Pitch AgriHack 2022 Announces Winners

Six youth technology innovators in Africa’s agriculture and food sectors win cash prizes in Pitch AgriHack 2022

 

Kigali, Rwanda: African agritech innovators from all four corners of the continent claimed victory in the 8th edition of Pitch AgriHack. The 2022 competition saw a 30% increase in completed applications with entries rolling in from 37 African countries. Representing Egypt and Tunisia in the north, Zimbabwe in the south, Ghana and Nigeria in the west, and Kenya in the east, six youth-led agribusinesses have been awarded their share of US$45,000 to invest in the growth of their ventures. 

The winners had a chance to present their businesses to delegates at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) where they participated in Africa’s biggest agribusiness match-making platform, the AGRF Agribusiness Dealroom. Over 800 companies, 15 government delegations and 150 public and private investors convened at the Dealroom to generate exciting new opportunities. “Pitch AgriHack is about creating impact through investment in the young agritech entrepreneurs of Africa.” said Mumbi Maina, Agribusiness Dealroom Lead at AGRA. “Beyond the prize money, we seek to catalyse relationships between our finalists and future collaborators and investors. These are the relationships that will revolutionise the food system.” 

Competing in three open competition categories – Early-stage, Mature- or Growth-stage, and Women-led – the Pitch AgriHack winners and runners-up were allocated cash prizes of $10,000 and $5,000 respectively. A fourth invite-only category known as the AYuTe Africa Challenge, an initiative of Heifer International, will award grants up to US$1.5 million later this year to scalable ventures that are already generating measurable impact for Africa’s smallholder farmers.

In 2022, the AYuTe Africa Challenge is expanding its role as an African agritech accelerator. New national competitions in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Uganda are offering young innovators a chance to secure the funding and visibility to scale their ideas and ambitions.

For the second year running, Heifer International, the AGRF, and Generation Africa worked together to realize this popular technology competition. “We at Heifer International believe that youth and innovation are the driving force toward transforming the food and farming sector in Africa,” said Adesuwa Ifedi, Senior Vice President for Africa Programs at Heifer International. Leveraging technology, youth have the potential to unlock economic growth, create job opportunities for millions and empower smallholder farmers into self-reliance. We are excited for the future of Africa’s agriculture and the role innovators like these play in shaping it”.

Automated crop disease detectors, agri-fintech solutions for smallholder farmers, digitizing of community seed banks, and market linkages combined with climate-smart training and satellite yield mapping are only a few of the ideas that came out of this year’s Pitch AgriHack competition. These African agritech innovators are building more comprehensive solutions to solve problems for smallholder farmers. 

 

The Pitch AgriHack 2022 Winners are:

 

Early-Stage Winners:

Winner: Imen Hbiri of RoboCare in Tunisia.

Robocare’s patented multispectral disease detector is minimizing pesticides and boosting efficiency by helping greenhouse farmers in Tunisia catch and treat infections long before human eyes can even see it. https://www.robocare.tn/

Runner-up: Donald Mudenge of Mbeu Yedu in Zimbabwe.

Mbeu Yedu understands that seeds are currency. Their platform digitizes Community Seed Banks to give smallholder farmers access to greater seed-varieties, accurate planting information, agri-fintech products, value-added services, and buyers. https://mbeuyedu.com/

 

Mature and Growth-Stage Winners:

Winner: Hamis El Gabry of Mozare3 in Egypt.

Mozare3 is an agri-fintech company that connects small farmers in Egypt to the agriculture supply chain. Their model combines contract farming, agronomic support, financing and market access to increase yields and income. https://www.mozare3.net/

Runner-up: Allan Coredo of FarmIT in Kenya. 

FarmIT innovatively combines crop mapping and market linkages to help Kenya’s vegetable farmers. They use satellite imaging, analytics, and AI to provide simplified agronomic advice, and link farmers confidently with big buyers with accurate yields predictions. https://farmit.co.ke/

 

Women-led Agribusiness Winners:

Winner: Esther Kimani of Farmer LifeLine Technologies in Kenya. 

Farmer LifeLine helps Kenyan farmers to get ahead of pests and pathogens with a proprietary disease detection device that leverages solar-powered cameras, Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, and Machine Learning. http://www.farmerlifeline.co.ke

 

Runner-up: Anaporka Adazabra of Farmio in Ghana. 

