From the Central Valley to Silicon Valley...and Back
I was born in the northern California town of Colusa to hard-working Mexican immigrants who eventually settled in the state's Central Valley. Throughout my early years, our family worked in fields harvesting fruits and vegetables (primarily grapes, tomatoes, and garlic) near rural farming towns with names like Five Points, Huron, and Tranquility.
We often encountered entire families that had traveled for hours to work for the summer. Some would then travel over 800 miles north to Yakima Washington after the grape harvest to follow the season and continue with apple picking there. Many of them had no idea if they would actually find work or even where they would live once there.
I eventually traded a life in the Central Valley for a career in Silicon Valley after earning a degree in electrical engineering and computer science at Berkeley. Throughout a career that included stints at Stanford Research Institute, NeXT, AMD, and Microsoft, I have seen technology transform many aspects of society, especially through the emergence of digital social networks.
On a visit to my hometown in the winter of 2016, I realized that the discovery process for one particular "social" network remained unchanged: the slow, complex, and manual process by which farm workers and farmers find one another.
I believe three key factors explain why technology companies have neglected this space:
Seasonal farm workers are perceived as a non-viable market due to low technology adoption.
"Out of sight out of mind" - consumers don't really give much thought to how food ends up on their table. As a result, the pivotal role farm workers play in our food supply is largely unknown or at best misunderstood.
Technology providers do not know how to reach farm laborers and farm workers in a manner that adapts to their unique needs and builds trust.
Recent data show up to 60% smartphone adoption among migrant farm workers, many driven by the fundamental human need to connect with loved ones, especially via social media.
Access to professional services
A recent study by Professor Seth Cohen at UC Berkeley indicated that health services targeting seasonal migrant farm workers reach only 13% of the population. Many workers do not remain in any one region for very long as necessity compels them to seek new employment opportunities with shifting harvest seasons. A customized, smartphone-based, location-based approach could be life-changing for such workers.
A better way...
Chambas creates a digital marketplace between farmers and service providers on the one hand, and farm workers on the other. Our approach is to design customized technology that:
Is accessible to farm workers and farmers alike
Supports the well-being of workers
By delivering on these goals we can help farmers surmount existential threats from hiring challenges, and improve the lives of seasonal workers with greater access to jobs and critical life services.
Founder, Eleva Mobility
Eleva increases economic and social mobility among underserved populations through targeted innovation.
Eleva is pronounced "el-eh-vah" and comes from the Latin elevo, meaning to lift-up or raise.
What's in a name?
The word "chambas" is well-known among Spanish speaking farm workers - it means "jobs."