Ganaz raises $ 7 million to rethink how farm workers are hired and paid – TechCrunch
The agricultural sector is ripe for technological improvements, but beyond managing satellite crops and bees as a service, people working in the fields stand to benefit as well. Ganaz, with a $ 7 million fundraiser, aims to change the way people with few documents and no bank accounts are paid and send money with a stack of modern workforce that also embraces low tech.
Producers, that is, the companies that own and operate the fields and sell the crops, are under pressure from many directions as wages rise, regulations rise, and volunteer workers decline. They need to save money in order to make money, but they can’t do it for less; in addition to being cruel to a marginalized class, this would only exacerbate the labor shortage in the sector.
There are plenty of companies out there that help keep costs down by automating things like payroll and onboarding, but the agriculture industry has unique limitations.
“It still works like it did in the 80s,” explained Ganaz founder and CEO Hannah Freeman. The number one service these workers rely on is check cashing or payday loans, and the associated fees, currency exchange, ATM fees, and remittances take up a significant portion of every paycheque. . “The workforce in our world certainly does not have corporate messaging and rarely uses personal messaging. They struggle to download and use mobile apps, don’t use usernames. But they are very familiar with WhatsApp and SMS, so you should know how to create for them.
The ecosystem has parallels with other regions that have stuck with older, cheaper technologies instead of adopting the newer and more expensive technologies. Entire markets in Africa and South America, for example, operate on text-based commerce that takes place on aging and unreliable infrastructure.
Ganaz has opted for a hybrid approach. The company’s platform offers several services for both workers and employers.
Onboarding and basic training can be done in a simple and intuitive way for people who may not be very literate, via tablets loaded with apps that also work offline. The most common alternative seems to be file folders served in a crate in the back of a pickup – it’s not a dig, it’s just what has made sense for this hand for years. – very fluid and distributed work.
Payment and balance checks are all done via SMS or WhatsApp with workers, but for sensitive information, they are directed to a web application; similarly, integrated money transfer partnerships are coming that will simplify matters and reduce costs.
On the employer side, workers and all their vital statistics and documents are tracked centrally in the kind of interface that companies expect. And Ganaz acts as a go-between to send text alerts and questions.
So far, Ganaz has 75 registered employers, one of which is a Costco Supplier Group, and in total around 175,000 workers on the platform. Their ARR and user count have both tripled roughly year over year, so they’re clearly on to something.
The company tempered its rapid growth by being designated as a public benefit corporation, which emphasizes the intention of doing more than increasing shareholder value. I asked about the tension between the need to show a profit and working in the service of a marginalized group.
“It keeps me awake at night,” Freeman admitted. “We try to make sure we are prepared to be true to our mission. That means the people we hire, our board of directors… we want to make sure we empathize and honor the trust we’ve built with people.
This includes investors as well, and Freeman noted that the company ended up choosing Trilogy as the lead for this cycle in part because of this company’s experience with Remit.ly.
For example, Freeman noted, while it would be easy to make a profit by supplanting ATM fees, it directly harms the people they are trying to help. Instead, when they issue their Mastercard payroll later this year, it will allow workers to skip the check-cashing step and its fees, and then Ganaz will receive a share of the normal card transaction fees. . “We can be successful that way too,” Freeman said, and it’s not just replacing another predatory structure.
After cards, the plan is to automate remittances, so a user can easily choose to send money to their family in a way that minimizes processing fees, etc. And there will be other options, accessible by SMS, to choose where the money goes if not on the card.
Ganaz’s primary market is the United States and Mexico, as both farming and labor are largely binational, but other targets are on the horizon. First of all, however, the company wants to consolidate its position and functionality here. “There isn’t a breakaway winner yet, so we want to be that winner,” said Freeman.
The $ 7 million round also had participation from Bessemer Venture Partners, Founders’ Co-op, Taylor Ventures, AgFunder and Techstars. Rapid expansion and aggressive pursuit of the roadmap are the next steps for Ganaz.
“We are aware both of the huge opportunity that lies ahead of us to digitize billions of dollars in payroll, as well as of the responsibility to create inclusive, inexpensive and wealth-building tools for working people,” said Freeman.