With their Smart Greenhouse package, Farmio guarantees a 120% increase in productivity for Ghana’s farmers. Their SuperApp connects growers with investors, buyers, consumers, agri-experts, and service providers. http://www.farmiogh.com

The achievements of the Pitch AgriHack winners were recognised at a Winners Showcase and Innovators Discussion Panel at the AGRF Summit. “Africa’s youth are bursting with ideas. They are hustling hard to turn dreams of stability and prosperity into a reality for themselves and their communities. For many of them it feels like the chance they need is just beyond reach. All they need is a friend to help them take a step towards self-sufficiency,” said Amanda Namayi, GoGettaz Lead at Generation Africa during the event.

“Our goal is to catalyse impact,” said Dickson Naftali, Head of Generation Africa at the Pitch AgriHack Winners Showcase and Innovators Panel at the AGRF Summit. “All of the people on stage today are making the business of farming easier, more productive, and more predictable for smallholder farmers. They are the front line in our food systems revolution.”     

Of the businesses applying for Pitch AgriHack, 20% are mature- or growth-stage businesses and almost 80% are early-stage startups. This is partly due to the youth demographic of the competition. Looking, however, at other research sources, as discussed in the 2022 Generation Africa Call to Action released prior to the AGRF Summit, it is evident that there is a need for more financing and investment options for early-stage startups in Africa’s agriculture space. Many of the agritech innovators who reached the Pitch AgriHack finals have identified this problem and have financing options built into their offerings.

From the various Generation Africa programs, it is evident that Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria, also has the largest number of activated youths pursuing opportunities in the agriculture sector. Forty-four percent (44%) of the entries for Pitch AgriHack come from Nigerian entrepreneurs. Other top countries applying for the competition were Africa’s tech-trendsetter Kenya, followed by Uganda, Ghana, and Rwanda. 

Pitch AgriHack was fortunate to welcome back three veteran judges from the previous panel:

  • Nixon Gecheo, Senior Program Officer – Digital Systems & Solutions for Agriculture at AGRA
  • Barbra Muzata, Head of Corporate Communications at Corteva AgriScience
  • Ken Lohento, Digital innovation Strategy Consultant at FAO

They were joined by new additions: 

 

ABOUT HEIFER INTERNATIONAL

Since 1944, Heifer International has worked with more than 40 million people around the world to end hunger and poverty in a sustainable way. Working with rural communities across Africa for 48 years, Heifer International supports farmers and local food producers to strengthen local economies and build secure livelihoods that provide a living income. For information, visit https://www.heifer.org.

 

ABOUT GENERATION AFRICA

Generation Africa is a thematic platform of the AGRF, whose mandate is to strengthen the ecosystem for youth entrepreneurs in the agri-food sector across Africa. From its start in 2019, Generation Africa has brought together industry leaders, government institutions, NGOs, NPOs, and community platforms to collaborate on ecosystem development, curation and support of agribusinesses, research and advocacy, and the inspiration of young people to embrace opportunities in the agrifood sector. Find out more at https://genafrica.org 

 

ABOUT THE AGRF

The AGRF is the world’s premier forum for African agriculture, bringing together stakeholders in the agricultural landscape to take practical actions and share lessons that will move African agriculture forward. Under AGRF’s current strategy, the Forum is particularly focused on driving progress of the Malabo Declaration by 2025 as the priority set of commitments African Heads of State and Government have made to strengthen agricultural development at the centre of the continent’s overall development and progress. The AGRF is organised by the AGRF Partners Group, a coalition of institutions that care about Africa’s agriculture transformation. For more information visit https://agrf.org   

 

Contact: Jane Machigere

jane@jsmcommunications.com

www.genafrica.org  

Impact through Investment in African Agritech

Homegrown agritech solutions with incredible potential are fuelling investor confidence in the future of African agriculture. Investment in Africa agritech has grown from US$19 million between 2016-2018 to almost US$60 million in 2020 and a whopping US$95 million in 2021. Although this is not an indication of the on-the-ground implementation of agritech as of yet, it is certainly an indication of where things are going.  

