farmer connect CEO interview


Farmer Connect is solving a number of problems in the coffee, and cocoa supply chain. As the company name suggests the business enables consumers to learn about and connect with the farmers that produce the products. This connection produces value for both the consumer and the farmer.

In this interview, Nick Baskett from Bartalks delves into what those benefits are, how it works and what the future holds for the company. Watch the video below, or listen to the podcast on Bartalks Interviews. A full transcript of the interview along with timecodes are below.

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Video Interview

Audio Podcast


[00:00:18.130] – Nick Baskett

So I’m here with Michael Christmas of Farmer Connect, and we’re going to talk about your recent funding round that you’ve done and an introduction to the business and where you started from, the challenges that you’ve had, the problems that you’re solving and what the technology is doing for both coffee and cocoa farmers. Welcome, Michael. How are you?

[00:00:38.140] – Michael Chrisment

I’m really good. Thank you for the invitation and sounds interesting and like a very kind of meeting to discuss.

[00:00:46.390] – Nick Baskett

I always get very ambitious with my topics. I don’t know if you’ve managed to cover them all, but.

[00:00:50.050] – Michael Chrisment

But let’s kick it off, Will. We’ll go through everything.

[00:00:53.770] – Nick Baskett

Fantastic. I see you’ve got some coffees behind you. Can I just ask is as off topic, are those coffees coffee bags of particular significance?

[00:01:03.810] – Michael Chrisment

They’re all traceable starting with the orang-utan coffee. This is a coffee from UCC.

[00:01:11.400] – Nick Baskett

I know them.  Yeah, and there’s your there’s your OMR code on the back. Yeah.

[00:01:16.800] – Michael Chrisment

Or connect. Or if you get it, I’ll put it like that.

[00:01:20.130] – Nick Baskett

Some people even you can scan it with your with your phone. Fantastic.

[00:01:24.000] – Michael Chrisment

And and then you can scan into land on th Web page. That gives you the entire journey of that coffee all the way from Indonesia to to in that instance the UK, because that was sold and and it’s still sold in Waitrose and Ocado in the UK. So they are of significance sold. All those coffees are traceable. Coffee

[00:01:47.610] – Nick Baskett

Ah fantastic. Well, I’m glad I asked. So why don’t you give a short introduction, Michael, to yourself and to to Farmer Connect. Tell us a little bit about who you are.

[00:02:01.820] – Michael Chrisment

So Farmer Connect, I think I’m said it and we kind of did that, you’re right, it’s a breakthrough, but I can probably say a few words on it a little bit more myself. I’m the CEO of Farmer Connect. I’ve been with Farmer Connect for nine months. So it feels like baby time, you know, nine months. And then you give birth to, in that instance, a series, A funding.

[00:02:24.420] – Michael Chrisment

So, you know, I was saying to the team, it looks like, you know, nine months of looking at yourself and then now opening to the world and opening up for growth. So it’s exactly the same metaphor with my two kids. So I’m really excited to join Farmer Connect. I’ve got 20 years background of work, mostly ten years and more. Now, marketing media comes year in the US, UK, France and well-known creative agencies were developed a passion for for brands in particular and business.

[00:02:58.610] – Michael Chrisment

And then the other side of it was food and and at Kraft Foods, also known as Mondelez International and Nestlé and and Nestlé was closer to two coffee even because I was the global head of integrated marketing for the Nestlé group on their beverage brands and namely Nescafe, which is the biggest brand of of Nestlé. So I really developed a passion for tech, commerce and and food. And now at Farmer Connect I’m just doing those two. But on top of that, a higher purpose of making a difference and smallholder farmers lives.

[00:03:35.450] – Michael Chrisment

So because this is you know, this is a liaison, let’s say, to to a farmer can extend for because we aim at, you know,  humanising consumption through technology. That’s what we aim at. And to do that, we provide software, we provide technology to go down that path and to equip the entire supply chain with the technology solution that enables more human innovation of consumption through various technology, various tools, various products, which we would probably talk about it.

[00:04:09.050] – Nick Baskett

So just to be clear, what is the problem? I mean, every business starts for a reason. What was the problem that you were trying to solve? When I say you, because I know you’ve been there for nine months, but the mission of the business, what was the problem they were trying to solve?

[00:04:23.420] – Michael Chrisment

I think there was an observation that, you know, if you look back and in the past 20 years, the consumption of of coffee, because we started with coffee where people from from a green coffee merchant called Sucafina. Now, who’s a well-known coffee merchant?

[00:04:42.770] – Nick Baskett

I know them very well

[00:04:43.820] – Michael Chrisment

here. And there was an observation that the consumption and the demand is exploding and it has exploded in the past 20 years. And if you look towards 2050, the projection is multiplied by three in terms of demand.

