The importance of social entrepreneurship in 2019 is greater than ever, especially in Latin American business.
By now, global trends in social entrepreneurship have even seeped into one of the poorest countries in the Americas. Bolivia — official languages: Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara — is the steward of the legendary Salar de Uyuni salt plains and home to thousands of rural farmers.
This week Colibri features PanalFresh, an award-winning Bolivian tech company that uses its e-platforms to distribute produce grown by Bolivia’s largely disenfranchised farmer population. They sell business-to-consumer (B2C) as well as business-to-business (B2B). The problems they tackle are manifold.
Let’s delve into what PanalFresh is doing to disrupt the farming and food industry.
What is PanalFresh?
Co-founded by Andrea Puente, PanalFresh was created with the goal of giving farmers access to a successful marketplace while providing high-quality produce to consumers.
The PanalFresh app offers next-morning delivery of fruits, vegetables, and other grocery items through an online store available to customers in the cities Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.
The best part?
All of the produce in the store comes from small-scale farmers in rural Bolivia. On top of providing farmers with an effective and far-reaching marketplace for their harvests, PanalFresh consults farmers on the best crops to plant in order to meet demands.
At the Intersection of Technology and Agriculture
Behind the scenes, the technological wheels of PanalFresh are always whirring. The app is constantly working to provide the best results and resources for farmers, crunching valuable numbers including:
- Collecting Data on farmers, products and price fluctuations.
- Analyzing Data and generating alternatives for crop planning and production.
- Generating Predictions of supply and demand.
- Sharing Data with farmers so they can increase their income.
The PanalFresh team currently works with two farmer’s organization and some individuals, reaching more than 400 farmers.
Bolivia’s Social Problems Solved by Social Entrepreneurship
The average Bolivian farmers grows crops like lettuce and potatoes using a foot plow. Statistically speaking, they are probably unaware that they could be charging up to 40% more by growing arugula or quinoa.
Smaller farmers in Bolivia tend to cultivate products that are not
Latin American farming statistics report that farmers can capture 10-15% higher prices just by switching to PanalFresh, which uses smartphones to directly connect supply and demand.
The stark inequality and market isolation that the farmers live through is at the root of much grimmer and more vivid social problems in the country.
The most alarming statistic about Bolivia concerns nutrition. Malnourishment in Bolivia is rampant, at a goosebump-raising 20%. Although traditionalist farmers are often reluctant to admit it, this kind of emergency demands a sweeping change in popular practice.
An Urban Solution
Like everywhere else in the world, Bolivians who live in cities tend to have greater spending power than those who live in the country. These city dwellers have always had access to fresh produce from the supermarket, but even in La Paz, they get bogged down by national economic stagnation.
The success of PanalFresh showcases a native Bolivian solution to a native Bolivian problem. Social entrepreneurship is always good PR for foreign investment. In addition, in a time marked by protectionism, this potential bid for food independence is an important one.
On the business side of things, PanalFresh partners include high-profile names such as Sbarro. This is a strong indicator of great things to come for the B2B side to PanalFresh.
A Rural Solution
The thin soil found in Bolivia is thin and erodes easily, contributing to the difficulty of maintaining agricultural productivity. PanaelFresh touts a major benefit: a partnership with them can provide farmers with greater income per unit. This way, less land can produce the same yield.
Even without a bank account, a Bolivian farmer can still connect to the world via Facebook and WhatsApp. The challenge comes with connecting to the Bolivian countryside, where WiFi is shaky at best, digital literacy scarce, and people trust tradition more than apps.
This same principle holds for e-commerce.
There may not be an easy way to combat or reverse soil erosion due to climate change and entrenched farming practices. However, uniting the different groups within a country will always make the nation stronger.
PanalFresh is focusing on building personal relationships with these rural farming communities. That in itself will endure in the long-term.
What the Future Holds for Bolivia and Other LATAM Emerging Economies
Before smartphones and big tech companies, there were no comprehensive solutions to the twin demons that haunt the third world: lack of infrastructure and lack of market access. At least, outside of government interference.
Now there is.
The world’s largest lithium deposits were discovered in Bolivia. Since then, their emerging economy has shown promising signs for investment to companies interested in the new technology of lithium batteries, such as Germany-based ACI Systems.
And this is only the beginning!
Are you interested in expanding your reach to the dynamic and growing LATAM market? Let Colibri take you under their wing with their LATAM-focused content marketing services!