Pitch AgriHack contestants with impressive business models have consistently shown that great innovations will be rewarded with investment. Rural Farmers Hub, a 2021 winner of Pitch AgriHack, has received capital investment and competition winnings from a long list of accelerators, incubators, grant funders, contests, and investors, including the Africa Startup Initiative, *seedstars, and the Africa AgTech and Inclusive Insurance Challenge, along with cash grants as an Impact Award winner in the GoGettaz Agripreneur Prize. Similarly, J-Palm Liberia has been the recipient of funding from USAID and the elea Center for Ethics in Globalization, with many award wins including the African Entrepreneurship Award and the Africa Business Heroes Awards.

What makes some businesses more likely to receive attention from investors? 

The answer is impact. 

Of the twelve previous Pitch AgriHack finalists, every business has a direct positive impact on farming communities. 

SayeTech reduces the time it takes to thresh one acre of cereal crops from two weeks to two hours with a with their multi-crop thresher. MyFugo improves cow health and dairy production with data from smart cow collars that informs their financial investment choices. Ngwala Inventions make biopesticides and fertilizers available to isolated rural farmers with an automated dispensing system linked to USSD mobile money payments.   

Ventures like Farm Kiosk and GiGs by The Golazo Project are focussed using web platforms to link youth to opportunities. Farm Kiosk connects young people to available land and the agri-value chain actors they will need to be successful farmers, while Golazo’s platform links farmers searching for workers with youth looking for jobs. 

Previous Pitch AgriHack winners, like GrowAgric and FarmCrowdy, are focussed on providing finance and insurance to small and medium scale farmers. They protect their investments and get long-term results by using agronomic data and modern best practises to train their farmers. Ensuring success, they also provide the inputs farmers require and find buyers for their produce. 

For businesses that show the potential for real impact that improves the lives of people in local communities, investment channels are likely to increase in the future. This is especially true for agritech ventures that help farmers to build climate resilience and improve local food security.

Long-term improvements through investment

Agricultural technologies, better data, and far more sustainable farming practices are unlocking the potential of the African food system. With local communities and local entrepreneurs taking initiative, the pervasive problems of hunger, malnutrition, and poverty are slowly being addressed.  

In March 2022, Nigerian agritech company ThriveAgric and Kenyan Apollo Agriculture raised almost $100 million in financing to grow their businesses. Importantly, like GrowAgric and FarmCrowdy, these two companies in turn provide financing solutions to Africa’s numerous smallholder farmers. 

As AgFunder reports, with almost “60% of the continent’s population” working as smallholder farmers, agricultural technology companies focussed on provision of finance, insurance, agronomic support services, and training for smallholders are at the forefront of the battle against poverty and hunger. Conversely, investing in these agritech companies have a far greater positive and sustainable impact than short-term solutions like food aid.     

Although food aid has saved the lives of countless millions of people across Africa, it has also been used to keep wars going while never putting in place the basic infrastructures for local production. 

Without robust local production, people on the continent are harshly affected by global events. The current war in the Ukraine, for instance, is interrupting food aid to Somalia and South Sudan, placing hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation.

Although food aid is still a desperately necessary and immediate solution, many international development funds are choosing to invest in agritech companies that, in turn, invest in the people they serve. It is not an overnight fix to the problems of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition, but it represents the best chance for long-term, permanent results.

For investors, positive impact has become as important as profit potential. Ventures that improve the lives of rural communities, draw investor attention. This is especially true for companies that upskill farmers with valuable training, provide running finance and access to time-saving technologies, and supply built-in markets for their produce.

Tech Investment in Africa is Increasing

As Business Insider Africa reports, Kenya is currently the “top destination for agritech investments in Africa”, driven by its agriculture-centric economy and, specifically, a need to solve their food security problem once and for all. Agritech and its ability to reach smallholders plays such an important role in Kenya’s strategy to achieve food security that the Central Bank of Kenya launched MobiGrow in 2018. With the express purpose of reaching smallholder famers, it uses a backwards-compatible USSD system to give farmers access to mobile-based bank accounts. 

Investment in the agriculture space is not just up to governments and venture capitalists. Timbuktoo, a new tech innovation financing facility by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is set to be built in Rwanda. The announcement is stirring excitement for a technology boom on the continent. “The initiative aims to invest millions of dollars in catalytic and commercial capital over the next 10 years in order to build a distributed innovation network of eight pan-African hubs located in key ecosystems,” according to The New Times.

With specific hubs focussing on specific industry verticals, including fintech, agritech, and logistics, agrifood innovators across the continent will soon get access to more critical early-stage finance than ever before.

