Kenya is home to approximately 50 million people with the population expected to reach more than 65 million by 2030. Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy and employs more than 40% of the total population and more than 70% of rural people. The sector accounts for at least 65% of the export earnings.
But despite this, Kenya still faces perennial seasons of a prolonged drought threatening low farm yields resulting in food shortage and famine. Only large-scale farmers and agri-corporations have the luxury of accessing developed and hi-tech systems of agriculture while the rest of the small-scale farmers are still stuck to the traditional processes that are heavily dependent on old-fashioned culture and tools like hoes.
But this is changing as both young and emerging entrepreneurs are not just embracing agriculture but leveraging on technology to ease some of the pain points for farmers and assisting them to increase their yields and access markets for their products.
While these new breed of startups are using advanced technology to provide crucial data on weather, soil, land, tools, markets etc., they deliver these solutions at affordable costs to small-scale farmers.
According to Disrupt Africa report on agri-tech startups in Africa, Kenya has not only pioneered the African agri-tech sector but has also dominated the market accounting up to 23.2% of all agri-tech startups in Africa.
Today we look at 7 trailblazing agri-tech startups that are disrupting how agriculture is practised in Kenya.
“Last mile delivery distribution platform for farm supplies to partners”
iProcure is a startup working to optimize the agriculture input supply chain in rural Kenya. Through its web and mobile technology solution, it improves farm suppliers’ operations by allowing them to manage orders based on point of sale activities, and client profiles along with geo-located purchasing pattern thus allowing retailers to better predict demand with business intelligence data, improve inventory management, and streamline distribution efficiency.
Founded in 2013 by Stefano Carcoforo and Nicole Galletta, iProcure has received investments from Invested Development and Safaricom Spark Venture Fund to expand its services offerings.
iProcure has not only established a network with over 5,000 ‘agro-vets’, or agriculture retail shops that are commonly used to sell farming inputs but they also provide customers with real-time agent performance and transaction analysis, and built-in mobile payments solutions.
“Mobile business to business supply for Africa’s vendors”
Founded in 2014 by Grant Brooke and Peter Njonjo, Twiga Foods is a mobile-based supply platform that allows vendors who operate kiosks and market stalls in Nairobi to order the supply of fresh produce at low-cost, better quality and timely than what informal markets can provide. These products include bananas, potatoes, tomatoes and onions and they process over 4000 orders weekly.
Twiga Foods is one of the highly funded startups in Kenya having raised over US$ from various institutions including Wamda Capital, Omidyar, DOB Equity, Uqalo, 1776, Blue Haven Initiative, Alpha Mundi, and USAID among others.
With the vision to become Africa’s largest grocer without opening a single grocery store, the startup partnered with IBM Africa to develop blockchain-enabled finance lending platform for its customers in a bid to expand its logistics services into a total market ecosystem by adding financial services for its clients.
“Building modern greenhouses with sensor technology”
Illuminum Greenhouses is an agri-tech startup that constructs and sells smart, remote-controlled, and solar-powered greenhouses.
Founded in 2014 by Taita Ngetich and Brian Bett, Illuminum Greenhouses allows small-scale farmers to remotely monitor temperature, humidity and soil moisture within their farms. Farmers are not only able to send and receive a response through their phones about the microclimate parameters of the greenhouse but they are also able to reduce water consumption by up to 60% by controlling the solar-powered sensors installed on the greenhouses via text.
In 2015, they emerged as the 2nd Best Startup of the year at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2015 winning USD 15,000. Illuminum Greenhouses is also a recipient of Spring Accelerator programme in East Africa.
“Unlocking access to credit for smallholders farmers”
Founded in 2014 by Peris Nyaboe and Rita Kimani, FarmDrive is a startup that connects unbanked and underserved smallholder farmers to credit, while helping financial institutions cost-effectively increase their agricultural loan portfolios.
Through its proprietary alternative credit risks assessment tool and sophisticated data analytics platform, FarmDrive develops and disburses loans to bottom-of-the-pyramid smallholder farmers to grow and diversify their businesses.
More than 3,000 farmers have so far registered on its platform with a total of over KES13 million (US$130,000) in loans disturbed since inception.
“Business to business fresh produce supply using mobile technology”
Founded in 2015 by John Oroko and Gaita Kariuki, Selina Wamucii is a tech-driven platform that sources fresh produce from African farmers and connecting them to buyers both locally and globally.
By using USSD on their mobile phone, farmers connect to Selina Wamucii sharing their produce type, farm location, availability dates and projected production volumes and Selina Wamucii uses this to match farmers with the right buyers.
Selina Wamucii pays farmers better prices above the market rates and this is automatically done through mobile money.
To date, more than 3,000 smallholder farmers are registered in the platform and they recently secured US$100,000 grant from global social impact programme Expo Live.
“Helping farmers make better decisions through access to data”
UjuziKilimo is a startup that combines the use of IoT (Internet of Things), data analytics and artificial intelligence to collect and analyse data that helps farmers and agriculturalists make precise decisions. By using their GPS and internet-enabled device mounted sensors, UjuziKilimo is able to monitor the levels of soil macronutrients, weather, pH and moisture content and provides tailored recommendations on planting, crop breeds, pest control, the current market value of crops, tools required and where to find them via text message to farmers.
Founded in 2014 by Brian Bosire, UjuziKilimo has grown their farmer base to over 10,000 and projecting to hit 50,000 by the end of 2018.
Since its inception, the startup has received backing support from various institutions including being honoured among Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation 2015, ASME Innovation Showcase (ISHOW), Royal Academy of Engineering’s Leaders in Innovation Fellowships (LIF) programme and recently received US$10,000 after emerging as 2nd runners-up in the 2018 Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge
“Mobile-based cashless platform connecting farmers to retailers”
Taimba is a business-to-business (B2B) mobile-based cashless platform that connects farmers to retailers, cutting wastage and making agricultural products affordable without undercutting the farmer.
Founded in 2017 by Joan Kavuisya and Dominique Kavuisya, Taimba sources fresh produce from farmers at affordable prices that are farmer friendly and offer retailers at lower than market prices enabling them to sell to the final consumer at more affordable prices including delivering to their premises.
During the Food+City Challenge Prize at SXSW event in the U.S in March 2018, Taimba emerged as overall winner taking home US$10,000. And they were recently named the winner of the inaugural Disrupt Africa Live Pitch Competition in Nairobi.