Developing market access and data solutions for smallholder agriculture in Mexico

Nuup develops market access and data solutions for smallholder farmers, leveraging technology and working in partnership across value chains

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Eligibility

  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Vincent Lagacé

Initiative's representative date of birth

March 21st 1983

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Man

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • Mexico

Where are you making a difference?

SAME

Website or social media url(s)

https://nuup.co/ https://www.facebook.com/plataformanuup/ https://www.linkedin.com/company/plataforma-nuup/ https://twitter.com/nuupagro

When was your organisation founded?

January 2015

Focus areas

  • Helping people adapt to technologies of the future
  • Financial skills and capability
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce
  • Creating digital tools

Project Stage

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $250k - $500k

Organisation Type

  • Non-profit / NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

Nuup emerged from a a sector-wide, co-creation process led by Ashoka Mexico called the Agriculture Co-Creation Agenda. Maria Luisa (Malu) and Vincent, Nuup co-founders, were part of this initiative that united farmer groups, corporates, NGOs and others and focused on identifying systemic opportunities to scale impact through partnerships in the food system. From this co-creation process, the need emerged for an independent organization to focus on fostering collaboration at a sector-level and developing data solutions to facilitate smallholder farmer market access. Nuup was created to address these needs. Nuup has evolved over time, from an NGO that leverages technology, to a technology organization with a focus on smallholder farmers.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

Small farmers in Mexico depend on agriculture for subsistence and livelihoods, yet lack inputs and training, access to markets, and information. Though great resources are invested in agriculture, they are mostly oriented towards technical skills for farmers, rather than improving connections to market or business decisions. Helping farmers improve their market prospects will help them to increase their profit and break the cycle of poverty.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Nuup is a Mexican non-profit social venture that seeks to make the food system more inclusive and fair by developing collaborative market access solutions for smallholder agriculture. Through technological solutions, advisory services, and access to online information, we provide smallholder farmer groups and businesses with the tools, information, and contacts to unlock high value partnerships. We are also developing a new generation of solutions to also provide access to real time data and management tools to farmers to make more informed decision. Nuup operates on a sector-by-sector basis, bringing together many actors in a particular value chain to be collaborators and joint designers of the entire ecosystem. Guided by the organizing principles of building trust and serving as a neutral platform and convener, Nuup facilitates information flows and promotes collaborations among agricultural sector actors in order to solve the sector’s most complex challenges and create growth opportunities and access to markets for smallholder farmers.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

Nuup’s unique partnership model convenes key actors across a value chain to develop a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities and a shared vision for how to develop and implement tools, resources, and collaborations to benefit the entire sector. Nuup then leads on developing digital tools and approaches to enhance data collection and sharing capabilities across each value chain. Our customized problem-solving approach allows us to hone in to the specific needs of farmers in each value chain, and to develop targeted solutions that most effectively meet these needs. Some of the tools that Nuup has developed or implemented are in their “minimum viable product” stage, while others will be prototyped and tested through 2020.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Nuup’s beneficiaries are small-scale farmers in Mexico working in diverse value chains such as honey, coffee, strawberry, and dairy. These farmers lack the tools, resources, and support to enhance their productivity and increase their access to markets, and are stuck in a cycle of poverty and subsistence. The digital products and tools that Nuup develops and implements provide these farmers with the information and resources needed to manage their farms more effectively and efficiently, to reach new markets, and to expand the profitability of their farms, ultimately helping them to improve their livelihoods and those of their families.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

For our small-scale farmer beneficiaries, Nuup focuses on fostering information and data management skills that help farmers better plan and implement their farming activities on a day to day and seasonable basis. For example, by fostering a shift from paper-based to digital logbooks for farm activities, or creating easy to use systems to enable farmers to progress towards export certifications, Nuup is enabling farmers to run their farms in a more profitable, cost-effective, and environmentally responsible way, and helps them to make longer term, data-driven investment decisions.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Other providers of data solutions for small farmers do not start from scratch for each value chain, focusing on narrow, product-specific solutions to complex, multifaceted problems, often prioritizing scale over depth. Those that do offer more comprehensive online solutions often have expensive, overly complex applications. These can be excellent solutions but are not designed for our users (smallholder farmers) and annual fees are prohibitively expensive. Moreover, they tend to focus more on online components while we believe in the importance of blending both offline and online tools.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Nuup has brought together 20 farmer groups, NGOs, and buyers across 5 value chains to build collaborative processes and data systems facilitating 11,500+ farmers’ access to market. We acknowledge that while a portion of the impact on farmers can be attributed to us, another significant portion is the result of the efforts undertaken by our partners. We also see new and preferential markets opening in each value chain. For example, in the next 3 years our strawberry project will support 140 farmers to improve their harvests and resilience to climate change, while connecting directly with national and export markets worth several millions of dollars. As we continue developing data and technology solutions for small-scale farmers, we will be able to understand and measure our impact better, differentiating the effects of the intervention driven by our partners and ourselves.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