African solutions to first-world problems

Africa can learn from the mistakes made elsewhere. We now have better long-term data and accurate climate research, and the results are conclusive. Of the nine planetary boundaries we have crossed SIX. Agriculture and the food system has been a major contributor to all six, with climate change, a loss of biosphere/biodiversity integrity, land-systems change, the phosphorous and nitrogen cycle in the biogeochemical flow, freshwater use, and “novel entities” or chemical pollution from synthetic sources, all heavily impacted by the agrifood industry. 

The decimation that occurred in the US and EU as a result of unfettered overuse of pesticides, fertilizer, and repeated monoculture has seriously undermined the health of their soil, their pollinating insects, and biodiversity as a whole. On top of that, as FoodTank reports, the European farming system is only alive because the EU “spends roughly 60 billion Euros every year keeping its farmers in business. This massive annual subsidy is three times as much as Europe spends annually on development aid to all of Africa.”

Building on the wealth of knowledge from the mistakes of others, agripreneurs in Africa have a chance to do it better. And that is where agricultural technology companies come in. 

With locally focussed business models that address knowledge gaps and provide farmers with better training and support, agritech entrepreneurs are empowering smallholder farmers and their families. 

Going into the future all the business choices and technological strides we make must be sustainable, nature-positive, higher-yielding with far less resources, and resilient to climate catastrophes.      

In short… agritech entrepreneurs in Africa have a monumental task. If they can design solutions that empower the people on continent, eliminating poverty and hunger while advancing the health of our natural environment, it will be a model to the rest of the planet.

African Agritech is Shaping a Healthier Planet

Food and technology have been intricately linked since the dawn of agriculture. Every tool designed to work the soil and produce food, from a simple hoe to a high-tech self-driving harvester with an integrated vegetable packaging facility, is agritech. And our reliance on more advanced agricultural technologies to feed the world will only grow.

“If you want to feed the world in 2050, then the next 40 years, we need to produce the same amount of food as we did over the last 8000 years. And that gives a bit of an indication of the pressure on the food system,” says Prof Ernst van den Ende, of Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. In the past, more food meant simply to add more farmland into the equation. But that is no longer an option.  

“We’ve already cleared an area roughly the size of South America to grow crops. To raise livestock, we’ve taken over even more land, an area roughly the size of Africa. Agriculture’s footprint has caused the loss of whole ecosystems around the globe […]” relates Jonathan Foley in National Geographic. With 40% of the land surface of the entire planet already converted to farmland, and a very strong possibility that overfishing will cause the irreparable collapse of the global fishing industry, the need to leverage technology and nature-positive food production practices is more urgent than ever.

Change of the current system is inevitable, and agritech will be a determining factor in the battle for a healthier planet. 

Agritech boosts production on already-farmed lands

Leapfrogging the environmental damage caused by the intensification of agriculture in developed countries, Africa has an opportunity to increase the yields on existing farmland without further destruction of natural habitat. As a recent research study on The future of farming: Who will produce our food?, notes, by combining “principles of agroecology, organic agriculture and (increasingly) regenerative agriculture” with high-precision, agricultural technologies farmers can maximise yield on less land, using fewer resources, while protecting and increasing biodiversity.

Rural Farmers Hub, one of the winners of Pitch AgriHack in 2021, helps farmers in Nigeria to understand their soil and maximise their yields. They consolidate agronomic data, including climate and satellite data, to generate personalised recommendations for their farmers that guide them to improved soil and crop health. Their data-driven agritech service helps farmers to make optimal farming decision, leading to yield increases of up to 55%.  

Agritech increases efficiency with less resources

A major deterrent keeping many rural young people from participating in agriculture is the time-intensive and labour-intensive nature of legacy agriculture practises. In short, the more time and resources it takes to complete farming processes, like planting and harvest, the less profit you make for every hour you spend working. 

Ghanaian agricultural equipment manufacturer SAYeTECH, saw the impact of manual farm labour on school children who were kept out of class during harvest season to help their families with the threshing of their crops. It inspired them to design a multi-crop thresher that knocks cereals off their stalks. It may seem like a simple task but threshing a one-acre harvest takes two weeks of manual labour. With a SAYeTECH automated thresher, the task is completed in less than two hours. 

