Farmerly: An agricultural marketplace to beat Facebook algorithm

November 15, 2023

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The new marketplace, Farmerly, apart from being a platform for selling and buying, also provides a solution to small businesses struggling with page reach on Facebook.

The decline in Facebook page reach is a critical problem for its users. To overcome this, page operators try out various mechanisms to increase follower engagement. Yet, most business pages are largely clueless about how to take their posts to customers’ newsfeeds.

Interestingly, some people saw a business opportunity in this ‘fight’ against Facebook’s algorithm responsible for organic reach decline. They have come up with an online marketplace for agro-food products, where sellers who are already on Facebook can sell their product from this platform, while still promoting their products on Facebook.

The new marketplace, Farmerly, apart from being a platform for selling and buying, plans to provide loans to businesses. Seventeen types of products will be sold on the marketplace, and buyers will be able to buy in small amounts.

“People from anywhere in the country can sell or buy agricultural products on Farmerly. Especially the producers from the village – Farmerly will enable them to sell products to their neighbours, or nearby towns,” said Nazmul Haque Neon, co-founder and CEO of Farmerly.

The platform will use hyperlocal technology like ride-sharing apps that connect nearby drivers and prospective commuters. On Farmerly, the buyers can search for nearby sellers and choose products from any seller they like.

Nazmul Haque Neon, co-founder and CEO of Farmerly. Sketch: TBS

“Many families living in the villages have male family members living in the cities for work or education. Women do not go to the market to sell agricultural produce. So we want to connect them to the nearby customers, who might also be women and are finding it difficult to go to the market,” Neon explained.

Farmerly also plans to help sellers grow by providing finance. To avail even small loans, one has to provide many documents to the banks besides collateral, without which many fail to secure a loan from the bank. Neon says Farmerly will extend small loans (Tk10,000 to Tk1 lakh) based on sales data of a seller who has been on the platform for at least six months.

Here, Farmerly will act as a mediator and guarantor between the borrower and the financial institution such as the bank, NGO or individual investor. “Bangladesh is an agricultural country; we aim to create home-based employment so that anyone can add value to agro-products and sell them online,” Neon said.

The platform was launched on 1 September, and they are building an app to be launched next year. There are 130 sellers on the website currently, from 29 districts.

The platform is reaching out to Facebook-based businesses and encouraging them to join Farmerly.

“A seller on Facebook cannot add a price to his product because sale posts end up being restricted or banned, or face a decline in reach. Besides, they have to upload photos every day on the Facebook page to keep up page engagement, or they lose customers. We communicate these problems with Facebook-based businesses, and invite them to join our platform, which offers a solution” said the Farmerly CEO.

A survey conducted by Farmerly showed that if someone boosts their products on Facebook, 50-60 people knock them through Messenger daily, and it takes about five minutes to talk to each of them before selling a product. It’s five hours on a work day, Neon said.

“On the other hand, it takes only 30 seconds to send the link to a product already listed on a marketplace to the buyer, which has all the descriptions and prices listed on it,” Neon explained.

Sellers can promote their products on Facebook but sell them from Farmerly, so the reach of the page is not affected – Neon explained the trick.

The products sold on the platform include ready-to-cook fish, meat and vegetables; home-processed spices; fertiliser, seed and seedlings etc. Besides, customers living in Rajshahi can buy antibiotic-free chicken and lamb, sourced from the Department of Veterinary & Animal Science at Rajshahi University.

Farmerly is also targeting students living in the dormitories as potential buyers of small amounts of ready-to-cook food. Students who cook their own food have little time to go to the market, buy raw food and process it, and do not have any refrigerator – something Farmerly wants to cash in on.

“We have onboarded some sellers who sell like one or two pieces of fish, 200 gms of meat etc to the students. We’ve started it in Rajshahi University and it has been doing very well,” the Farmerly CEO said.

Farmerly will always be free of cost for the buyers. For the sellers, initially, there is no entry fee; they can display unlimited products and do not have to pay any commission, Neon informed. The super-shops, who are yet to be onboarded, will have to pay a commission, but individual sellers won’t have to.

However, in the future, individual sellers will have to pay a subscription fee to get unlimited orders from the buyers. Or else, they will be able to serve a certain number of orders each day for free.

“Other than that, if a seller wants to promote his products, we will charge them a fee, and their products will reach more customers through pop-ups,” Neon shared their plan.

But by doing so, aren’t you essentially becoming a new Facebook, because Facebook also wants to get paid by the businesses? We asked.

“Honestly speaking, it is normal that our subscribers will earn more revenue thanks to the unlimited facilities, and free users will earn less due to this policy,” Neon replied.

However, Neon said, he does not think that sellers will equate Farmerly with Facebook because they will still be able to sell a limited number of products for free.

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