Wayra UK – part of the global Telefónica Open Future network – and Wayra Unltd start-up company, WeFarm won at last night’s annual MEFFY awards.
WeFarm, a unique mobile platform that connects farmers around the world using SMS, has won the MEFFY 2015 Innovation in Technology award. The award was announced at the annual Mobile Ecosystem Forum awards last October 19th
The Telefónica Wayra UK & Wayra Unltd[i] start-up cohort provides a free, peer-to-peer service that facilitates knowledge sharing in the global agricultural community. WeFarm users can ask questions about farming and receive crowdsourced answers from fellow farmers across Africa, Latin America and Asia by sending an SMS from even the most basic mobile phone.
The MEFFY award recognises technical innovation that is advancing and growing the mobile ecosystem by overcoming existing technical barriers or by producing new technologies to drive consumers to use mobile first.
Despite 6 out of 7 billion of the world’s population having access to mobile phones[ii], 75% are still unable to access the internet and it’s more often than not these people who are in most need of better information and support services.
Small-scale farmers are no exception and comprise a sector that faces many challenges as a result. Whether it’s tackling soil erosion or coping with changes to climatic conditions, these are shared struggles regardless of location that without the internet lack access to shared solutions.
Kenny Ewan, CEO of WeFarm says: “It’s a great honour to have won this award. We believe we have created something genuinely pioneering and groundbreaking. Our system allows a farmer in Kenya, 20 miles walk from the nearest village or expert advice, to receive vital ideas and knowledge to his or her phone, completely free, in their own language[iii], without having to leave the farm or buy anything new.”
With many of the latest advances in farming technology focused on online tools, WeFarm returned to basic mobile technology and SMS to provide “the internet for people without internet”.
Today WeFarm has more than 23,000 smallholder farmers worldwide using the service since launching in Kenya in February 2015.
“It’s a huge achievement for WeFarm to be recognised as a leader in technological innovation”, said Gary Stewart, Director of Wayra UK. “At Wayra we’re passionate about housing and supporting the best, most forward thinking and disruptive start-ups. We’re elated to have a MEFFY winner as part of the family.”
James Lasbrey, Head of Wholesale Messaging, Telefónica commented: “We understand the power and popularity of the SMS and how it is making a big difference to people in developing countries who suffer from poor connectivity or no internet access. In this sense, we also recognised WeFarm as a great message initiative and knew it fundamentally understood that in order to do something which will support communities around the world, it had to innovate using the tools that people already have – in this case a basic mobile phone that can use SMS. We are proud to be supporting the initiative globally using our connections to other carriers and relationships with our trusted aggregator partners.”
WeFarm, part of Wayra UK is a start-up accelerator owned by Telefónica Open Future_, a global entrepreneurship and innovation network, open to partners and Wayra Unltd, a government and Telefónica backed accelerator for social business will be seeking a round of investment at the end of this year to continue to scale and improve millions of smallholder farmers’ livelihoods.
[i] Wayra Unltd is a government and Telefónica backed accelerator for social business
[iii] Users simply send their question to WeFarm via SMS message, using their local mobile phone provider. WeFarm then uses the internet to share the message through their unique volunteer supported translation system to other WeFarm users, who receive it via SMS.
WeFarm is ‘the internet for people without the internet’ – a pioneering mobile platform that enables more than 23,000 smallholder farmers across Africa and Latin America to ask and answer farming questions via SMS. WeFarm’s use of mobile technology is transforming agriculture in developing countries as users can receive crowdsourced answers to their questions from other farmers around the world, without having to leave their farm. WeFarm was the first business in the world to provide a peer-to-peer information sharing service for small-scale farmers and won the Google Impact Challenge in 2014. Headquartered in London, WeFarm launched as a registered business and social enterprise in January 2015. WeFarm’s service is currently available in Kenya and Peru. More information on WeFarm can be found at www.wefarm.info.
ABOUT WAYRA OPEN FUTURE
Wayra Open Future gives direct funding and acceleration services (such as co-working space, connectivity services, mentoring, access to Wayra’s network and knowhow, training in entrepreneurship and business skills) to selected start-ups. Wayra contributes circa $US50,000 as financial investment and another $US70,000 in acceleration services, or an equivalent amount in local currency, in exchange for an equity stake in the companies. Within four years of its launch, Wayra already owns a portfolio of over 400 operating companies, grouped in more than 20 digital industries. The funds contributed by Telefónica to Wayra start-ups exceed €18M, while third parties (public and private funds and angel investors) have contributed funding of over €60M to Wayra start-ups. The estimated valuation of all the companies in the portfolio is already over €500M. Wayra is part of Telefónica Open Future, the open programme that integrates the different initiatives of the whole Telefónica Group related to entrepreneurship and innovation.
Telefónica is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world in terms of market capitalisation and number of customers. With its best in class mobile, fixed and broadband networks, and innovative portfolio of digital solutions, Telefónica is transforming itself into a ‘Digital Telco’, a company that will be even better placed to meet the needs of its customers and capture new revenue growth. The company has a significant presence in 21 countries and a customer base of more than 316 million accesses around the world. Telefónica has a strong presence in Spain, Europe and Latin America, where the company focuses an important part of its growth strategy. Telefónica is a 100% listed company, with more than 1.5 million direct shareholders. Its share capital currently comprises 4.551.024.586 ordinary shares traded on the Spanish Stock Market and on those in London, New York, Lima and Buenos Aires.