year down the road we’re talking about the next problem that’s holding us back,” Robert said. 

Through a combination of in-person visits, phone calls, and user groups, we’ve been revving up Acceso’s progress along its learning curve. 

Stepping up the farming game 

So far, Acceso has already addressed two major challenges by leveraging Farmforce: 

    • Merging all farmer-related data (e.g., training, visits, surveys, credits, etc.) into a centralized, secure, and online system rather than relying on multiple disconnected sources. 
    • Achieving an effective management of their field teams. Besides making managers’ life simpler, the customer highlighted how their technicians found our tool straightforward. Technicians typically access Farmforce on their tablets to record information and farmer transactions in real-time; when there is no connectivity, the information is uploaded to the cloud once there is connection. And this was crucial for holding their operations accountable in a context like Haiti where there is significant competition among NGOs. 

 

“It’s raising the game for how people manage data in the developing world and farming context,” Robert said. 

The organization is planning to expand its operations into new markets where farmers use SMS as a primary communication channel. Capturing this information is key to Acceso, whose core principle is to assess the feasibility of a project before embarking on it based on farmers’ production habits and environmental conditions. Using Farmforce will let Acceso store all SMS in a single data lake. This is going to be vital as the company acquired Extensio in 2020, a pioneer in the use of mobile communication in agriculture to farmers, and Acceso subsequently integrated their Farmforce and Extensio systems to manage both the upstream and downstream flows of information. Acceso is rapidly expanding its reach to soon provide upwards of 30,000 farmers across the region with crucial information, such as weather and pest forecasts and market trends. 

At Farmforce, food’s first mile is our passion. Our SaaS solutions provide organizations with the confidence to secure sustainable sourcing, improve farmers’ quality of life and protect the environment. We turn data into tools, which means more vetted acres, more measurable impact on communities, more financial opportunities for farmers, and more clarity for customers. We believe in building a better food supply where it starts. Providing the confidence that comes from knowing the facts about your food sourcing operations in the first mile.