Although this example is about human resources, agritech has the potential to reduce the resources used at every step of the farming process. Drip irrigation wastes far less water. Data-driven precision fertiliser and pesticide application reduces the amount of chemicals damaging the environment. And share-economy technology, like AYuTe Winner Hello Tractor, means farm equipment can benefit entire communities instead of just single owners.  

Agricultural technologies can make time-consuming processes effortless, giving farmers more time to diversify or streamline their farming operations. And, more importantly, it gives their children time to focus on their own education, growing a capable generation of future farmers who are serious about protecting the environment.

Agritech minimises food waste

Food waste is one of the biggest barriers to feeding the planet. In Foley’s five step plan to feed 9 billion people he says, “An estimated 25 percent of the world’s food calories and up to 50 percent of total food weight are lost or wasted before they can be consumed.” Fixing this one problem will have the single biggest impact on food availability. 

Across Africa, post-harvest losses are a massive problem. Poor infrastructure like damaged roads, lack of transport, and few cold storage solutions to keep food fresh in the sweltering heat, means yields are lost before they even reach the marketplace. 

Pitch AgriHack winner Fresh-in-a-Box in Zimbabwe overcomes this specific problem by rethinking the logistics of traditional agriculture. They ask, why can’t fresh food simply go straight from the farm to the consumer? Through their e-commerce platform and direct delivery service, they offer farmers and consumers a waste-free solution, with guaranteed freshness and no middlemen to inflate the prices.      

Agritech overcomes finance barriers

Finance and investment for agricultural endeavours is a sensitive topic, especially for smallholders. Finance institutions require farmers to provide collateral for loans, and interest rates are often too high for agricultural operations that have a long-term profit horizon. Digital financing and investment platforms, designed specifically with farmers in mind, are reducing this barrier-to-entry fast.

FarmCrowdy in Nigeria and GrowAgric in Kenya, both previous Pitch AgriHack winners, are platforms that provide an end-to-end value chain service to secure their investment in small farms. But they don’t just give farmers money to get their operations going. They also provide training on best practises, supply quality inputs to help their farmers increase yields, and guarantee a market for the crops. To protect against a worst-case scenario, they also provide insurance on the harvest. 

Holistic value-chain services that leverage agritech helps to maximise yields on existing farmland, and by empowering smallholders to make real profits from their hard work, they increase the prosperity of rural communities. Transferring the latest best-practises in nature-positive food production is helping these farmers to be better stewards of their environment.

Do you have climate-smart agritech solution that will help to build a better food system and a healthier planet? Then Pitch AgriHack 2022 is for you! African founders or co-founders, aged 18-40, of technology-based and digital services businesses in the agriculture sector are eligible to enter. Applications for Pitch AgriHack are open from 20 June 2022 to 29 July 2022 at https://genafrica.org/pitchagrihack.

AGRF, Heifer International and Generation Africa Announce Pitch AgriHack 2022 to Inspire African Agritech Innovators

Pitch competition awards cash prizes to youth technology innovators in Africa’s agriculture and food sectors

Nairobi: AGRF, Heifer International and Generation Africa today announced the launch of Pitch AgriHack 2022, marking the second year the organizations have come together to provide cash grants that accelerate entrepreneurial growth and job creation in Africa’s agriculture sector. Pitch AgriHack identifies innovative youth-led businesses with technological solutions to food security challenges, awarding the most impactful businesses with cash grants, media visibility and investor exposure.

Pitch AgriHack is about promoting digital jobs and smart technologies that appeal to the youth. This competition calls on the innovative minds of Africa to empower themselves and their communities by harnessing and developing ground-breaking technologies in the agrifood sector,” said Dickson Naftali, Head of Generation Africa. “We see a bright future on the horizon for the youth of Africa. Generation Africa, with the help of its partners like Heifer International, is working tirelessly to smooth out the obstacles that have traditionally prevented young people from embracing opportunities in the agriculture and food value chain.”

During Pitch AgriHack 2022, US$45,000 in prizes will be awarded to six winners in three open competition categories. Businesses can compete as Early-stage, Mature or Growth-stage, and Woman-led ventures. Farm equipment manufacturers, agricultural drone services for precision farming, data and analytics providers, mobile apps, online crowdfunding and finance platforms, e-commerce and logistics services, and more, have all featured strongly in previous Pitch AgriHack competitions.

