FarmSuite – a modular co-created platform that will bring value to both farmers and consumers.Vegetables Fruit Dairy Arable Aquaculture Animal Production Novel Foods SmartAgriHubs
FarmSuite is a laureate project from the RESPOND Open Call by SmartAgriHubs. Davide Zimolo, Project Manager at AIAB, will present you in this blog article how the idea for FarmSuite came up and which COVID-19 related issues it is addressing.
AIAB srl is a Newco funded in 2019 with the objective of providing services to members of the association aimed at promoting and developing organic agriculture in Italy; it is the operative branch of the Italian Association for Organic Farming (AIAB - the leading Italian association for the organic agriculture sector), which connects hundreds of organic farms, consumers, professionals, and local authorities. AIAB srl took on the challenge of developing FarmSuite together with AIAB FVG, one of the regional AIAB chapters, and Hypernova, an innovative startup that deals with digital strategies, software development and social media marketing.
"We saw that farmers were taken by surprise by these changes, and often struggled to adapt to a world in which online sales and home deliveries became essential."
Supporting small and medium Italian organic farms
The journey that is leading to the co-creation of FarmSuite started in February 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic started to disrupt the lives of millions and millions of people, with consequences on most sectors of the economy, including agriculture. Thanks to our connection with the day-to-day activities of hundreds of small and medium organic farms, we were able to directly witness the effects of the pandemic on organic food markets and on the farm businesses that rely on direct-to-consumers channels to sell their products. We saw that farmers were taken by surprise by these changes, and often struggled to adapt to a world in which online sales and home deliveries became essential. This overwhelming process highlighted some of the weaknesses of many small and medium Italian organic farms that sell directly to final consumers: lack of online presence and positioning, absence of an effective communication strategy, and difficulties in setting up efficient and effective strategies to deal with business/inventory management and logistics.
"The SmartAgriHubs Respond call gave us the opportunity to fast-forward our ideas and transform them into a concrete plan."
A lot of knowledge and specific tools are needed to master all areas related to online sales management. However, farmers are often daunted by the idea of having to learn how to navigate the digital world and master the use of software that are rarely tailored to their needs nor friendly to their skills. We realized we had the experience, the network, and the knowledge to take on the challenge of ideating a platform that could facilitate farmers’ entrance in the digital markets.
The SmartAgriHubs Respond call gave us the opportunity to fast-forward our ideas and transform them into a concrete plan. As soon as our project was chosen as one of the winners, we started crafting that plan into a tangible product.
What is the platform FarmSuite?
In practice, though, what are we building? We are co-creating with farmers a Software as a Service platform that is made up by two distinct but strongly interdependent parts. One side is a modular management tool for farmers. It will give the ability to efficiently manage inventory, without the need for long hours spent on the computer; it will allow to plan cultures and harvests; it will serve as customer database, allowing to build dedicated price lists and discounts for different client groups such as restaurants and food hubs; it will serve as sales tracker and analysis tool, allowing farmers to easily collect payments and to always have the situation under control. The other side is essentially the front-end of the platform: each farm will be able to have access to a virtual farmers market stand that can be used to tell the farms’ story and sell products directly to consumers on a local, regional, or national level; moreover, farms will have the possibility to embed a dedicated online shop page on their website, which will serve as a destination for all of the farms’ local new or long- term clients.