Updated Mar 05, 2020

Proximity Designs

Small farms. Big ideas.

https://www.proximitydesigns.org/

Jamie Lam

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Over the past 15 years, Proximity has served over 3 million rural farmers. Our aspiration for the coming years is to continue bringing inspiration and innovation to millions more underserved, low-income, small-scale farmers across Myanmar. We’ll do this by building a nation-wide farm services platform focused on providing overlapping, indispensable products and services that share a common goal of maximizing farm productivity, crop yields and farm incomes in an environmentally sustainable way. We aim to transform Myanmar’s agricultural system into a vibrant source of food production, jobs and incomes for rural households, while preparing Myanmar for the dual challenges of climate change and population growth.
Registered in United Statesin United States

Focus Areas:

Livestock & Agriculture, Social & Micro Finance and Human Centered Design

Livestock & Agriculture, Social & Micro Finance and Human Centered DesignSEE LESS

692,000
Customers
900
Employees

Problem

Decades of economic and political isolation have left Myanmar's rural families poorly served by both public and private sectors. Most of the technological advances in agriculture from the last century have bypassed Myanmar's 30+ million small farmers-the backbone of the country's agrarian economy. Farmers face rising input and labor costs, a changing climate and decreasing farm fertility. They spend hours using outdated technology only to eke out low yields.

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Solution

Our platform approach is designed to bring together a multitude of service providers to meet the evolving needs of farmers. The following overlapping, indispensable products and services on the platform are delivering specific value and impact for farm households as they pursue a path out of povert: Seeds & Planting, Precision Irrigation, Soil Health Testing, Nutrient Management, Seasonal Crop Loans, and Crop Protection.

Target Beneficiaries

We target smallholder farmers who operate their farms as small agro-businesses and could benefit from getting access to practical on-farm technologies, farm finance and improved agronomy practices. We focus on farmers cultivating less than 15 acres of land and who have a diversified farm operation including one or more of our target crops such as rice, sesame, chilis, onions. These families typically earn over 50 percent of their household income from farming, and are struggling to eke out higher yields and improve crop quality.

Mission and Vision

Proximity aspires to transform Myanmar’s small farm ecosystem. Myanmar's small farm system would become economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. Proximity is helping transform rural areas into more vibrant economies, providing decent income earning opportunities for men and women who would otherwise need to migrate to urban areas for employment. A more dynamic flow of goods, services and money between rural and urban areas would support more balanced and sustained growth in Myanmar.

Innovation Description

Proximity's platform offerings revolve around four core service areas: 1) the provision of improved agronomy practices/skills, 2) access to affordable farm financial services, 3) micro-irrigation systems, and 4) farm mechanization services. These core services are being provided by Proximity, and other partners including start-ups incubated by Proximity and other investors, manufacturers and distributors of irrigation systems. Partnerships are critical to the success of the platform, since Proximity does not have the scope and scale to reach our desired outcomes. Additional service areas and partners will be added as the market evolves. We deliver farm technologies, improved agronomy practices and seasonal farm loans through four primary delivery channels: 1) we employ a local field force across Myanmar of agronomists, loan officers and irrigation sales reps who market, sell and install our products in over 10,000 target villages, 2) we engage 175 local agro-retailers to sell our innovative farm products, 3) we have built a network of over 1,000 independent village-level agents who promote, sell and deliver our products and services and, 4) we use digital channels to market farm tech products and deliver agronomy advice.

Competitive Advantage

We've built over the years a national platform of practical on-farm services and products designed to improve farm yields, productivity, profitability, resilience and sustainability of small farmers. Both the government and private companies have failed to focus on the needs of small farms. Proximity's platform changes this by showing the viability of markets for products such as irrigation systems and farm credit, thereby attracting new participants. The platform encourages innovation and introduces new approaches proven elsewhere, such as precision agriculture skills. Proximity also helps government and agencies to design more efficient and cost effective public goods, serving as a source of learning as the farming environment is changing rapidly and risks are increasing. We serve farmers through a) direct field force staff for sales and delivery; b) independent village agents; c) retail dealers and; d) digital channels.
RecruitRecruit two new board members for Proximity Designs

Milestone

Aug 2019
Apr 2014
Apr 2014
Recognition ReceivedPENDING
ORGANIZATIONCurry Stone Design Collective
Oct 2012
Recognition ReceivedPENDING
ORGANIZATIONSchwab Foundation 
as part of
 Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship Award