It is known that our African economies don’t just need change, but rather a massive transformation. Since agriculture is the backbone of many economies across the continent, growth in that sector will play a key role in propelling our countries forwards. Up until now, most of the interventions within the agricultural space have been fragmented, thus lessening their impact in completely transforming the economy.
So how can this transformation take place?
The 5th and 6th of April 2019 saw the launch of a collaborative effort to transform agriculture in Africa during the Disruptive Agricultural Technology Innovation Knowledge and Challenge Conference. Co-organized by a consortium of partners, the conference aims to positively impact One Million Farmers through the launch of a digital platform that brings together the top disruptive innovative agricultural technological (agtech) solutions. The digital platform will be a central point for integrating different point solutions that address challenges along the value chain, making them available to smallholder farmers.
This will help aggregate their needs to create a bigger market for product and service providers. Before the conference, the consortium of organizers hosted a two-day boot camp for 18 agriculture technology companies hand-picked and shortlisted to pitch during the conference.
The boot camp saw inspiring messages from speakers like Dr. Parmesh Shah, the Global Lead for Rural Livelihoods and Agricultural Jobs at the World Bank, Sri Bharatam and Tim Smyth representing Kuza on platform thinking and on collaborations to exponentially scale business operations.
A goal like “Impacting a Million Kenyan farmers”, needs a paradigm shift in the entire agricultural ecosystem rather than focus on individual point solutions.
The first cohort will see ten startups selected during the conference and launched on the digital platform. The conference will be organized around four themes;
The participating solutions addressed every challenge along the value chain. For example, Agrocares has a lab-in-a-box solution that deals with the inputs part of the agricultural value chain. This solution provides the fastest, most complete and reliable results on soil nutrients and key parameters in soil and feeds to increase the farm’s productivity. Sunculture on the other hand provides a practical and smart solar-powered irrigation solution called the Rainmaker that ensures continuous irrigation, positively impacting farmers as they would no longer need to rely on rain for farming.
Addressing issues dealing with farmer financial inclusion was Acre Africa that is not an insurance company per se but an insurance surveyor in Kenya that works with local insurers and other stakeholders in the agricultural insurance value chain.
Another participant, Trutrade, is a social enterprise providing smallholder farmers with a reliable route to market and fair prices for their produce. Farmshine provides a similar service through its own digital platform connecting farmers with buyers.
The key insights the agtech companies were excited about during the discussions around the platform were how it would help scale their business operations with minimum effort on their side.
One comment mentioned was how the input-to-output ratio would no longer be linear (one-to-one) but rather exponential (one-to-fifty if not more). They mentioned their interest in joining the platform was that it would help outsource tasks they need to run a successful business while at the same time freeing up their time so they could focus on their core competencies.
For example, one of the startups addressing market linkages challenges said they did not want to spend so much time and effort onboarding new farmers so it would be great if the platform comes with the farmers already onboard and they are given direct access to them.
However, the main concerns that came up during discussions were how the platform would need to be reliable in providing required services as they would want it to be a catalyst rather than a bottleneck.
Also, it would be important for there to be a regulation process so that the quality of services and products market players and stakeholders remain high. That means, there would need to be a system not only for selecting the best for the platform but also for removing the bad players. This could be through a rating system or a different type of monitoring and evaluation system.
In addition to that, because the value chain is made up of different steps that are regulated by different regulatory bodies, the platform would need to be flexible enough to accommodate for the different regulatory bodies. The startups also got a chance to work on their pitches alongside the consortium of organizers.
For more information on the conference tohttp://www.kuza.one/dat