[00:05:00.860] – Michael Chrisment

So there’s an increasing demand. But in the meantime, the you know, the the price or the revenue that is given back to smallholder farmers is if not if not stable, somehow decreasing. So if you just as a business, if you picturing yourself in 2050 with three times the demand and then no incentive for supply. Because I mean, if you have kids and you’re growing coffee, I mean, are you going to tell them to continue your business while revenue is is not growing or decreasing versus the demand exploding?

[00:05:44.420] – Nick Baskett

This is a big problem both in coffee and cocoa and people, young people are leaving the industry, right?

[00:05:50.750] – Michael Chrisment

Exactly. So that was the that was the observation. And and Dave Behrends, a founder, thought that he could be could contribute to to solving that with with creating a technology solution first as as human nature for him and and for Succafina. But they very quickly realised that if they had they were doing this, if they would do that only for them, they wouldn’t they wouldn’t solve the problem. So they decided to create as a company outside of Sucafina and to grow it, bring partners in and to expand it with other players and create real business out of it, which they seeded themselves at the beginning.

[00:06:41.480] – Michael Chrisment

And then with with growing demand, with my arrival, with additional people on the team, with additional investors and partners, decided to open up even further with independent management, with with with additional shareholding and investors. So that’s that’s that was the problem and the solution and which we’re trying to contribute to and and hopefully solve or at least, you know, improve.

[00:07:10.400] – Nick Baskett

And it was interesting that I I remember actually I think we wrote a story sometime back when when Farmer Connect launched and we wrote a story. And then I I have to be honest, I didn’t think too much else. I didn’t see too much else about Farmer Connect for a while. And when I I went back and looked at what you were doing recently, you’ve also moved into Cocoa and in fact, you were at Chocoa. I was at Chocoa or as well as moderating on a couple of the panels there.

[00:07:40.940] – Nick Baskett

And I was like, oh, OK, these guys are are extending into into Cocoa now. It’s not the first coffee company that is that is doing that because there’s a lot of parallels. But perhaps you could tell us a little bit about the the thinking behind behind why you wanted to to extend into the cocoa industry as well.

[00:08:01.750] – Michael Chrisment

Yes. Let me start with the media, if you don’t mind, do you want the media?

[00:08:09.730] – Nick Baskett

Yes, go for it.

[00:08:12.550] – Michael Chrisment

Here you go with the first Easter Chocolate that is traceable thanks to blockchain, oh, that’s that’s impressive.

[00:08:23.450] – Nick Baskett

Well, I don’t know what’s more impressive, the fact that you’ve you’ve got this chocolate that is the first one not traceable with block channel, the fact that you haven’t eaten it yet, because if that was on my desk,

[00:08:31.870] – Michael Chrisment

many that’s out there, that’s the answer.

[00:08:37.360] – Michael Chrisment


[00:08:37.800] – Michael Chrisment

That that chocolate is coming from Madagascar. And it’s a partnership we have with a company called Treegether, which is a Swiss Start-Up that does partnerships with with with cocoa growers.

[00:08:54.370] – Michael Chrisment

So basically, you can yourself partner a tree and you get 12 chocolate bars with the cocoa beans of that tree you’ve sponsored and you get six bars every six months all the way from that tree. The farmer you contributed to support.

[00:09:13.420] – Michael Chrisment

That’s really nice. And and that Easter egg is actually the first traceable easter through eggs to blockchain. So, yes, we’re active in in cocoa. This was this was just an example. But it tells a lot about, you know, what we can do in terms of our changing lives of smallholder farmers because that company together is paying in between 30 to 40 percent more their farmers than the average industry rate. Because of the fact that, you know, it’s it’s it’s traceable, it’s transparent, you know, where it’s coming from.

[00:09:51.130] – Michael Chrisment

It’s very good value also and very, very good quality because it’s fresh cocoa, only three to four weeks old, you know, versus what you have in retail, which is towards three months. So, yeah, very excited to be on cocoa. I think, you know, it’s it’s one of the reason we we went to cocoa is, first of all, it’s food. Second, it’s smallholder farmers. And there’s a lot of processing similarities, even though there’s a big part which is quite different.

[00:10:25.570] – Michael Chrisment

I mean, you call it blending and coffee and then you go to to to us to a superior degree, I would say, with no mass balance and in cocoa. So that adds a bit of complexity. But the issues are the same. The potential benefits and gains are the same. You just need to change a few things in terms of processing, in terms of data and our data structure about the value chain and the key players. But it’s there’s a lot of similarities.

[00:10:55.660] – Michael Chrisment

And we see people approaching us also on other commodities with similarities with spices,fragrance. So you can see there are sort of a long tail things that Farmer Connect could could go and develop towards. But but to me and I, I’m coming from from a from a farmer peasant family. So I like to do things correctly. So I don’t want to go too fast, too fast and and and burn, burn the steps. So it’s already a lot to be done in coffee, lot to be done on, on cocoa.