“At Heifer International, we believe agriculture can be a major driver of economic growth and employment across Africa,” said Adesuwa Ifedi, Senior Vice President for Africa Programs at Heifer International. “African youth hold the key to unlocking this potential. Their innovation will transform the food and farming sector, providing new jobs and increasing food security. We were impressed with the young agritech entrepreneurs who pitched their businesses as part of last year’s competition, and we are excited to see the new innovations 2022 will bring.” 

“There is a hope – a very real hope – that the youth of Africa will throw out the legacy problems created in the food system over the last 100 years and come up with tech-enabled, nature-positive solutions that fast-track Africa’s food production capacity to create jobs and make the continent self-sufficient,” said Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA and Former Special Envoy to the UN Food Systems Summit “High-profile competitions that reach millions of young people, like Pitch AgriHack, is playing a big role in agriculture.

The Pitch AgriHack 2022 finals will see the Top 12 applicants face off in a business pitching contest at the African Green Revolution Forum Summit (AGRF) in September. Finalists will participate in the AGRF Agribusiness Deal Room, where over 800 companies, 15 government delegations and 150 public and private investors will convene to generate exciting new opportunities.

A fourth invite-only category known as the AYuTe Africa Challenge, sponsored by Heifer International, will award up to US$1.5 million in grants to scalable ventures that are already generating measurable impact for Africa’s smallholder farmers. Winners from the 2022 AYuTe Africa Challenge will also be featured at the AGRF Summit.

Applications for Pitch AgriHack are open from 20 June 2022 to 29 July 2022 at https://genafrica.org/pitchagrihack. African founders or co-founders, aged 18-40, of technology-based and digital services businesses in the agriculture sector are eligible to enter the 2022 competition. The Top 12 applicants will be selected by an expert jury, followed by an award ceremony where three category winners and three runners-up will receive cash grants to grow their businesses.


ABOUT HEIFER INTERNATIONAL

Since 1944, Heifer International has worked with more than 39 million people around the world to end hunger and poverty in a sustainable way. Working with rural communities across Africa for 48 years, Heifer International supports farmers and local food producers to strengthen local economies and build secure livelihoods that provide a living income. For information, visit https://www.heifer.org.

ABOUT GENERATION AFRICA

Generation Africa is a thematic platform of the AGRF, whose mandate is to strengthen the ecosystem for youth entrepreneurs in the agri-food sector across Africa. From its start in 2019, Generation Africa has brought together industry leaders, government institutions, NGOs, NPOs, and community platforms to collaborate on ecosystem development, curation and support of agribusinesses, research and advocacy, and the inspiration of young people to embrace opportunities in the agrifood sector. Find out more at https://genafrica.org

ABOUT THE AGRF

The AGRF is the world’s premier forum for African agriculture, bringing together stakeholders in the agricultural landscape to take practical actions and share lessons that will move African agriculture forward. Under AGRF’s current strategy, the Forum is particularly focused on driving progress of the Malabo Declaration by 2025 as the priority set of commitments African Heads of State and Government have made to strengthen agricultural development at the centre of the continent’s overall development and progress. The AGRF is organised by the AGRF Partners Group, a coalition of institutions that care about Africa’s agriculture transformation. For more information visit https://agrf.org

Contact: Jane Machigere

jane@jsmcommunications.comwww.genafrica.org

Youth-led, African Agribusinesses Announced as Pitch AgriHack 2021 Winners

African agritech innovators win cash awards to grow and scale their businesses in the seventh Pitch AgriHack competition.

Nairobi, Kenya: Six youth-led agribusinesses showcasing market-ready innovations for African farmers – which include mobile crop processing machinery, produce delivery services and e-commerce and farm financing platforms – won a share of the US$45,000 Pitch AgriHack 2021 competition today at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF).

The companies, which now have an opportunity to attract new investments via the AGRF Agribusiness Deal Room, were competing in three categories: Early-stage, Mature/Growth-stage, and Women-led.

In a fourth, invitation-only category, known as the AYuTe Africa Challenge, US$1.5 million in grants were awarded to two youth-led agritech businesses that are increasing access to emerging technologies for smallholder farmers across Africa to grow their businesses and incomes.

The Pitch AgriHack competition, aimed exclusively at youth-led African businesses bringing technological innovation to the agriculture sector, is sponsored by Heifer International and hosted by Generation Africa, a thematic platform of the AGRF.

