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FreshSource: Empowering farmers with fair pay and market access

Making moves in Egypt’s agritech space, sibling duo Farah and Omar Emara launched FreshSource to empower farmers and limit food waste as a way of tackling food security issues.

With their collective background in entrepreneurship and computer science, they quickly realized the lack of technological advancement in the field of agriculture in comparison to other industries in Egypt.

A startup from Womentum 2019, a women in tech accelerator by womena® in partnership with Standard Chartered, the duo is setting out to make an impact on the lives of smallholder farmers by empowering them to more directly access the end-consumer.

“FreshSource is a B2B agriculture supply platform,” says Farah.

“What we’re trying to fix are two inherent problems: food waste in Egypt that reached more than 30 percent and also the exploitation of smallholder farmers by providing a guaranteed market with transparent and fair prices,” she explains.

Startups in the global agritech industry received $16.9 billion in funding in 2018 and the market is expected to grow by 19 percent over the next few years.

After launching officially in January 2019, FreshSource has acquired close to 80 customers and is seeing steady revenue growth, says Farah.

Omar, who previously worked in investment and lived in the UK, elaborates on how their interest was piqued, “We saw how most of the foods were sold from farms to businesses and how there wasn’t any regulation in the middle.” he says. “We wanted to improve it with technology. We both decided to come back and start to work on this together.”

Prior to their official launch, they went through a phase of extensive research where they looked into several areas including different farms and markets around the country, which enabled them to evaluate the entire value chain and determine the inefficiencies in the process.

“In the traditional market, for example in Egypt, there is the farmer, the consumer and maybe three more people along the chain which is an added cost. So we’re trying to limit these,” explains Omar, addressing how they plan to tackle the issue of exploitation and guarantee better returns.

“We remove the middleman and become the only person in the middle, ensuring that the consumer gets better prices and the farmers lose less product, less crop, and is paid better in return for his crops,” he adds.

FreshSource approaches smallholder farmers through recruitment sessions held at various agricultural offices around Egypt, where they then make introductions and create solid relationships with the farmers, allowing them to build a proactive database.

Once the produce is collected from the farmers, the shipments are directed to the FreshSource warehouse where it is then stored as necessary, packaged and shipped according to the needs of their diverse catalog of consumers encompassing restaurants, hotels, factories, hospitals and more.

With the technology allowing them to take a more demand-driven approach to the products, their main goal now is to grow customers and increasingly understand the different needs of businesses while building a more efficient process to minimize food waste during delivery.

Farah has found some challenges navigating the agriculture industry as a female. “A lot of men just don’t understand why a woman would want to be in the agriculture field. I think it’s going to continue being hard. I just need tough skin.”

Their journey together as siblings has not only paved the way for easier co-founder dynamics but risk-taking as well, and despite several failed attempts and resistance from traditional players during their initial phase, the young entrepreneurs are determined to continue to make impactful change.

Set in the innovative ecosystem of Berlin and the bustling investment hub of Dubai, Season 2 of Womentum follows the journey of entrepreneurs from the eight top female-led tech startups as they go through a four-month accelerator. Join us as we dive deeper into the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and the challenges they face as they build and grow their businesses. Check out Season 1 of the series!