[00:11:33.910] – Michael Chrisment

But it’s true that there’s a lot of potential and

[00:11:36.640] – Nick Baskett

well I mean those industries alone are massive and the problems they face a huge. Do you think that the ESG laws coming in, in particular Europe, even the UK, are now starting to be more from an enforcement point of view? We don’t know yet, but they’re starting to get a lot more prescriptive with their requirements over being able to evidence your supply chain and traceability.

[00:12:09.400] – Nick Baskett

Do you think that that’s driving some of the demand for your services?

[00:12:14.230] – Michael Chrisment

Of course, I think it’s it’s more than a project and a Will it’s you know, it’s borderline low now. So we have to make that happen. And the people within those industries have to change a few things and they need support. So obviously, this is driving a lot of interest for what we do. We had a very concrete example. You know, I’m calling from Switzerland. So Farmer Connect is based out of Switzerland. You know, in Switzerland, we have what we call the public rotation.

[00:12:47.710] – Michael Chrisment

So I don’t know if you’re familiar with the concept, but every single Sunday people go vote for is something as important as a roundabout or the kind of public health five years plan.

[00:13:01.920] – Nick Baskett

Well, that’s like the old ancient form of Greek democracy.

[00:13:06.000] – Michael Chrisment

Exactly. So everyone get together. But but just to say, a couple of months ago, they were ever taken on the responsibility of multinational’s and for leaving out the details. But in Switzerland, you need to have a majority, but you also need to have a majority within all the cantons or something to pass on.

[00:13:27.240] – Michael Chrisment

So they had the majority of the of the people voting. So the majority of the people of the inhabitants. But it didn’t get all the cantons. So technically in the public space, people want, they want and they voted for companies to improve. But with it, without law, without anything, they just want it.

[00:13:51.870] – Michael Chrisment

And that’s that’s a big change. If you compare some of the data from from a couple of years back. And I think covid has been a huge acceleration of that because, you know, we suffered, but we also had time to reflect or reflect on ourselves, reflect on our relationship and reflect on our consumption also. And we’re making now sort of educated guess, educated choices. We’re being a little more selective about the choice and the things that we buy.

[00:14:31.980] – Michael Chrisment

And we’ve seen an acceleration towards that. And you see it in the stat that now, you know, people two thirds of the consumers would would actually pay a premium for something that respects their values that have a positive impact. I’m talking two-thirds. And out of that, you know, there’s always people that are driving by price. And that used to be a majority of the consumers. And now it’s really 50/50. So 50 people are driven.

[00:14:59.310] – Michael Chrisment

It’s actually 40 percent are driven by price price promotion, you know, and and yet another 40 percent now, which is sizeable, is driven by what the company does, its impact, it’s responsibility and all those aspects of social impacts. So that’s becoming something very, very massive. And as brands and businesses, most of the time I’ve been there myself, I’m not too much of pioneering the listening to the consumers. And once they have a proof that the consumer wants something, then they act.

[00:15:37.020] – Michael Chrisment

Right now they have to push exactly as you said, of the regulators, plus the consumer. So gives you a lot of reasons to to move forward. Plus on top technology is is bringing some some additional benefits to them.

[00:15:53.700] – Nick Baskett

I mean, let’s talk about that technology for a second, because that’s at the heart of of what you do now. There’s three parts, as I understand it, to to the the system. And the the first part is the the farmer ID. Then you’ve got the middleware, which is the block chain bit, and then you’ve got the farmer connect, which is a bit that we see at the other end.

[00:16:17.850] – Nick Baskett

So we’re going to going to leave off the block chain bit in the middle because that that’s probably a technical discussion which which people may or may not be interested in. But I would like to talk about the sort of the sandwiches where the that the top and the bottom part of the sandwich.

[00:16:31.800] – Nick Baskett

So the farmer ID maybe that is something you could give a little bit of in an introduction as to what that is and the use case and the demographic who uses it

[00:16:40.380] – Michael Chrisment

for sure. So the talk of the town these days is really the first mile. There’s a lot there’s a lot of things that people want to track, report on, get the real data on fix, because there’s a sizeable and and meaningful issues on the on the first mile. So that area is something where we need to focus. So we’ve decided to create a product that is dedicated to that area, to the first mile and to the the farmers, the community of farmers, the community of farms.

[00:17:17.120] – Michael Chrisment

And it’s called farmer ID. And it’s it’s a wallet. It’s basically it’s a digital wallet. Like you and I, we buy a wallet, it’s empty. Then we secure our loyalty cards or our credit cards, some bills and coins for two of our kids, a shopping list, I mean, you name it, stamps, whatever. So it’s exactly the same idea is is to have an app. And when I say an app, it can take different forms and I’ll elaborate on that and then feed it with information yourself as as a farmer, you feed it with different data points.