The youth of Africa have a crucial role to play in our continent’s food and farming future. Food systems change is one of the most pressing global issues as humanity negotiates a new balance with the natural world amidst the undeniable impacts of climate change,” said Dr Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA and Special Envoy to the UN Food Systems Summit. “Pitch AgriHack is a wonderful initiative that awards youth-led innovative agricultural businesses. At the intersection of technology and agriculture, new innovations have the capacity to enable and uplift smallholder farmers, and drive agricultural transformation across Africa.

The Pitch AgriHack Winners for 2021:

The winners of the three open competition categories are:

Early-Stage category:

Winner – Jeffrey Appiagyei of SAYeTECH Company Limited in Ghana. Jeffrey’s company designs and manufactures climate-smart agricultural machinery that increases productivity of smallholder farmers. https://www.sayetech.io/

Runner-up – Gabriel Eze of Rural Farmers Hub in Nigeria. Gabriel’s company provides agricultural services with a core product, called Capture™. https://ruralfarmershub.com/

Mature- and Growth-Stage category:

Winner – Mahmud Johnson of J Palm in Liberia. Mahmud’s company has created innovative labour-saving technology for Liberia’s smallholder farmers, helping them to produce wild palm oil more profitably and efficiently, while not contributing to deforestation or animal habitat destruction. https://kernelfreshpremium.com/

Runner-up – Gladys Amiandamhen of Farmcrowdy Limited in Nigeria. Farmcrowdy has developed a technology ecosystem called Farmgate with various innovative software products, to help farmers maximize their output and increase their profits. https://www.farmcrowdy.com/

Women-led Agribusiness category:

Winner – Ore Alemede of GrowAgric in Kenya. Ore’s company provides a full technology end-to-end solution that optimizes the entire agriculture value chain, providing small and medium-scale farmers with training, marketing linkages and accessible working capital. https://growagric.com/

Runner-up – Nomaliso Musasiwa of Fresh In A box in Zimbabwe. Nomaliso’s company offers an innovative e-commerce platform that connects smallholder and urban farmers of fresh local produce as well as other food products with customers locally and globally enabling payments to be made from anywhere in the world, an important feature linking diaspora family members with loved ones at home. https://freshinabox.co.zw/

Winners of the Invite-Only AYuTe Africa Challenge run by Heifer International:

Pitch AgriHack and the AYuTe Africa Challenge support youth-led technological innovation in the agriculture sector. We believe that the agricultural sector has the potential to provide future jobs for Africa’s growing youth population, while advancing the continent’s food security agenda,” said Adesuwa Ifedi, Senior Vice President for Africa Programs at Heifer International.

The Pitch AgriHack 2021 winners will receive continued support as they develop and grow their enterprises. Individual profiles have been made public on the genafrica.org platform and reviewed for relevance to their investor community.

Nearly 600 business owners from 37 African countries applied to the competition. Countries represented at the finals at the AGRF Summit were Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Generation Africa is proud to be the host of Pitch AgriHack 2021. Competitions like this, and the entrepreneurial communities that are shaped around them, give young agripreneurs access to the tools and expertise they need to make their businesses successful,” said Head of Generation Africa, Dickson Naftali.

A seasoned panel of food systems experts with extensive experience across the African agrifood and technology sectors served as judges.

“Seeing the ideas that are coming from young entrepreneurs across Africa makes me very excited about the future of agriculture on our continent,” said Ebunoluwa Bolodeoku, Head of Business Transformation for Africa at Heifer International, and Pitch AgriHack judge.

The judges for the 2021 Pitch AgriHack competition were:

  • Ebunoluwa Bolodeoku – Head Transformation, Africa – Heifer International
  • Elisée Kamanzi – Country Director, Rwanda, Heifer International
  • William Matovu – Country Director, Uganda, Heifer International
  • Ken Lohento – Digital Innovation Strategy Consultant, FAO
  • Nixon Gecheo – Senior Program Officer – Digital Systems & Solutions for Agriculture, AGRA
  • Barbra Muzata – Communications and Brand Leader, Africa Middle East – Corteva Agriscience
  • Grace Vuhya Obeda – Principal Youth Employment Expert at African Development Bank
  • Hafou Touré-Samb – SME Development and Finance Specialist also from African Development Bank

ABOUT HEIFER INTERNATIONAL

For 77 years, Heifer International has worked with more than 36 million people around the world to end hunger and poverty in a sustainable way. Working with rural communities across Africa for 47 years, Heifer International supports farmers and local food producers to strengthen local economies and build secure livelihoods that provide a living income. For information, visit https://www.heifer.org.

