Agriculture is the largest employer in Myanmar and one of the key contributors to the country’s economy (25 per cent share of GDP). However, the sector faces significant challenges that negatively impact productivity and result in lower yields and lower profits for smallholder farmers. For example, according to The World Bank, one day of work during paddy harvest generates only 23 kg of crop in Myanmar, compared to 62 kg in Cambodia and 547 kg in Thailand.
Powered by the phenomenal growth of the mobile sector, a variety of agritech companies have emerged recently that use digital technologies to mitigate some of these challenges, including poor access to timely agronomic advice and underdeveloped value chain structures. Other pain points, like farmers’ limited access to credit and associated low levels of financial inclusion, have been more persistent. Recognising how critical access to credit is to address farmers’ financing needs, innovative agritech companies, in collaboration with financial services providers and fintech companies, have been testing the use of digital agriculture data for farmer credit scoring. The digital footprint these agritech tools generate can play a key role in building economic identities for farmers and facilitating access to credit.
Impact Terra is an agritech company in Myanmar which, through its Golden Paddy app, offers farmers access to information such as agronomic advice, market prices and weather information, among others. We spoke to the company to understand what farm and farmer data they are collecting, how they use it towards farmer credit scoring and how they have adjusted their business model to unlock new sources of value. Read on to find out what they had to say:
For farmers lacking economic identities, digital agriculture tools can provide alternative data for lenders. What types of data do you regularly collect on Golden Paddy app for farmers?
“All farmers need to register their farm location and main crop to use our services. Over time we collect self-reported farm and farmer profiles and behavioural (app usage) data that allow us to provide targeted services to farmers (e.g. customised agronomic advice). Analysis of the data enables us to populate detailed profiles and segment our user base to offer more advanced services. Farmer profiles contain detailed assessment of a farm’s assets (e.g. acreage, equipment, seeds), historical performance (e.g. yields, income, expenses) and finances (e.g. cash, loans, financing needs)”.
How is this data used towards farmer credit scoring?
“Credit scoring in Myanmar is still nascent as the datasets of borrower characteristics and loan defaults are limited. As a result, credit scoring models are not yet fit for purpose. Most microfinance institutions (MFIs) focusing on farmers apply basic knock-out criteria such as proximity to a branch, land ownership and total acreage. This typically leads to the exclusion of the majority of farmers. Impact Terra works with MFIs to use performance metrics for decision making. We segment our users into groups based on crop, location and performance and share these segments with MFIs. Also, we can support MFIs by providing a high-level credit score, which we calculate with our fintech partner. Last but not least, we help MFIs understand and manage the perceived risk by providing agronomic advice and alert services via the Golden Paddy app to the borrowers”.
What changes have you made at an organisational level to support this new operating model?
“We have improved our skillset in areas such as data collection and data analysis and modelling and increased our product development and sales workforce. We continue to improve the Golden Paddy app to collect more data in a gamified way and invest in satellite-based insights that complement our risk assessment. The recently launched Golden Paddy Crop Insights platform, which provides regional crop monitoring and risk services, will be made available to organisations like MFIs soon.”
With the expansion of its organisational capabilities, Impact Terra has been able to lead part of the credit scoring process under an emerging data monetisation model that sees agritech companies becoming actively involved in data aggregation and analysis. By doing so, the company combines innovative digital technologies with the provision of financial services, traditionally the role of fintech companies. Recently, Impact Terra has concluded a smallholder finance pilot scheme with Myanmar’s Sathapana Bank and is now looking to replicate the model across other value chains.
Find out more about how digital footprints can offer farmers a pathway to financial inclusion and the emerging data monetisation models for agritech companies in GSMA AgriTech’s latest report: Digital credit scoring for farmers: Opportunities for agritech companies in Myanmar.