[00:17:54.210] – Michael Chrisment

That could be who you are. First name, last name where you live, how long you’ve been doing this, whether you were in the family home because you have what sort of volumes do you have? What sort of agricultural practises? You’re having all sorts of data points you feed that in, then you select whether or not you want to this to be shared and with whom you remain the owner of the data that’s very important to the farmer, remain the owner of the data and the one that decides where that information is going to go.

[00:18:25.940] – Michael Chrisment

And then once that information is entered, you can add transactional information. So, you know, the coffee you’ve paid, to whom and when, at what price, what volume and what quality, with what certification, that information will need to be validated. So there’s no single point of truth. So the buyer will validate the information you enter or the buyer will enter the information and you as a farmer will validate the information entered by the buyer. That’s what a farmer does.

[00:19:00.140] – Michael Chrisment

Obviously, there are many scenarios which we worked on because sometimes you don’t have the smartphone, you have the flip phone or you don’t even have a phone. Sometimes you have connectivity, sometimes you don’t have connectivity, you have low connectivity, and sometimes you don’t even have literacy. Right. So all of those aspects, all the scenarios as being all being worked out and continue being worked out through the different projects we have across the world, depending on the on the maturity of the people of the market, of the community, people can do that by themselves.

[00:19:38.390] – Michael Chrisment

They can do that in groups, associations, association of farmers. We also have a guardianship format where someone can take care of that for the farmers or do it offline. And then when they move into an area of community, data gets uploaded. And that’s why you went different ways in different shapes and forms of making that happen. That’s really farmer ID.

[00:20:03.860] – Nick Baskett

And so with that data, I understand as well, the farmer can get the benefit to them of having that data is that they can then use that to obtain financing, basically the evidence that transactions what they’ve what they’ve done so that they can get access to to finance. Could you tell us a little bit about that side of it?

[00:20:24.980] – Michael Chrisment

It’s one of the benefits for sure. So they are very tangible benefits. So finance is one credit. All the financial services that are linked to that. If you lower the interest rate, that’s going to be really good for the farmers. We’re talking about microfinance there. So it really makes a difference to them. You know. Fifty dollars for someone is something that can help ensure an entire crop. So we’re talking about something that is really meaningful to them.

[00:20:55.550] – Michael Chrisment

There are other benefits to that. Once you enter connectivity, digitalisation, community, you can start sharing, you can start receiving information and sending information. So there’s a lot of knowledge sharing around that. And there’s also, I would say, the human aspect of things. So if I’m again talking about chocolate, so that example which I showed you, I’ll show you now a tablet of chocolate. I’m together. This one is this is coming from Cote d’Ivoire, which I think the real example is coming from Treegether from Madagascar was actually, Sabien, the founder of Treegether, came to see the farmer and with a piece of chocolate, he had never tasted chocolate in his life.

[00:21:44.570] – Michael Chrisment

Right, been doing cocoa beans for 20 years, never tasted chocolate in his life.

[00:21:48.920] – Nick Baskett

This is Sorry to interrupt you that this is people don’t realise that. They don’t they don’t realise that last Christmas and this is my own little punt, I’m the one I get to do one little one little thing for my own business.

[00:22:02.210] – Nick Baskett

But last Christmas, we we donated two hundred bars of chocolate in Liberia, which were made in Liberia from a chocolate company, a specialist chocolate company. And we worked with SOLIDARIDAD a charity for VADEMCO, and they distributed this chocolate to the cocoa farmers, none of which they’ve worked our whole lives, none of which ever knew what it was they were farming the cocoa for.

[00:22:29.300] – Nick Baskett

And it was a very satisfying thing to to to do,

[00:22:32.720] – Michael Chrisment

No  and to that to in the same idea, making now through technology, making that connexion in either in that direction, which is from the farmer to the consumer or from the consumer to the farmer. I find it fascinating because people that that creates the produce get to see where their produce is going and what sort of impact it has on people’s life and to delight them and what they do with it.

[00:23:01.160] – Michael Chrisment

And and that’s one thing on the reverse. They can also get them, get the consumer and get the people like you and I to kind of feedback on what they’ve done or to even this is what we do with the other product, which I’m going to talk about now with Thank My Farmer app is sent back, even like or a little heart to them and or beyond a message or even beyond tipping them. Yeah. Or for for, you know, for supporting some of this sustainability project at the origin.

[00:23:34.790] – Nick Baskett

So I must confess, Michael, I have not used Farmer Connect and so I haven’t used Thank My Farmer. But something I can say is that in Africa in particular. But but but also in South America as well.

[00:23:50.000] – Nick Baskett

But in Africa, I’ve noticed, if you like, if you send someone a message and say, I liked something, the guys get excited. They they notice it’s kind of not like we get a bit desensitised to it.

