South African agri-tech startup BitFarming is aiming to increase production of red meat by encouraging non-farmers to invest digitally in livestock.
Formed in 2018, BitFarming generates sustainable funding for farmers from investors who want to invest in the sector but who do not have the opportunities to do so directly. Through BitFarming, anyone in the world can become a “BitFarmer” own a “bit of a farm”.
The BitFarming model is simple and easy to understand – investors or BitFarmers can purchase cattle via the BitFarming platform prior to the start of a new investment cycle, which runs for four months. Once the BitFarmer has purchased cattle, BitFarming purchases the cattle on auction and the cattle is placed with an approved farmer.
“The cattle are kept in a feedlot where they are monitored daily. RFID tags and automated scales mean that the cattle are weighed and monitored in real-time. BitFarming makes use of the latest Microsoft big data technology stacks to monitor each aspect of cattle growth,” Albertus Potgieter, the startup’s founder, told Disrupt Africa.
“Any abnormal variations in weight are immediately followed up by a visit from the local veterinary surgeon. BitFarming cattle are kept on a strict diet to ensure that the desired weight gain is achieved during the four-month investment cycle.”
Within four months, cattle go from purchase weight to processing weight, with an average weight gain of 275kg. They are then delivered to an abattoir, where they are processed. BitFarmers can then either withdraw their investment or reinvest their funds in the next cycle. The farmers that look after BitFarming cattle in the feedlots are paid a land fee to house the cattle as well as a management fee.
“Thanks to BitFarming, our farmers gain direct access to international investment capital without having to engage in long term financing via traditional banking models,” Potgieter said.
“This is the Uber of agriculture. By bringing more funding into the agriculture sector, we can generate more food for Africa in a sustainable way while at the same time providing investors with lucrative returns. BitFarmers look forward to a 10 per cent return on investment within the four-month cycle.”
BitFarming has completed around 10 cycles since inception, and is currently busy identifying markets in other Sub-Saharan countries for expansion.