Zambia: $10m company proves small farms can be big business
How American-born Carl Jensen and his co-founders at Good Nature Agro built a business with $10 million in revenue by collaborating with smallholder farmers in Zambia.
Agriculture in Africa is dominated by millions of small-scale farmers who cultivate modest parcels of land.
Small-holder farming on the continent is often synonymous with low yields, limited use of quality seeds and fertilisers, minimal mechanisation, and general hardship and poverty.
Yet, one company, Good Nature Agro (GNA), has tapped into the latent potential of Africa’s smallholder sector, establishing a business with $10 million in revenue by collaborating with farmers in Zambia.
At its core, GNA contracts over 20,000 small-scale farmers to grow legume seeds and commodities – such as cowpea, soya bean, and groundnuts – and then purchases these products from the farmers to sell at a profit.
However, GNA’s integrated business model extends far beyond simple trade.
It provides farmers with loans to buy high-quality seeds and other agricultural inputs, offers continuous farming support through private extension agents, and delivers financial and digital literacy training.
GNA is also involved in financing assets for farmers, ranging from agricultural equipment to mobile phones in Zambia.
Kellan Hays, a fellow UC Davis student, joined as the third co-founder. Their proposed venture won two business plan competitions – one at MIT and one at UC Davis – securing a total of $25,000, which, along with founder investments of $50,000, funded the launch of the business in 2014.