[00:24:03.200] – Nick Baskett

I think over in the West over there, I guarantee you every time I send out my newsletter each week, I get back a lot of thank yous from people in Africa. Thank you so much, Nick, for your newsletter. I’m not saying I don’t ever get anything from the West, but but generally speaking, you know, in the African communities, they really engage with social media. They love the fact that there’s a connection to the rest of the world and that people and that people are engaging with them in some way.

[00:24:32.880] – Nick Baskett

So I think it’ll be very it’ll be very positive.

[00:24:35.840] – Michael Chrisment

Right. I think historically they’ve been left out of the process. If we’re totally honest with, you know, and we we take the produce and then we are not transforming the produce in the country. This is moving. And then you don’t know it’s happening and a lot of things are happening. So I think to to kind of shorten the distance, this is what we can do. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to remove the middleman and the players because everyone within the industry needs to to sustain their business.

[00:25:08.160] – Michael Chrisment

But if we can lower the distance communication thanks to technology, I think we’ll we’ll send additional incentives, which are not the only one, because we’re talking about people that are living with a few dollars a month. We can contribute to that humanisation, to the improvement of lives. So so. Yeah. So that that’s already.

[00:25:37.220] – Michael Chrisment

So in between you’ve talked about it, there’s a there’s a platform which is called Connect Hub, which is built on the on the layer of technology from IBM two words on that without without going into the details. But why did we do that? Because, you know, for us it’s a huge investment in Start-Up. I’m not going to tell you the share of cost, but this is taking a sizeable we did this for for a very important reason we wanted to do.

[00:26:10.250] – Michael Chrisment

And we want to have an impact. Right. So we want scale. We want people to be able to move away from pilots and proof of concept into into having an impact on on on on value and to really embark volume on the platform. So that’s why we did the partnership and being able to scale and being able to work with big players within the industry to have a real impact. So that was the decision that that was made, really the effort and the IP of Farmer Connect is on top of that technology layer for the service, for the interface, for the.

[00:26:44.040] – Michael Chrisment

UI for the UX, I’m a marketing and comms person, I’ve built tools in my life that never get used and done this so many times, and I know it’s not difficult to build a tool. What’s difficult is for people to use it, to come back to it, to advocate about it, to give you insights about how to improve it. This is the real difficulty using everyone can build an app from the App Store, getting people to download it, to use it not only once, but come back to it regularly.

[00:27:17.700] – Michael Chrisment

This is the real difficulty. So we really wanted to invest in the solution layer so that we provide solutions to problems so that people really use the platform and with the volume growing, then we make an impact. So that’s that’s for the middle part. But I know you didn’t want to spend too much.

[00:27:35.130] – Nick Baskett

No, that was perfect. That was perfect. I just want to get bogged down in the latest block chain technology because I know it will be my fault. I’ll go off on one so

[00:27:42.570] – Michael Chrisment

and I’m not a good person to talk about anywhere. So I’ll probably have even invite my CTO to elaborate on that. And the and the last product then is what is useful then on this back when when you see the chocolate, as you take your phone, you know, you as usual as we’ve been doing in the last year of life, falling in love with QR codes on everything with its covid the menu of bars or when restaurants were open. And and then you flash it and then you see the exact same product on the Web page.

[00:28:15.890] – Nick Baskett

So cool.

[00:28:16.560] – Michael Chrisment

And as a consumer, you flip through it and then you see a map. And on that map you can see all the different steps of that very product with the details, you know, where it was collected, where the warehouse, the Import-Export. And then you can even participate. And I’m sorry, this is in French, but I’m a proud French, snobbish Parisian. So I have my iPhone in. Yeah. French.

[00:28:47.430] – Michael Chrisment

But then you can what some local projects on this one. You see back in Indonesia, you can think the farmer can support a  conservative programme thanks to the guys that have donated money already. And and there’s also capacity building programme that you can support directly from your phone, donating, you know, a couple of dollars, euro pounds, whatever, to to the sustainability programme.

[00:29:17.790] – Michael Chrisment

So that’s what Thank my. Thank My farmer does. It’s not an app. It’s a Web app. You don’t have to download. You don’t have to to register. You don’t have to share your entire history of data like the would do with you. Got it.

[00:29:32.160] – Nick Baskett

Can I just ask when you donate, when you make a donation, how much of that goes to the donation to the farmer? How much of it goes to the farmer?

[00:29:40.320] – Michael Chrisment

So we’re only taking the the the the fee that the financial transfer costs, the transaction fee.

[00:29:49.410] – Nick Baskett

So you basically one hundred percent of what lands in the bank and the destination goes to the farmer.

[00:29:54.780] – Michael Chrisment

Exactly. And we’re tracing this, we’re also using blockchain to trace this and report back to the consumer that the money has been donated and given at the time.

