Mathieu Le Bras (two from the right) and Yusep Rosmansyah (right) with agri-store owners in West Java (Credit: 8Village

Understanding the true needs of their consumers, 8Villages forgoes all kinds of new technical advancements to use simple 2G/GPRS because they want to ensure farmers in Indonesia are no longer disadvantaged.

In June 2011, Mathieu Le Bras, an agronomist with an INSEAD MBA degree, decided to address key issues faced by small holder farmers from developing countries. 8Villages was then started with a vision of providing farmers simple yet actionable information, while connecting mobile carriers and large agribusinesses to the farmers at the bottom of the pyramid.

Le Bras partnered with Dr Yusep Rosmansyah, an Indonesian telecommunications scientist, to introduce a mobile website that allowed the 40 million farmers in Indonesia to access crop-specific forums and richer crop intelligence using simple 2G/GPRS.

According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than a billion farmers reside in Southeast Asia, China and India alone. Out of these numbers, 8Villages estimates that 77 percent own mobile phones but 68 percent of them experience difficulties in accessing important, accurate and timely information.

8Villages help feed farmers with market intelligence information such as crop pricing, lookbook of the national planting and harvest season, and local seeds and harvest offers. These are done through “crop groups” that was launched last February. The startup has since transformed the format from pure SMS to SMS plus voice and content, which translates market intelligence information to better suit farmers’ needs.

Revenue models include revenue sharing with mobile carriers via revenue generated per user. Marketing intelligence and campaigns organized for agribusinesses that want to reach out to farmers and seed sellers or harvest buyers who also want to reach out to these communities.

With over a 1000 farmers in West Java, Indonesia actively participating in the “crop groups” community, 8Villages plans to expand the service by collaborating with a leading Indonesian telecommunication carrier and other key multinational agribusinesses in mid 2012.

They have also targeted Vietnam and Philippines to be part of their international expansion plans given the similarities in farming industries and telecommunication landscapes

“The concept behind our company is receiving strong support from authorities given the food security challenges faced by the nation and is having the back-up of the major agri-businesses companies there. Indonesia is all about network and we have been lucky to identify the rights partners in Jakarta to get into the particular tech-scene and ecosystems,” says Le Bras.