Improving Productivity and Profitability of smallholder farmers in developing countries

Integrated digital platform with an end-to-end solution for agricultural value chain inefficiencies for impoverished smallholder farmers

Photo of Usman Javaid
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Written by

I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Ricult Inc.

Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $250k - $500k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 500 - 1,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • United States of America

Headquarters location: City

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Location(s) of impact

Pakistan: Sheikhupura, Dipalpur, Muridke, Kasur, Khudian Thailand: Saraburi, Lopburi


Facebook URL

Twitter URL

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

513 million farms around the world are owned and operated by families – most by smallholder family farmers that live on less than $2 a day and have limited access to markets, services, and information to optimize their crop cycle from sow to sale and rise out of poverty (FAO, 2017). These farmers are often exploited, being sold low quality seeds and other resources, receiving below market prices for their harvest, and getting only inaccessible or expensive credit.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

We offer an integrated digital platform with an end-to-end solution for agricultural value chain inefficiencies. The 4 major components are: 1)Input Marketplace- allows farmers to buy high quality seeds, fertilizers and pesticides 2)Data Analytics Dashboard - offers farmers real time information about the health of their crops, weather data & pest alerts 3)Output Platform - connects farmers directly to buyers, improving their profitability 4)Credit - farmers can buy quality inputs on credit, that's affordable & convenient. Very simply put, we are in the business of improving smallholder farmer productivity and profitability. With one platform we have catered to deal with every major hurdle that negatively affects either. By working with the farmer from before sowing till sale of harvest, we have managed to ensure there are gains for them on every step. The more profitable and productive our customers become, the stronger we become as a company.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

"Those who feed us, need us." Ricult helps smallholder farmers increase their productivity and profitability. Short-term, this increases their income and agricultural lifecycle. Long term, this empowers farmers to: 1) become economic actors 2) pull themselves out of poverty 3) create local job opportunities In Pakistan alone, we have made the following impact to date: - 616 farm families served - 18 part-time rural jobs created - 7 full-time rural jobs created - 40% increase in farmer income Percentage of farmers that repay their loans is a key metric for sustainability and profit). In Pakistan, Crop Cycle 1 had 40% repayment, 2 had 60%, and 3 had 100%. Our model also enables farmers to be precise with application of nutrients and water, thus reducing nutrient pollution and water use. So far, farmers have used Ricult’s dashboard to reduce synthetic agricultural input usage by 16%.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

This initiative has multiple revenue streams, including profit on input sales, markup on credit, agronomic advisory fee, and platform fee from crop buyers. Long-term, these revenue streams will increase while cost per farmer decreases, making Ricult financially sustainable without external investments. The more farmers we help, the more crops we help sell, and the more profit we both gain. We kick started Ricult with seed funding and innovation competition prizes. In the short-term, we are raising to close the Pre Series A round. The current financial breakdown is: 1. Individual donations or gifts - 0% 2. FinTech Challenge Award- 20% 3. Corporate contributions - 0% 4. Earned income (Company Revenue) - 53% 5. Other - (Equity investment) - 27%

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

There are many players trying to combat poverty amongst smallholder farmers however either they concentrate on only part of the problem (E.g. Agro-hub only focusing on access to agricultural markets and information) or their solutions are not scalable (E.G. One Acre Fund reaching 400,000 farming families in ten year period). We differ from the rest as we cater to the entire agricultural value chain and are far more scalable than our competitors.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

Very early on my career, working first at Exxon Chemicals and then at Nestle, I happened to work with smallholder farmers and observe first hand the extreme poverty and hardships they live with every day. The exploitation they faced from middlemen was extreme and jarring. For instance just in Pakistan alone there are approximately 300,000 farmers stuck in bonded labor trying to pay off the debts that their forefathers took. This made a deep mark on me. Later on when I launched easypaisa (mobile money business),I realized how simple technology could be used to create huge social impact. That's when I quit my job, went to MIT and initiated work on Ricult. I was lucky to have met my co-founders there, who like me had gone through their own unique journeys which had given them similar ambitions and that's how we kick started Ricult in October 2015.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Upon recommendation from others

Evaluation results

15 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 6.7%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 66.7%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 13.3%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 13.3%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

2. Innovation

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 13.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 40%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 40%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 6.7%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Social and/or Environmental Impact

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 20%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 53.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 20%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 6.7%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

4. Financial sustainability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 25%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 12.5%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

5. Potential to Scale / Replicability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 26.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 40%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 26.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 6.7%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

6. Organizational Leadership

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 20%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 60%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 13.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 6.7%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

7. Potential for Creating Shared Value

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 13.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 53.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 26.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 6.7%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

Attachments (1)

The Ricult Solution.pptx

This presentation details our technology and details of various components of our end-to-end solution. This includes our Input Marketplace, Credit Scoring, Dashboard and Output Platform


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jonathan Litscher

Great approach, tackling all of the key issues facing smallholders on a single scaleable platform. Wishing you all the best for your project!

Photo of Ilse Rojas

This is an interesting idea! The fact that involves the entire agriculture value chain makes it promising. Small farmers around the world face challenges on daily basis. Implementing this idea will improve small farmers self-reliance and address some of those challenges.