[00:30:07.380] – Nick Baskett

And to that person, because I know this was one of the problems always with and I know years and years and years ago, my wife and I did some charity work and for for an orphanage, an orphanage in in Bucharest. And we chose that because we could go there. The biggest problem that we had was and we looked at orphan orphans in China and other places, the problem was that you could never be sure the money was going to get there.

[00:30:34.290] – Nick Baskett

And if you pass it through various organisations, there was always quite actually quite a heavy administration fee. And then oftentimes it would go to some middlemen. I would actually never get to to to where you wanted to send it. And frankly, it was you know, it was it was very disappointing and frustrating exercise, a disillusioning exercise to go through to realise that you want to help somebody on the other side of the world. But sending money isn’t good enough.

[00:31:05.730] – Nick Baskett

And so the ability to actually validate that if I’m sending money to a coffee farmer in Sumatra. That that coffee farmer says, I got it, and there’s no middle man that can take his fee out, you know, along the middle. That’s actually quite powerful, I think.

[00:31:26.340] – Michael Chrisment

Yeah. And I think the only thing working with the other thing that is beneficial, I think, with working with friends is that we have a lot of friends that are supporting and manufacturing those products that are saying, well, you know, we have a target for that project. If we’re not reaching that target, which will complement or will donate the equivalent amount of money that the consumers have given will just match that will match it.

[00:31:56.040] – Nick Baskett

That’s a nice match funding.

[00:31:57.740] – Michael Chrisment


[00:31:58.290] – Michael Chrisment

So. So I think there’s there’s something beneficial in that also in marketing the brands on that project, because it’s beneficial to them to get to see, you know, transparency. They don’t get the consumer data, but they get to see what’s what’s resonating with consumers. And I think this is not this is not a bad idea to share with brands what resonates with with consumers? What sorts of projects resonate more with them? You know, yesterday I was I was talking with Fabien again, the founder of Treegather, and he told me that they have we’re supporting them on the four origins.

[00:32:35.220] – Michael Chrisment

And they have four farmers, two women, two men. The women currently are getting 70 percent of the donation. And I’m No. One to to say whether this is good or bad or whatever, but that’s an inside insight, that women-led farming organisations are getting more support from the consumers as we speak for the reasons of whatever. But that’s an insight. Where is this coming from? Is there an origin that is more supported than others type of projects, levels of support?

[00:33:12.960] – Michael Chrisment

That that’s always valuable insight. And I think that helps the brands CSR strategy and that helps everyone who’s trying to drive the agenda within these organisations to say this is not only a corporate thing, so supporting our business, because if someone buys a product flash a QR code could spend an average, which is the case for us, about two to two and a half minutes on the page is like 10 times the average time spent on a brand name, more than 10 times that.

[00:33:53.010] – Michael Chrisment

That means a lot know, that means that those activities and that strategic direction is also building some short term, medium term, long term gains for those businesses, building their businesses, building their brands. So if we can demonstrate that, I think everyone within sustainability will get further support in bringing that up on the agenda, not only to just answer the regulators laws, but to go a step further and to be leaders and to advance the agenda a bit more.

[00:34:28.180] – Michael Chrisment

And what’s imposed by it? By the regulators. So it’s it’s an incentive. I I’m I’m a big advocate of the fact that, you know, we want to have impact, that we we’re where business for profit, that that will have an impact. And everyone within the industry needs to find an incentive at every single point to move the agenda. If you’re only focussing on a certain part of the supply chain, you will not. Succeeding in a transformation, you will you will make changes here and there, but you will not embark everyone toward something more impactful, meaningful, transformational.

[00:35:15.750] – Nick Baskett

I actually do agree with you. People get I think people make a mistake a lot of the time by thinking that companies should do the right thing. That’s a naive position, in my opinion, because if you’re only if your only reason is to say, well, we want to be driven to do the right thing, it leaves out so many, so many people in from the in the equation and you actually just won’t get anywhere.

[00:35:40.260] – Nick Baskett

However, a more and more productive and effective strategy is to say, let’s align the right thing with your own interests. So if a company will do something that’s in its own interests. So as we see and as you mentioned earlier now that there’s such a large public awareness and and clear voice for for ESG to be part of a company’s DNA, that means that there’s a brand reputation at stake. That means it’s in the company’s interests to do the right thing.

[00:36:17.310] – Nick Baskett

So all of these things need to need to need to definitely come together. What I’m interested in is it sounds as though you’re generating quite a lot of probably quite unique data.

[00:36:28.950] – Nick Baskett

Is that data that you that and what are you going to do with the data? Are you going to share it with partners? Are you going to make any any public reports available at some stage?

[00:36:36.630] – Nick Baskett

What’s your what are your plans

[00:36:39.210] – Michael Chrisment

so Farmer Connect as a business? Don’t have access to the data in the data, as is the is the the the ownership is in the ownership of the people that are providing the data.

