We are only just beginning to see what digital solutions will achieve for farmers in ASEAN. Last month Grow Asia released our directory of 60 leading digital solutions. We estimate that together the listed solutions are used by just 2.5% of the 71 million smallholders in the region.
However, Grow Asia shares the optimism of a growing community of business leaders and investors that see great potential in digital technologies for farmers in ASEAN. For example, ten years ago, training millions of farmers by travelling from village to village seemed impossible to resource. Today, with Facebook now a feature in even the most remote area, regular customised training at scale might finally be within reach.
Most startup founders, agribusiness leaders and investors have moved beyond asking if the time is right for digital disruption in smallholder value chains, and are now asking how. As a sector, we need to think carefully about where we will start, which problems can be solved first, and will deliver results most quickly.
At our first Digital Learning Series event for 2019, we had 63 sector leaders in the room in Singapore, and more than 20 dialling in from the region. Grow Asia presented a very basic thesis: first, we as a sector should begin by identifying the pain points digital solution can solve, rather than which technology we should use. It seems obvious, but digital solutions can only reach scale if customers are willing and able to pay to have a pain point addressed.