Supporting young e-agriculture start-upsDuring the last quarter of 2016, Pitch AgriHack’s 25 finalists – selected from a competitive group of 152 e-agriculture start-ups from across Africa and the Caribbean – participated in a 2 day training bootcamp, which focused on offering successful business services in e-agriculture, at iHub in Nairobi. Pitch AgriHack 2016 was organised by CTA, in collaboration with the African Development Bank (AfDB), with the objective to accelerate youth-led e-agriculture entrepreneurship to improve livelihoods and food security. Many of the start-ups involved are already reaping benefits from the activity.
Pitch AgriHack is a new component of CTA’s AgriHack Talent programme, which aims to promote youth ICT innovations and entrepreneurship in ACP regions. The programme is part of CTA’s strategy to strengthen youth involvement in agriculture through the provision of services to the sector and, in so doing, modernise agriculture and stimulate youth employment. “Pitch AgriHack has been assisting very promising e-agriculture start-ups by supporting the development of services they offer, including by facilitating access to key business players and financiers,” explains Ken Lohento, ICT4D Programme Coordinator at CTA.
The winners of Pitch AgriHack, announced on 24 November 2016, were split into two categories depending on their stage of development: there were three winners in the early stage category – for e-agriculture start-ups that have been developed, but still need software and business model improvements – and one in the advanced category – for start-ups which are already operating and generating revenue. Sooretul, the advanced stage winner, is a Senegalese web and mobile marketplace, which offers an e-commerce platform where processed agricultural products made by women are sold. Pitch AgriHack has provided Sooretul with a €15,000 grant to upscale their services, notably by creating two new sales points in Côte d’Ivoire and France, as well as exposure to attract long-term investment and promote their business.
The winners of the early stage category included mAgri (an application that gives farmers access to relevant information and a mobile marketplace in Botswana),Daral Technologies(a Senegalese livestock application, which collects data and provides an advisory service for farmers), and MobFit (a GSM-supported agricultural supply chain software, which connects rural smallholder farmers in Uganda to buyers in the market at a low cost). These start-ups received grants of €7,500, €6,000 and €5,000, respectively, to help them develop their businesses, along with the same level of exposure and networking support as Sooretul.
Since being awarded the grants, Daral Technologies and Sooretul have taken part in the International Agricultural Show in France, where they were given the opportunity to explore commercial and institutional partnerships. All four winners also received complimentary services from the venture capital firm Prohaus VC– one of the partners of Pitch AgriHack –including a remote accelerator programme and seed capital of between €9,381 and €18,763.
It is not only the winners who have benefitted from Pitch AgriHack; Prohaus VC gave additional prizes to start-ups whose business models they found promising. These include Kuza from Kenya, AgroCenta from Ghana, and FarmAfriQue from Nigeria, who will also receive benefits from Prohaus VC.AgroCenta has since signed an off-taker agreement for over US$300,000 (€281,439) and partnered with Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition. All seven of these start-ups, as well as the other best participants inPitch AgriHack, attended the AfDB Youth Agribusiness Forum in Nigeria in April 2017, where they interacted with potential new business partners.
The Pitch AgriHack bootcamp also provided finalists with expert advice and coaching on pitching, as well as the opportunity to network with similarly oriented businesses. Two start-ups that met at the bootcamp, Ujuzikilimo and Farmers Pride, have now officiated a partnership to provide access to better knowledge, precision and quality inputs for Kenyan farmers, which will help to strengthen the work of both businesses. Pitch AgriHack’s best start-ups are also benefiting from mentoring support from the African Agribusiness Incubation Network.
The reaction generated by Pitch AgriHack, a unique initiative in the ACP regions, has surpassed expectations. While preparing a new edition in the coming months, CTA and its partners will assist and monitor the services deployed by the young start-up winners of this first edition, so that they can grow and effectively impact hundreds of thousands of agricultural stakeholders.