ABOUT GENERATION AFRICA

Generation Africa is a thematic platform of the AGRF, whose mandate is to strengthen the ecosystem for youth entrepreneurs in the agri-food sector across Africa. From its start in 2019, Generation Africa has brought together industry leaders, government institutions, NGOs, NPOs, and community platforms to collaborate on ecosystem development, curation and support of agribusinesses, research and advocacy, and the inspiration of young people to embrace opportunities in the agrifood sector. Find out more at https://genafrica.org.

ABOUT THE AGRF

The AGRF is the world’s premier forum for African agriculture, bringing together stakeholders in the agricultural landscape to take practical actions and share lessons that will move African agriculture forward. Under AGRF’s current strategy, the Forum is particularly focused on driving progress of the Malabo Declaration by 2025 as the priority set of commitments African Heads of State and Government have made to strengthen agricultural development at the centre of the continent’s overall development and progress. The AGRF is organized by the AGRF Partners Group, a coalition of institutions that care about Africa’s agriculture transformation. For more information visit https://agrf.org.

Contact: Jane Machigere

jane@jsmcommunications.comwww.genafrica.org

Growth and Opportunities in African Agritech

Agricultural technology is extensive. Agritech can be as complex as an actual farm robot, using artificial intelligence and machine learning, to plant, water, and weed your grow beds. Or it can be as simple as a USSD code that lets a rural farmer access this week’s weather forecast and planting advice on a 15-year-old cell phone.

With global attention on the drastic need for food systems change, all eyes are on agritech to provide solutions. This has led to a flood of opportunities and incredible growth in the sector in recent years.

Growth in African Agritech

Africa is booming. According to research done by Microsoft, reported in Farmers Review Africa, “Between 2016 and 2019, the sector grew by 44% year-on-year and the continent has registered the highest number of agritech services in the developing world, reaching over 33 million smallholder farmers to date.”

Even considering the effects of the pandemic on world economies, the AgFunder 2021 report found that global agrifood technology companies raised more than US$30 BILLION in investment during 2020. And in Africa, investments in agritech companies grew by 23.7% in 2020 reports Business Daily Africa.

Why the Growth?

The challenges faced by food systems in Africa are numerous. And challenges mean opportunities. But African food systems aren’t the only ones that need a refresh. Globally there is a mass movement to rethink the way we produce food to be beneficial for the planet and for people.

Discovering fresh Africa-centric solutions to guide struggling communities out of poverty and into a food secure future, will set an example for global food systems change.

The real test for agritech will be whether it can help farmers and the agri-food value-chain build resilience.

Resilience against shocks

Agritech is “increasingly playing a crucial role in cushioning small-scale farmers against the crop-damaging effects of climate change and the economic pain of the pandemic,” says a recent article by Thompson Reuters Foundation.

The piece highlights how Kenyan farmer Wesley Lang’at made the switch to phone-assisted farming to access inputs, financing, and weather information. This move allowed him to reinvent his small farming business to be more profitable despite the pandemic.

Across Africa, digital platforms offering market linkages have seen a spike in users since the start of the pandemic. Farmers are searching for customer who will pay a fair price. They are trying to maximise their income without losing their hard-earned profit to middlemen.

This definitive shift in farming behaviours has been noticed.

Eyes on Africa

A recent Mckinsey report found that, “In sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 400 digital agriculture solutions are in use, including applications in financial services, market linkages, supply-chain management, advisory and information services, and business intelligence.”

Additionally, “the Ireland government has declared Africa a key partner with which it wants to collaborate on sustainable food production and technology development,” states an Engineering News article.

The wheels have been set in motion. More funding opportunities like Pitch AgriHack, and the Ayute Africa challenge, sponsored by Heifer International, are incentivising young African women and men to bring their solutions to market.

Increasing productivity, increasing incomes, and creating an environment that allows a sustainable primary production value-chain to flourish, is what agritech is all about.

The future and the opportunities belong to the young African agritech entrepreneurs who positively impact real outcomes for farmers.

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info@genafrica.org 

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