The agrifood and technology startup, Fefifo, brings in the concept of coworking space into farming. It is known as co- farming, where aspiring smallholder farmers can rent a space to grow their ready- to- buy crops and access pre- established buyers to buy the crops.
Founded in 2019 by co- founders Kelveen Soh and Chris Fong, the company was inspired by their mutual friend who is a smallholder farmer. Their friend had a two- acre farm but still encountered many problems in ensuring the farm lives up to its standard in operation and profit.
“We realised that by focussing on solving our friend’s problem, we actually solve the smallholder farmers’ problems in general,” says Fong. So, the company was officially established a year ago in Malaysia.
The startup aims to modernise farming bringing technology into their co-farms, and to grow an expert community platform to mentor and guide its grower partners. Fefifo also plans to make farming accessible by getting farm lands ready to plant without the traditional hefty investment of time and money so growers can focus on what growers do best.
In a statement, Fefifo stated that they are not an urban farming company. The company takes away all the business formality side of farming, to give agropreneurs -the term they use to describe aspiring farmers- everything they need to start in the co-farming space. Joining Fefifo’s community, daily hassles such as expensive greenhouse and fertigation systems are all taken care of.
“We use the term co-farming because it’s much like joining a coworking space. Interested agropreneurs must first register and our team will have a look at the application. Once accepted to join the co-farming community, the agropreneur will pay up three month-deposit rent for a farm space and start immediately with growing crops, all curated by Fefifo,” says Fong.
Soh notes that the agropreneur joining co-farming with Fefifo will be business owners themselves, with US$12,000 – 16,000 per year income.
In August, Fefifo plans to start operating its pilot farm in Negeri Sembilan. So far, they have three agropreneurs ready to start in the first batch of five acres of land, which consists of one farmer for two acres of chilli farm, and two other farmers each tending to one acre of greenhouse rockmelon crop.
In the past, Fefifo has raised S$950,000 (US$682,000) from angel and corporate investors and has recently started its equity crowdfunding campaign via Ata Plus.
Fefifo is optimistic that their 10-year plan will work out.
“Within two years, we want to get to 50 acres of land within the Malaysia market, then Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Our plan features an expansion of 25 acres each year, as we’re optimistic that it can be scaled quickly and suitable to replicate for Southeast Asia,” the co-founders said.