Photo of Mariana Vasconcelos

Interesting idea!

We are a leading platform for digital agriculture in Latin America. We use sensors in the field combined with satellite imagery to generate recommendations for better decisions -



Photo of Mahboob Ashraf

Good Work.

Highly recommendation for investment on cold storage for farmers in order to avoid from black mailing of middle personals and further turning potentials into high level profits including direct approach to the local and major city markets and than later on towards exports.

Photo of Usman Javaid

Thank you so much. Yes, not having holding and storage power does indeed harm these farmers in terms of getting the best price for their products. Building storage however is an expensive proposition. So far our way around is to have buyers already lined up before harvest so as to avoid spoilage and rot.

Photo of Mahboob Ashraf

My dear Usman ! you are absolutely right but in order to break the cycle of fear and to move towards growth cold storage's are the need of the time without this the lined up purchasers will definitely take advantages all the times and the farmers will not have the best profits in their pockets for sustainable growth. We can use the placebo fact as well as a option; so when the lined up people become aware off that farmers are going to build cold storage or planning to do the same they will increase the rates of the products and it should work by the grace of ALMIGHTY. But the ultimate solution is construction of COLD STORAGE'S in order to get rid of all the fear factors of the farmers so they become know "HOW TO FISH" AT THEIR OWN WITHOUT LONG TERM DEPENDENCY.

Thank you so very much

Deep regards

Mahboob Ashraf

Photo of Yaw Donkor

I love this idea because it supports and empowers farmers. Very good idea. Love it

Photo of Katya Cherukumilli

Cool idea, could have a big impact! What technology do the farmers directly need to have access to in order to use the platform; a smart phone or a computer?

Photo of Julie Curtis

Really interesting work! It's almost modern day slavery - farmers working off the debts of their fathers. I am happy to read about your efforts to phase this out and empower small holder farmers!

Photo of Usman Javaid

Thank you so much. We have the ambition and we are working hard on it. wish us good luck :)

Photo of Bernice Fernandes

Incredible project - I love the use of technology integration, you are solving a real need in this world and the impact is huge. I love your collaborations and agriculture is something that continues to grow.

Photo of Usman Javaid

So true. In the past decade a lot of work has gone on in the Agtech space however there is still a large gap. Thank you so much


Idea is really good and promising. You will not believe, we also had similar idea around three years back but could not succeed due to
1. Farmers are not educated in developing countries
2. They don't have sufficient accessories to go for such an idea: direct meeting, international market, etc.
3. Sustainability/ Income is really hard to achieve/ get.
4. Reach to farmer is quite difficult.
Having said so, I feel if we can make a mobile app. in regional language, you can succeed in your endeavor.

Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck

Very interesting.

Photo of Nitish Chiniwar

Hey @Usman Javaid, the work looks really promising. Just curious to know, how easy or difficult it is to implement or use technology platforms and get farmers to use it ? What are the major challenges you faced : was it training the farmers, internet connectivity etc ? Just wanted to understand because we are trying to implement it in a different context. so it might help us to know, how Ricult overcame technology challenges

Photo of Usman Javaid

Hey, Thank you so much. So far most things have gone quite smoothly but our biggest challenge was with loan repayments because with the first cycle we only had 40%. However with every crop cycle, we have learnt to work on the ability of farmers to pay back as well as improving out credit modelling at the back end, which is why by the third crop cycle we were at 100%. Currently the areas that we are operating in have good internet connectivity. We are also easing our farmers in to technology by first educating them about it through our on ground staff. What we have observed is that once the farmer is convinced that working with us will positively impact his productivity and profitability, they are themselves very motivated to learn to take advantage of our platform. I guess it really comes down to properly incentivizing your customer.

Photo of Nitish Chiniwar

Great, that was very helpful !

Photo of Niels Boertje

Great initiative. Also good to read your experiences regarding the repayment challenges in your comment. Ground level participation seems to be of vital importance.

Photo of Usman Javaid

Thank you so much. You're completely right about that.

Photo of Avril Harvey

This could be used very effectively in Africa - have you considered identifying partners in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya?

Photo of Usman Javaid

We are still very early stage and have just launched in our second country. The idea is to go every where we can find smallholder farmers who need our help. However it would realistically be a while before we get to Africa.

Photo of Aisyah Ibrahim

Your project seems exciting. I wish you all the best through it! Let me know of what you are thinking on my project as well. Thanks

Photo of Usman Javaid

Thank you so much.

Photo of Kate

Interesting approach tackling problems that farmers face. I like that you’re focusing on the whole value chain. You mention that bonded labor and precarious working conditions did inspire your initiative, do you take those into consideration while implementing the project? Also, institutional strengthening? Good to also engage the local authorities in collectively addressing the issues.

Photo of Usman Javaid

Primarily at the core we realized that pretty much every problem (including bonded labour) related to smallholder farmers could be solved if we could improve their productivity and profitability. The idea of catering to the whole value chain came from that - we needed to solve all their problems to get their productivity and profitability.

I also agree with your point regarding institutional strengthening - we are currently in talks with local authorities and financial institutes in Pakistan as well as Thailand. With that we can foresee a lot of synergies.