ILOVEMILK: Are We Really Helping the Farmer?
Translated by Jessie C.
“I’m a cattle vet, growing up in Taipei, and now live in Yunlin county. My primary job is to put my hand into the cow’s anus to perform a ‘rectal palpation.’ Through this, I can immediately know the health condition of a cow or whether she is pregnant.” This is the opening of Chien-Chia Kung’s lecture about agricultural transformation. He is the founder of the ILOVEMILK.
#The Industry is Lack of Basis Practitioners
The society is ignorant of agriculture. Most people would consider that agriculture is lack of marketing and exposure. However, there are still a lot more basic problems needed to be solved.
“There are about five hundred dairy farmers in Taiwan, but only twenty vets. So averagely, a vet has to take care of 4,913 cattle. And I take care of around 7,000 to 8,000 of them. And that’s what I mean lack of basis practitioners.”
“Milk is a drink coming from the animals. The health of the animals determines the quality of it. Medication and feeding environment are both important. However, when the radical problem is lack of basis practitioners, to concern about marketing is like putting the cart before the horse.”
The society’s ignorant of agriculture is also a problem. We often hear people say that someone “give up” their work (such as digital related jobs) and enter the agriculture industry. It sounds like agriculture is an easy thing, but actually, it contains lots of knowledge. From Kung’s perspective, the farmers are not good at expressing their thoughts. Unless you participate the farmer’s work in person, it’s hard to understand the industry and the problems behind.
Kung tells us that he now spends 5 days a week in Yunlin and Changhua county visiting the the cattle, and the other 2 days he would stay in Tapei (where the ILOVEMILK company located.) He spent many years understanding the farmer’s work and the background of the whole industry.
For example, the farmers have to milk the cows twice a day. Due to the work process and the limitation of time, the first milking has to be done before dawn. Therefore, lots of the hosts of farms have never taken a day off for twenty or thirty years. “If an industry is profitable, but you’ll have to wake up at 3 AM and being without any day off for ten years, you may need to think more than twice. However, the point is, profitability is not existing in the premise when we talk about livestock farming.”
#The Process of Purchasing is Unfair
The farmers have to produce at least two tons of milk in every batch. To maintain the production is hard, and there is no need to say selling them. As a result, the milk is mostly purchased by the major brands.
In the past, the wholesalers would cooperate with the farmers through contract. It not only restricts the partners who can buy milk from the farmers but also protects the basic price of purchasing. But now, there are some conditions appear in the dairy industry. The contract becomes the farmers promise to the wholesalers, the farmers can only sell their products through this channel, and the responsibility of the unsold products are burdened by the farmers as well. The consistent purchasing price also keep the front end from making a progress. In Kung’s opinion, setting a rating system is the most direct way to solve the problem.
ILOVEMILK Sticks to Strict Selection and Direct Origin Trading
ILOVEMILK puts efforts on taking care of the cattle and assures the farmers of fair profits, so that the consumers can attain the milk of the best quality. Through crowdfunding, the company raised about six million as their first fund, building their logistics and warehouse management system to directly deliver the milk to the consumers.
The quality of the products are all checked by Kung. He designed a management mechanism for vets and farmers to work together, setting the standards of management for medication, body type and disease prevention for the cattle. There are now only two ranches passing the examination of ILOVEMILK. “I later found out that we didn’t set a standard for the quality of milk, but we set a standard for the way of feeding the cows, and naturally, our milk becomes the most nutritious one in Taiwan. So, while the rating system was set right, the quality of the product would be high.”
“Why we choose crowdfunding as our way is because the internet can make the communication easier, but it’s still only a medium. The core is the content. On the same platform, some projects may be noticed by people while the others may not. The internet is neutral. It only serves as a new way for us to communicate.”
“The most important function of the internet is to connect people. The time and efforts that one can put into the farm industry may differ from people, but the crowdfunding give the busy ones a chance to participate in.”
Are You Really Helping the Dairy Farmers?
Kung considers that internet can lower the cost for the farmers to build their brands. However, people who can create a buzz doesn’t mean that they can offer good products.
Besides, we often take information for granted, but never think about the meaning behind. For example, the QR code on the package of agricultural products only benefits the consumers. They can trace back the data of the vegetables in their hand conveniently. However, to make this happen, it consumes the farmers’ time, but they are not rewarded with anything. Keying the data could only be a disturbance of their main works. If the information doesn’t help the right people, it makes nonsense.
A Good Product Sells Itself
“How do you market ILOVEMILK and yourself?” “I do nothing.” Kung answered. He said that he is the person who grabs the opportunity in the right time. “I have prepared for ILOVEMILK for some time, and then the milk crisis surged in Taiwan. I’m a vet who has little knowledge about marketing, but I finally build my brand. I want to tell everyone that the most important thing is still the quality. Good luck can contribute to the success of crowdfunding. However, it is the product itself has the power to sell itself.