11 mission-driven agritech startups in Africa you should know
For a long time, agriculture has been the backbone of the African economy. It is a source of employment and livelihood for its inhabitants. On 60 percent of the sub-Saharan population are smallholder farmers, and 23 percent of sub-Saharan GDP comes solely from agriculture. Even with these numbers, the potential of the sector has not been maximized. Productivity remains a problem for the sector; many farmers lack access to arable land, good quality seedlings, fertilizers and best farming practices.
To fill the continent’s productivity gap and meet the needs of its growing population, many agro-tech companies have sprung up across Africa. In 2020, agro-tech startups Across Africa raised $ 59,990,000, which represents 8.6% of the total funding raised by tech startups during the year under review. These startups use cutting edge technologies like drones, automated irrigation and soil sensors. They also set up digital systems to help farmers access markets, inputs, insurance, finance and knowledge. All to one end – increased productivity.
Here are some mission-driven agro-tech companies in Africa that you should know about:
Agriprotein (Johannesburg, South Africa)
Jason Drew founded Agriprotein in South Africa in 2016. The company diverts 100 tonnes of organic waste from landfills daily and produces over 2,000 tonnes of MagMeal per year. The company uses insects and technology to convert organic waste into valuable products such as alternative proteins for use in animal feed and aquaculture, natural oil for use in animal feed and an organic soil amendment.
Waste collected in landfills is processed and crushed into a paste. The black soldier flies are then gathered in climate-optimized cages to mate on the dough. Usually, female flies lay about 500 eggs which hatch after about five days, and the larvae disperse on organic waste. As the larvae grow larger, the organic nutrients turn into proteins. After the final processing, MagMeal – a natural organic animal feed containing 55% protein – is the final product and is sold for fish farming.
The fat extracted during processing is converted into MagOil, which serves as an animal health supplement and biofuel. The remaining organic matter is also transformed into MagSoil, a nutrient-rich compost.
AgriPredict (Lusaka, Zambia)
AgriPredict was founded in 2016 by Cassandra Mtine-Makumbi and Mwila Kangwa. Many farmers on the continent struggle with a lack of timely agricultural information, which is affecting their yields. AgriPredict provides farmers with access to information that will help them identify diseases, predict pest infestations and weather conditions. The startup also provides weather forecasts to help farmers plan better.
AgriPredict alerts users when a disease or pest infestation is detected in a given area. The mobile application is available for download on the Android platform or via a USSD platform. A farmer can take a photo of a plant suspected of being sick and ask AgriPredict to provide them with a diagnosis, treatment options, and the location of the nearest agricultural dealer in the area. Marketing is one of the major issues affecting smallholder farmers in Zambia, which is why AgriPredict links farmers to markets for fair trade in their products.
Aerobotics (Cape Town, South Africa)
Founded in 2014 by James Paterson (CEO) and Benji Meltzer (CTO), Aerobotic is a data analytics company using aerial imagery and machine learning algorithms to optimize crop performance for farmers around the world. To use Aerobotics’ technology, farm owners register with Aeroview, its cloud-based pest and disease management application. After download and registration, farmers can inspect threats in the field and view farm analytics data on a machine learning-enabled platform. Farmers use the data to grow fruits and trees and identify healthy and unhealthy plants. Their service is active in 18 countries across Africa, Asia and Europe.
Twiga Foods (Nairobi, Kenya)
Twiga Foods is a B2B food distribution company co-founded by Peter Njojo and Grant Brooke in 2014. The company leverages technology, modern distribution and logistics to modernize African retail. It connects farmers and vendors, making it possible to procure and deliver food across Kenya.
The company reduced typical post-harvest losses in Kenya by 30 to 4% for products marketed through the Twiga network. The company has also integrated a fintech product that offers credit to suppliers to grow their businesses. Since its launch in 2014, Twiga Foods has helped more than 17,000 producers of fresh produce by providing an average delivery three times a week to an average of 8,000 retailers.
Farmcrowdy (Lagos, Nigeria)
This agro-tech company is Nigeria’s first digital agriculture platform that connects agricultural sponsors with real farmers to increase food production. Farmcrowdy was founded by Onyeka Akumah, Akindele Phillips, Temitope Omotolani, Christopher Abiodun, and Ifeanyi Anazodo in 2016.
