We've found that Instagram is a great place to meet new people working in similar spaces as ourselves. One such person is Oli, who is running a page called Humans of Agriculture. He wants to showcase the people behind the produce and show what farm life is all about. We love what he does and have been following him since day dot. Conversely, Oli loves seeing what Aggie Global gets up to and so we did an interview with him and the results are below.
But before you give it a read, head to Oli's page to see what we are talking about.
Who are you and what do you do?
Lisa and Zoe Paisley are the Paisley twins and Co-founders of Aggie Global. Aggie Global is an agtech startup connecting smallholder farmers in developing countries to big markets. Lisa and Zoe address poverty and food security by helping farmers access previously inaccessible markets, which enables them to increase their income.
The e-commerce platform that is Aggie Global, helps Lisa and Zoe bring the human and local connection back to the food purchased by the tourism industry in Fiji. It means when you are eating a meal in Fiji, you know where that food has come from and that you are supporting a farmer and his family from the local area.
What lead you to your work in Fiji?
The Paisley Twins have always loved food and travel, so when it came to choosing a career they wanted something that combined both of these passions. After learning about the science behind farming, Lisa and Zoe went to university to become Agricultural Scientists.
After a few placements, they stumbled upon Fiji and fell in love with the people and culture. When talking to farmers, Lisa and Zoe learnt that there was so much potential in the Pacific to help rural communities and empower farmers to escape the poverty cycle.
Our work in Fiji has evolved as we have learnt more and more about the ecosystem, but by engaging with the local community and talking to our customers and the farmers, these findings have allowed us to create a social business. Our key approach is breaking down barriers to market access and bring back trust into the supply chain, to allow farmers to sell food in valuable markets and increase the money in their pockets.
What are the goals for AG?
Ultimately, Aggie Global aims to alleviate poverty through economic empowerment of farmers in developing countries. So far, we have increased farmer income by 6x the national average of Fiji and helped farmers in smaller Fijian islands sell their products to international hotels chains on Viti Levu, the biggest island in Fiji.
We believe that in knowing the people that are growing the food you eat, is crucial to creating authentic dining experiences. This is why we target the tourism sector. Tourists love to experience authentic, traditional food when on holiday and there is no better way to bring this to a guests plate than by buying the ingredients from a farmer just down the road. As a result, we aim to make developing countries self-sufficient and sustainable in how they purchase local food and how they present themselves and their culture to tourists. By helping the tourism sector understand what produce is available and when we can help them support local communities who rely on agriculture as their source of income hence creating a virtuous ‘win-win’ cycle.
What is it about the people that you’re working with that makes your work special?
We love working in agricultural development. Farmers are inquisitive, down to earth and selfless people. Farmers are providing food for people they don’t even know, without expecting thanks. When you couple this personality with Fijian culture where you are wholeheartedly welcomed into the community, then you can’t not try to help these farmers in any way that you can.
We do our work for the people we engage with, for the positive social impact we are making. For the farmers who don’t have the time to market their produce or the farmers who would rather spend Saturdays with their families than sitting in a fruit and vegetable market, we offer them a way to access markets online with minimal work by them. Without farmers and their dedicated work, we wouldn’t be passionate about our work at Aggie Global, and we wouldn’t push through the tough times when they happen.
What do you find to be the frustrating aspects of work/ life over there?
We’ve said this so often but it’s because it is true. Fiji time to get our business admin done is our worst enemy. We’ve spent weeks in government offices trying to sort one of 10 forms for investor permits or business licenses. It is painful and tedious and won’t change anytime soon.
Second to this, is being asked for things that we simply cannot provide. For example, being asked to do more than what we can because the client is accustomed to paid programs or charity-like programs, which we don’t have the capacity to do both as a business and start-up. The idea of social business is somewhat new in developing countries, so having people pay for a service can be a difficult barrier to overcome. These are things we have learnt to overcome by assessing each client and making faster decisions. For example, we now target the tourism industry because they are businesses that have a need (to feed their guests) and we are service providers that help them fill that need, in a socially beneficial way.
What is it that makes you optimistic about your work and what you’re striving for?
We believe now is the time to change. If we don’t act today to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and other social issues around the world, change won’t occur before it is too late. We need solutions now. So no matter what roadblock we are faced with, we know we can adapt and utilise technology to create a valuable solution that will help smallholder farmers break the poverty cycle.
Our optimism is further driven by seeing the impact that we have on our communities, like the farmer who increased his income by 6x.