Such an option is ensured by a crowdfunding platform LendSecured (In 2022 it will merge with a brand LANDE.LV and after the name is changed, it will be known as LANDE), in the establishment of which approximately 200 thousand EUR have already been invested and more than 700 active investors from 40 countries are ready to cooperate there already. The company’s Members of the Board Edgars Talums (Edgars Tālums) and Nikita Goncars (Ņikita Gončars) are telling about this innovative fundraising solution in more details.
Achievements of LendSecured (LANDE)
- Loans granted to more than 350 small and medium-sized farms (thus managing 10 000 ha).
- Attracted more than 1 500 000 EUR of foreign capital.
- The company has been recognized as the most successful Baltic financial company in 2021, by Abu Dhabi Global market ADGM assessment. As a result, the company presented itself in the United Arab Emirates.
- The company has been well recognized both in local and foreign media (for example, tech.eu, thefintechtimes.com, labsoflatvia.com).
-To start with, could you please tell why did you choose agriculture? What was your way to this idea?
Edgars Talums: - Me and Nikita, we have been in the lending business for almost 15 years, however a couple of years ago agriculture became topical for me as well. Already for several generations our family has owned a property in Smiltene County, but in recent years it was totally overgrown and the farm was left neglected. Three years ago, I decided to resume the property. I got acquainted with the neighbours – farmers, who helped me a lot, gradually |I started keeping bees, I bought several bee-hives. I met a number of grain farmers and livestock farmers in this environment, so there was a chance to see what problems they regularly faced. Farmers did not seem to know their potential: they did not receive the wanted and earned remuneration and development opportunities. This motivated me and Nikita to set up this platform for crowd financing, which would act as a tool for attracting investments to farmers, enabling them to develop – to buy land, machinery – much faster and without excessive formalities. We believe that funding for farmers should be available more freely.
Nikita Goncars: – As per my education and conviction, I am more a financial person, although I have worked with my hands as well – both in Latvia and in Ukraine, where my grandparents were doing farm works and I participated as well. It was a good experience during childhood and youth, both to understand how the food grows and how physically difficultthe work at a farm is. Just like Edgars, the initiation of this business was motivated by the desire to address the well-known problems with the availability of funding for farmers.
“Many farmers, particularly from the new farms, are still working with worn-out machinery. This should not be so, because currently there is enough money in the world as such and a vast supply of modern machinery."
This year we were recognized as one of the hundred most powerful Fintech start-up companies in the world, as a result we visited Abu Dhabi and met representatives of other financial companies. The Arabs wondered why, in the fertile lands like ours, not every farmer has a chance to grow grain, how it was possible that there was a lack of machinery, for example. Experts from the World Bank also predict that in 25 years, as the population increases, the demand for food will rise by 70%. Clearcutting the forests to cultivate some new land areas is not correct due to the climate, so it is necessary to increase the productivity and the processing intensity. This is not a problem just for Latvia - the rest of the Baltic States and elsewhere in Europe are the same. It has even been estimated that farmers lack around €40 billion of funding. That is why this idea came to us: using digital solutions to create a platform where thousands of investors can meet farmers, who need the funding and they can start productive cooperation. I would like to point out that we are not a bank; the principle of operation of a collective financing platform is a little different.
-What is then the principle of operation of a collective financing platform?
N. Goncars: – Here we bring together investors from any country in the world, with farmers, who have particular needs. So people lend money to people, the same way that the savings companies once worked. Every farmer can register in this system, familiarize himself with the structure of the platform and, when it becomes relevant, publish the information regarding the need for funding. Now, the majority of investors are from Germany, Switzerland and France, but our aim is to provide funding to Latvian and Baltic farmers as a priority, then gradually widening our operational borders. Every month, the number and volume of investments are increasing, which only shows that we are needed.
-What are your benefits from this, what is your profit?
N.Goncars: -We receive commission fees from these deals – a small percentage from each deal. In 2021 we helped our customers to receive more than 1.5 million EUR. Currently our priority is to understand the needs of the farmers, so that in future we can cooperate more purposefully.
“Agriculture is the future business in which it is worth to invest the free finances”.
-There already are more than 700 active investors from 40 countries in the platform. Who are they?
N.Goncars: - The circle of investors is indeed diverse, ranging from European middle-class individuals to large companies ready to invest impressively. Different funds have also addressed us, but we are mostly too small for them yet. All our investors are united by the fact that they want to operate in the digital environment and are willing to make targeted investments. The idea is not unique, it is already working successfully in many parts of the world, for example in Estonia, it is available in the field of construction, where it involves hundreds of millions of euros, many buildings have been built, renovations have been done, etc.
