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eCaribbean Spotlight: AgroCentral – Remodelling Food Retail in the Caribbean

At eCaribbean, we’re addicted to innovation and creativity. We believe that healthy entrepreneurship, particularly in the web technology field, can have a direct positive impact on the development of the Caribbean. That’s why we’ve started a new weekly feature called the eCaribbean Spotlight, where we highlight a creative entrepreneurial project happening within the region.

Agro logoOur first spotlight is on AgroCentral: 1st place winners of Startup Weekend Jamaica 2013. AgroCentral is a Web to SMS solution that brings farmers (sellers) and buyers together to do business. The product takes the form of a web and mobile app that features complete profiles, on both farmers and businesses. Farmer profiles include farm location, crops grown, supply capability and contact information. For businesses, profiles include business location, products required and ease of transaction. Both parties are linked through a two-way SMS portal.

With their search and query facility, users will find the locations of farmers, buyers, prevailing crop prices and data on diseases and weather conditions. This information will allow farmers and retailers to develop business relations with ease by removing some of the noise within the market. So bottom line is that farmers can advertise their products directly to retailers who can in turn search for specific products, compare prices and contact farmers directly with sales requests.

Seriously, how awesome is this? 

We tracked down the AgroCentral team and spoke with Co-Founder and CEO, Jermaine Henry. Have a look at our brief chat below:

How old are you and what’s your background/experience in tech entrepreneurship so far? 

I am 23 years old. I started my entrepreneurial journey in 2010 when I joined UTECH’s Club Billionaire (the ScotiaBank sponsored student entrepreneurship club) and began to meet tech entrepreneurs like Gordon Swaby (Edufocal), Wayne Jones Jr and Tarique Smith (Trendy Reggae). Between 2010 and 2013 I attempted to start 2 startups before I started AgroCentral.

Describe AgroCentral in 30 words or less. 

Agrocentral is a digital agricultural clearing house that allows businesses to buy produce directly from farmers by utilizing a web based system which integrates SMS and Web features.

Where’d the idea  for this project come from?

I came up with the idea about an hour before arriving to Startup Weekend Jamaica which was organized by the Connectimass group. I saw agriculture as a sector in the Caribbean which needed innovation.

What’s the response been like so far from your various stakeholders? 

All the stakeholders we have been in communication with are very excited by the prospects of AgroCentral and we are looking forward to providing them with this value added service.

What are some of the biggest challenges so far and how have you coped/are coping with them?

Our biggest problem so far has been getting in contact with large groups of farmers and we are hoping to partner with the local farmers associations to solve this problem.

Tell us a bit about the team structure and dynamic at AgroCentral. 

Our team is a young and playful team consisting of 4 members, myself, Janice McLeod, Adrian Thompson and Phillip Clarke. We pride ourselves on being serious business people but also being able to let loose and have fun together, our team culture is very important to us.

Agro snip

How do you see AgroCentral affecting/contributing to economic development within the region?

Futher down the line as AgroCentral grows, we will be strengthening the Caribbean agricultural value chain, which we hope will lower the import bill of our Caribbean countries and positively affect the livelihood of our farmers.

How do you think CARICOM or Caribbean governments in general can assist young entrepreneurs like yourself in successfully launching your startups? 

My main suggestion to the CARICOM and the Caribbean governments is to give the young entrepreneurs access to competent consultants and mentors.

Are there any other startups in the region you admire and why? 

I admire Edufocal (e-learning platform) because of the social nature of the startup which resonates with what we are trying to do with AgroCentral.

What are the 3 most crucial pieces of advice you would give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

1) Get a mentor. Mentors are very important to the entrepreneurial process.
2) Do not scale too early. Timing can mean the difference between success and failure
3) Just start! You will learn along the way if you are dedicated.


Team Agro winning 1st place at Startup Weekend Jamaica in 2013
Team Agro winning 1st place at Startup Weekend Jamaica in 2013

Check out Agrocentral on Facebook and follow them on Twitter: @AgrocentralJa

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