Although it started out as a fundraising focused platform for smallholder farmers across Nigeria, it has grown into a fully digital platform that covers all agricultural value chains. It currently operates Farmcrowdy Structured Finance, Farmcrowdy Insurance, Farmcrowdy Marketing, Farmcrowdy Tech and Data, Farmcrowdy Foods and Farmcrowdy Aggregation. Since its launch in 2016, more than 11,000 rural farmers have retained their jobs and increased their incomes by 80%.
hello tractor (Nairobi, Kenya)
Hello Tractor is a tractor sharing platform created by Jehiel Oliver in 2014. The startup’s app collects tractor service requests to help farmers with limited access to resources get convenient and affordable tractor services while providing additional income and increased safety for tractor owners.
For tractor owners, the platform provides remote asset tracking, prevent fraud and machine misuse through virtual tractor monitoring. Tractor owners on the platform price their services based on average market rates. They receive a deposit to deploy their tractors and then receive payment of the balance upon completion of the service. They derive 90 percent of the income from all services provided. The remaining 10 percent goes to the reservation agent who requested the reservation on behalf of the farmer.
AgroCenta was founded by Francis Obirikorang and Michael K. Ocansey in 2016. AgroCenta connects stakeholders in the staple food value chain, from smallholder farmers to buyers under one platform for efficient trading. The platform also provides market information, storage and delivery solutions, and financial services to smallholder farmers in Ghana.
The startup operates two integrated digital platforms – CropChain and LendIt, to help address challenges related to smallholder farmers’ access to markets and financial services. Farmers use the platform to advertise their products, while large buyers of selected grains use it to make purchases or enter into long-term purchase contracts with AgroCenta. LendIt enables smallholder farmers to access financial services, such as m-payments, microloans, crop insurance, and pensions from partner financial institutions.
Agrimatic (Cairo, Egypt)
With a booming world population, limited arable land, the ripple effects of climate change and lagging agricultural development, food insecurity is now more of a threat to human existence than ever. The need for an alternative approach to the traditional model of food culture is urgent.
Agrimatic is an aquaponics farming company founded by Mohammed El Naggar in 2014. The company focuses on providing clean agricultural products by growing fish and plants together in a closed system that mimics nature, where plants come together. feed on processed fish waste. Agrimatic raises various species of fish and cultivates a variety of leafy products like lettuce, basil and arugula. The company hopes to shape a world without hunger through higher productivity and landless technology to ensure food security and sustainability.
Browse (Akwa Ibom, Nigeria)
Founded by Ikenna Nzewi and Uzoma Ayogu in 2017, Releaf focuses on developing the Nigerian and African food system using technology. At various times, the company has piloted technologies for trade finance, corporate finance, and liaison between buyers and sellers of commodities.
Its current economic model is centered on the oil palm industry. The startup buys nuts from farmers, breaks them with its proprietary technology called Kraken, and sells them to major food processors. Kraken technology is modeled to run at 100 tons per day, which is 200 times faster than a small farmer with a stone.
Releaf’s mandate is to set up factories close to small farmers. This reduces logistics costs and post-harvest losses while increasing processing yields and farmers’ finances.
Agrixtech (Yaoundé, Cameroon)
In 2018, Adamou Nchange Kouotou created Agrixtech to fight against pests and crop diseases that hamper agricultural productivity. With the Agrixtech app, farmers have the technical know-how to help them adopt a better crop disease management strategy on their farms. The app uses text and voice recognition technology in several local languages to reach low-literate farmers. The app also helps farmers throughout the crop production cycle with tips and task reminders.
ColdHubs (Owerri, Nigeria)
Many small farmers growing fresh produce in Africa cannot access electricity or afford cooling technology. This causes them to experience increased post-harvest losses. In 2015, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu created ColdHubs to help these farmers prevent post-harvest losses.
ColdHubs is a solar-powered walk-in cold room for smallholder farmers in farm clusters and outdoor markets to store and keep fresh produce 24 hours a day, seven days a week, extending their shelf life from two days to more than 21 days. The solar panels at each hub are linked to a battery storage system, allowing the chillers to operate off-grid all day.
ColdHubs is available in 38 locations across 22 states in Nigeria and will soon be expanding its technology and services to East Africa, Southern Africa, and select West and Francophone African countries.
Written by Adekunle Agbetiloye