UAE farming sector boosted by online sale of crops

Farmers can sell produce on the Botim app, has more than eight million users in the UAE

Mangos grown at the Qidfa farm in Fujairah. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Farmers in the UAE are embracing the power of technology by selling their produce on the popular Botim app.

By having a presence on the app, farmers are now able to change how they sell their fresh produce by reaching new markets and connecting with customers directly.

The consumer app, which has more than eight million users in the UAE alone, offers farmers the opportunity to sell their goods in a virtual marketplace.

Yousef Abou Foul, 20, an Emirati who runs a family business making agricultural conditioners, soil enhancers, pesticides, insecticides and fungicides, said being on the app has helped to establish a direct link with other farmers as well as consumers.

"Botim serves a dual purpose – it's not only about facilitating sales, it also provides a means for farmers to display their produce," Mr Foul said.

"Often the challenge doesn't lie in the quality of harvest, but rather in the distribution and sale.

"It's disheartening when there are no takers for produce, leading to significant losses for the farms."

Farmers are often left with no choice but to offload crops at discounted prices, in some cases to a single buyer with a wider distribution network, such as large retail chains, he added.

This was caused mainly by not having access to consumers, Mr Foul said.

"This offers a solution to the problem of not having adequate connections to market products effectively," he said.

The Botim app was initially developed as an internet calling platform. It was bought by UAE-based investment company Astra Tech in January, who proceeded to develop it as an ultra-app, serving a range of consumer needs.

Getting to grips with tech

A workshop was held last week to educate farmers on how to use the Botim app to reach the widest possible market.

The project is part of a partnership between Astra Tech and the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority.

The initiative aims to have more than 500 farmers on board by the end of this year, said Abdallah Abu Sheikh, founder of Astra Tech and chief executive of Botim.

“By harnessing the Botim ultra app as a platform, we are equipping local farmers in the UAE with digital tools to increase their online presence and reach, bringing them closer to their customers and millions of app users,” he said.

“Introducing digital solutions in agriculture has the power to transform traditional practices by providing farmers with data and insights that will help them understand and serve their customers better."

Recent data released by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment indicated that the UAE has approximately 38,000 operational farms, evidence of immense potential.

By having a presence on Botim's online store, farmers will have access to inventory management, payment mechanisms, sales and marketing services to help promote their products.

“Importantly, with no subscription fees or sign-up costs, the platform offers a fixed commission of 5 per cent compared to other companies, which can reach up to 15 per cent based on season and business volume,” Mr Sheikh said.

Selling fruit and vegetables through an app is not the first time farmers in the emirates have embraced technology.

The National reported earlier this year how the UAE was encouraging young Emiratis to use artificial intelligence to increase engagement in the agricultural sector.

UAE professors and government officials from the environment and education ministries travelled to the Netherlands in May to liaise with diplomats, private companies, farmers and academics to discuss food security.

The meetings were part of a series of dialogues to gain knowledge of how the Netherlands has retained its role as the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural produce after the US.

Updated: August 16, 2023, 6:38 AM