[00:36:56.550] – Michael Chrisment

So like I said, for the farmer, like I said, for every single partner, this is one of the key reason we’re using blockchain is it’s allowing a permission to access of a usage, sharing, retrieval of the data. So we we are not accessing the data directly. Nevertheless, we are very much involved in the early stage of making sure the data is workable. And I think we probably can discuss about that because. Structuring the data, standardising the data, making sure the data is of quality is very, very important and also picking the right and useful data points like companies where we’re talking about data, lakes, data, oceans, data, whatever.

[00:37:52.290] – Michael Chrisment

I mean, I think too much information is like analysis, paralysis, you know, this much. That’s why within Farmer Connect. We have a lot of people that are actually coming from and within the industry that knows the business and can advise our clients on the right and useful data points we need to track. We don’t need to track the entire stuff. There are other systems for that. There are bespoke, in-house, very weak ERP system which we connect to and take the three or four data points that are useful for what we need to do as a collective to make to make a difference and to and to have action out of the data we collect so that look into how do we structure, how do we govern the data, who’s got access, what are the key data points is really, really, really important.

[00:38:45.630] – Michael Chrisment

And the key then what is it that we do with the data? Well, we don’t access the data. We leave our clients to to to action on the on the data. The only part where we do have access to anonymized data is on Thank My Farmer with the consumer behaviours and we have different different means, including Google Analytics. It’s all GDPR compliance and we issue reports related to insights and trends and behaviours of consumers on the on the Web platform.

[00:39:19.500] – Michael Chrisment

For the rest, it’s our clients leveraging the data they have access to.

[00:39:23.850] – Nick Baskett

I think that’s I mean, you don’t know this about me, but I’m a I’m also a privacy nut. I am a very strong privacy advocate. And so the principle of minimisation minimisation in GDPR is is the first step in making sure that you’re respecting people’s privacy, which is fantastic. But there will be a lot of data which you just mentioned, for example, the anonymous nature of behaviour. You know, you don’t have to know that it’s Nick that did this.

[00:39:50.910] – Nick Baskett

You just have to know that less interesting. A lot of people are interested in this subject area. This is somebody we should spend more attention and that’ll be that’ll be very useful. Even what the take up is how many people are scanning the QR codes. And you mentioned the amount of time spent on the page, which is a good indication of of engagement. All that stuff is is very useful and goes some way to helping convince people on the board that they should they should pay attention because this is important to to consumers and this is the zeitgeist of of consumer buying patterns right now.

[00:40:31.740] – Nick Baskett


[00:40:31.890] – Michael Chrisment

So if you want to go a step further, if you don’t think by far towards down the page, sometimes there are brands that are willing to add a button that says discover more that part to order more than they click on that they get redirected to the brand ecosystem. They can then get into that buy stuff online or registering to CRM programme and newsletter or some sort of, you know, brand owned programmes that it’s fine. They’re getting qualified leads and they’re managing that.

[00:41:05.730] – Michael Chrisment

But we are not gathering consumer data.

[00:41:08.400] – Nick Baskett

Yeah, then that’s very good. I feel like we’re really nerding out here. Some great and interesting topics I’ve got, and I’ve also taken up almost an hour of your time. So I’m I’ve got two more questions. I want to try and find out and get in get in there before we wrap it up.

[00:41:23.400] – Nick Baskett

The first the first, I guess, is is as a business you’ve mentioned earlier on some of the you’ve hinted towards some of the the difficulties of starting up. It’s expensive. Tell us a little bit about the challenges that maybe you had as a business where you are right now and what challenges you think you think are still need to be overcome?

[00:41:48.690] – Michael Chrisment

I think I think we’ve been incredibly lucky and I shouldn’t say that like that, but I’m just going to say that as it is with COVID. So, I mean, if you look at the world, this is a complete disaster. But for us to do business with it has allowed us to focus because there were less distraction, there were less travelling’s and fair and conferences and and people interviewing you.

[00:42:17.400] – Nick Baskett

Yeah, sorry,

[00:42:19.800] – Michael Chrisment

I’m rude, but but it was less distractions. We had an occasion to focus on the products and and really to you know, to. Develop a robust set of policies. Now we have three very solid products, so there was a risk of like when you’re sort of trying to go too fast into growth, commercialisation, selling the dream, you know, like when you’re a Start-Up, you you’re what you have is a PowerPoint

[00:42:50.390] – Nick Baskett

Guy Kawasaki selling the dream.

[00:42:53.150] – Michael Chrisment

PowerPoint, PowerPoint, PowerPoint, and then someone lives in the then you need to deliver than you have. So, not so happy clients. We were so lucky to advance project products on our minimum viable product. They’re running with clients, with businesses in different geos, in different origin country, in different locations in the country, in different industries. We were so lucky to accelerate that and to really deliver sellable products. And I think that was a risk then.