E.Talums: - Funding from the banks is not always available, so such platforms speed up the financial flow and allow for more rapid implementation of projects. It is appreciated not only by the farmers, but also by our cooperation partners. Cooperation with well-known agricultural machinery trader such as DOJUS Latvija and grain collector such as Dobeles Dzirnavnieks, AgroPartner, etc. has been very successful in the past.
-What are other advantages of the co-financing platforms in comparison with traditional funding solutions?
N. Goncars: –Quite often, the farmers complain that the banks request very many documents, operational balance sheets and that they do not have time to prepare them, especially during the season. They usually need it right here and right now, for example, to buy the land from the neighbour.
Banks lend money, but in our case the people invest in a particular company, they want to make money as well. Therefore, these are different kind of relationships. Investor considers himself if this offer is too risky or not. This is live market economy.
In their turn, the farmers can return the funding, when it is more convenient for them, for example, at the end of the season, when they sell the grain.
E. Talums: – The possibilities of the platform are incomparably more flexible.
N. Goncars: – It is also convenient that everything takes place remotely, you do not have to go anywhere, and you can use your electronic signature. If the client does not have such possibilities, our employee can visit the client and help him/ her on the spot.
E. Talums: – It should be emphasized that all payments are administered through one of THE TOP10's largest banks in the world, BNP Paribas Bank. We are attracting foreign capital to Latvia.
N. Goncars: – So if an investor wants to invest money in a Latvian farming company, he will have an account opened in this bank in France, where the money will be kept. It ensures transparency to our project, because otherwise, why should any German citizen transfer any money to a Latvian company?
E. Talums: – I think those farmers who use this digital solution are ahead of those who do not yet. They have a chance to get investments and grow much faster. The loyal partners, in their turn, in future transactions will be offered lower interest rates. We plan to attract around one hundred million euro in the near future.
– Are the farms in anyway assessed in order to qualify for receiving the funding?
N. Goncars: – Of course. We look at the volume of the harvest, the amount of land owned, the return per hectare, the number of employees and other parameters. We are not particularly interested in the balance sheet, because the price of grain is practically the same across Europe. We have many indicators, which help us to assess the farm, but we look at this: if the farm is small but ready to buy land, it has a growth potential. It is right now that there is a generational shift in agriculture in many parts of Europe. It is practically impossible for a young farmer without his own capital to do something in the industry, so we are here to help.
– What farms are your customers currently?
N. Goncars: – Right now we cooperate with approximately 350 farms, which together process and manage more than 10 000 hectares of land.
There are both notionally large and small farms. Large farms can also urgently need funds that through our platform can be obtained within 2-3 days.
– What happens if the farm fails to fulfil its obligations?
N. Goncars: – Yes, there might be a bad season, for example. In 2021, too, there was such an unpleasant situation that, initially, the potential for harvesting was good, the sun was great, but in the end, those who did not manage to harvest timely, their fields were flooded which greatly reduced the quality of harvests. Thus, one may lose 30-40% of the price. Of course, we listened to these farmers, discussed whether and how much it was possible for them to repay. In any case, investors are humane in such situations, they are ready to wait, and they do not demand their funds back immediately.
E. Talums: – This, too, is one of our advantages. In our case, investors can wait because one farming company may have dozens of investors who are less likely to have invested significant amounts of money, which they need back at once. In addition, investors have invested in a number of projects, so the financial risks are smoothed out.
– What are the average amounts of loans farmers are asking for?
N. Goncars: – The smallest investments are a few thousand euros (in such cases there is no need for a pledge), the largest- around a hundred thousand and more. There has been a project worth a couple of millions, but in this case, we broughtthe parties together directly. Hundreds of new investors register on the platform each month, as new farmers do. It givesever-better conditions and a wider access to capital. As a result, our business is becoming even more interesting andflexible for customers.
In the future, we plan to work with commodity traders: fuel, fertilizer, seeds thatwe could offer to our customers with discounts.
The platform is just like a live organism, which develops in compliance with the demand.
N. Goncars: – At first, it is best to contact our advisers to understand the needs and what has to be done to register on theplatform.
E. Talums: – The platform can be useful in different situations, even if funds are needed very urgently. An investor fromSpain or Italy can be contacted directly and remotely without leaving the farm. We can thank the pandemic for this: digitaltechnologies and various remote solutions have developed at a huge pace. We are currently witnessing a fascinatingfinancial evolution that farmers can enjoy today by joining our platform. And all this is just the beginning: in the nearfuture, we will be joined by a number of farmers and investors from all over Europe, extending the horizon for theopportunities of all parties involved.
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