As a non-profit in Mexico, only 10% of our income can come from sales. That said, all our funders are active partners and participants in making information, tools, and services available to farmers. We consider ourselves to be sustainable as our projects are nearly funded for the next 2 years. We do not envision creating a “for profit” arm in the short term. This year, we are developing and testing new products to reach farmers directly, and are focusing on listening to them and ensuring adoption. We do see a future pathway towards a “freemium” model where many tools are offered for free or low-cost, with opportunities for farmers or partners to access higher levels of support or customization.

10. Team

Nuup has 11 full-time team members including 3 co-founders. We have a technology team of 4 (CTO, UI/UX Designer, Digital Products Director, and Data Analyst) and a project management team of 4 (Program Director, 2 Program Managers, and an Administrative Assistant). With additional resources, we hope to grow our technology team to accelerate the development and implementation of new digital tools. This would include 2 junior programmers, a Senior UX Designer, and a Senior Database Manager.

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

N/A

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

Many small farmers in Mexico use paper books to track farm activities like fertilizer applications. Yet this is hard work and time consuming and is typically done only to comply with buyer requirements, rather than to derive insights or make decisions based on data collected. To solve this challenge, Nuup is developing a series of digital tools enabling farmers to streamline the processes by which they track information required for buyers, while also enabling them to analyze and use this data to improve their farm decision-making. By fostering a shift from paper-based to digital logbooks for farm activities, and by creating easy to use systems to enable farmers to progress towards export certifications, Nuup will enable farmers to run their farms in a more profitable, cost-effective, and environmentally responsible way, helping them to make longer term, data-driven investment decisions.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Planning & Strategy
  • Monitoring Impact
  • IT Infrastructure/CRM
  • Web/Mobile Development

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

Foundation or NGO Grants: 39%

Corporate contributions: 33%

Grants or contracts: 27%

Other: 1%

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

Most funding for the next year is secured and connected to specific value chains, with each initiative “sponsored” by leading donors and corporate partners in that sector. In most projects, our budget and team is evenly divided between project management - developing in-depth understanding of smallholder farmer needs in specific value chains, strategy and nurturing relationships and alliances with stakeholders - and our technological team - developing and scaling our digital tools, IT infrastructure, UX/UI solutions. As we move forward and roll out our applications with more and more farmers, we envision a pathway in the medium term towards a “freemium” model. Under this model, Nuup anticipates offering many tools and resources on a free or low-cost basis, while also creating additional opportunities for farmers or partners to access more support or customization for a small fee.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

We scale by: 1) reaching more farmers in existing value chains, 2) adapting products to new value chains, and 3) developing products/services for new value chains. The approach depends on our partners and perceived impact potential. For example, we are currently developing mobile recordkeeping tools for dairy and strawberry farmers, with plans to scale to more farmers in each and to adapt the tools to new value chains in the future. We are exploring a “freemium” business model in which farmers or organizations can pay for additional capabilities, but receive the basic tool for free.

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

We design for and with farmers, rather than someone external, like a technician or agronomist. This enables farmers to track, access, and use data about their farms to make better decisions and investments. We use a similar model when collaborating with market actors: instead of just being parties to transactions, all actors are invited to co-design the entire ecosystem. As a result, we have seen emerge new growth opportunities emerge for farmer organizations, commercial commitments from corporate buyers, and guidance for development organizations that support farmers.

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

Nuup was a Winner of the 2018 edition of the MassChallenge Acceleration Program. One of our co-founders, Vincent Lagacé, was selected as an Ashoka Fellow in 2019.

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

Nuup operates on a sector-by-sector basis, fostering collaboration between many actors in each value chain. In honey, for example, our initiative unites buyers, foundations, NGOs, academics, and cooperatives. In other initiatives, partners include NGOs, purchasing departments at companies, and most importantly, farmers, Nuup is always looking for new partners, either in value chains where we already work or in new value chains to adapt or scale tools already developed.

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

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