[00:43:21.680] – Michael Chrisment

The other challenge for us is that we were born on on on on two. Foundation. Who I I don’t know if it’s going to be dreams at the end when we replay the story, but the number one was to say we want to be end to end. So imagine those guys, you know, all the way from consumers to farmers on a on an industry that is 400 billion dollars end to end like three people and to end for I mean, that’s like.

[00:43:54.780] – Michael Chrisment

But anyway, we felt we had to do this in order to be successful. That’s stuff. The second one even more difficult. We felt like we have to be collaborative. We have to be open and inclusive. We need to get everyone working together. So today I’m going to go to JDE and Nestlé and say, why don’t you work together? And they’re going to look at me like, sure, thank you very much. Well, today we’ve demonstrated that this is possible.

[00:44:24.240] – Michael Chrisment

We’ve got Sucafina Itochu two traders working together. I can give you other examples of Roasters working together, cooperatives working together. I mean, just because we know our business, we create the right firewalls and we have this ambition of by being collaborative, we can be transformational. But this is a real challenge, you know, every day and not like an I.T. company developing a software for one company, sort of a one to one every day you have in front of you for one project, two or three, four, five, six, 10 different partners along the value chain that you need to align and just make sure everyone’s happy with the way the project is working.

[00:45:04.050] – Michael Chrisment

But once you realise this, you win, you make a difference and and and then I’ll stop it. I give you a concrete example, which is we’ve entered a partnership with Cooxupe, which is the largest coffee cooperative in the world in Brazil, 60 million bags of coffee a year. That’s that’s a sizeable amount of produce. Sucafina is buying traceable coffee from Cooxupe. It comes from farmers who are using and the cooperative and Sucafina using our products. This is sold to, Sucafina, with a premium.

[00:45:44.190] – Michael Chrisment

Sucafina is giving back 50 percent of their premium to the farmer, 50 percent of the other 50 percent of their premium to local sustainability projects. So all of a sudden, you get different people working together. You charge a premium that premium get redistributed at the origin for the moment. This is why I shouldn’t say for the moment it’s a concrete example of making a difference for real at the origin, also for the co-operative, because they get benefits through to the project that this support also for the trader because it’s traceable coffee.

[00:46:20.970] – Michael Chrisment

So that has value for them towards their clients. So everyone wins and that’s where what we are trying to do. But it’s a daily challenge to make that happen. But we we feel we it’s the it’s the only way.

[00:46:37.140] – Nick Baskett

Fantastic. I have one more question. I got two minutes. So it’s really about your future and what your plans are. But specifically, you mentioned you’ve got this, I think with nine million dollar funding round series.

[00:46:53.730] – Nick Baskett

Is there going to be a series B? Is there going to be an exit? Is this a VC? I think you mentioned it was a trader versus a strategic investment.

[00:47:01.680] – Nick Baskett

Tell us a little bit about the the because the the finance basically will steer the direction of of the company, the source of finance and the and the the expectations that go along with that. So tell us a little bit about three years down the road where you see the business, are you planning a trade sale? Is it going to be floated on the stock market? Tell us a little bit about where you see yourself in three to five years.

[00:47:30.330] – Michael Chrisment

So first point Farmer Connect was born out of industry needs to be seeded by but industry and with people and knowledge of the industry, this continues. So in Series A, it’s only players from the industry, no VC, no banks. OK, so people have investing in our connect and are the prime users and paying clients of Farmer Connect? That gives a lot that tells a lot about the willingness from those players, from the industry to evolve and together benefit side of the nets.

[00:48:08.280] – Michael Chrisment

And that’s only it’s not only Europe and Switzerland. That’s now Americas and Asia with investors in Europe, in America, in Asia, across the industry. That story continues. I don’t think it will be driven by finance. I think it will be driven by impact. And it will be, of course, some financial impact, but also some. Real social impact and I think will be measured by two, whether they will be a Series B, I hope not because we’re running out of cash, but because we’re confirmed into being the solution and that we need additional means to further accelerate and grow even faster because and that would be my final note.

[00:48:55.200] – Michael Chrisment

It’s a race. You know, it’s like it’s like operating systems. You know, you need to have a fair share of the market. And I’m fully transparent about that, we’re a technology we’re a software company, we need to get as many players as we can onto onto the platform to demonstrate the greater benefits, not only for yourself, but has been together. And this is this is really what we stand for, you know, empowering change together. This is our baseline.

[00:49:27.480] – Nick Baskett

That’s a great place to end it. Michael, thank you. Thank you so much for your time.

[00:49:32.310] – Michael Chrisment

You’re welcome. It was great talking to you. And I’ll send you some chocolate.

[00:49:36.690] – Nick Baskett

Ah do.


  • Nick Baskett is the editor in Chief at Bartalks. He holds a diploma from the Financial Times as a Non Executive Director and works as a consultant across multiple industries. Nick has owned multiple businesses, including an award-winning restaurant and coffee shop in North Macedonia.

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