Kenyan startups tap funding in agri-tech contest

This is in the Heifer International Awards seeking solutions for smallholder farmers.

In Summary

•The winners and finalists of the inaugural AYuTe Africa Challenge Kenya will receive a cash grant of up to $20,000 (Sh2.4 million).

•They will also get mentorship support.

Winners of the Heifer International agri-tech startups challenge/HANDOUT
Winners of the Heifer International agri-tech startups challenge/HANDOUT

Three Kenyan agri-tech startups have won funding in a continental challenge seeking solutions to problems faced by small-holder farmers.

Dubbed “AYuTe Africa Challenge” the initiative by Heifer International Kenya has given Sh20,000 (Sh2.4 million) as seed money to the top startup.

Optimerce Consulting Ltd which digitises the process of produce collection at farm-gate through mobile apps, topped the contest. The company is owned by innovator John Waweru.

Joshua Gitonga, the founder and CEO RafikiPay, a company that deals with the processing of sunflower, groundnuts, soya and canola oil from the hybrid seeds took the second position.

Agrodiverse Ltd Kenya headed by managing director Grace Kyarimpa was third.

The company converts insects, earthworms into sources of protein in animal feed and high-quality organic fertilisers.

The champions of the inaugural Heifer International AYuTe Africa Challenge (Kenya) were chosen from a field of young agritech innovators from across the country.

The competition design targeted companies must have developed a tech solution to address smallholder farmer challenges with strong potential to scale.

The three have received grants of Sh1 million, Sh750,000 and Sh250,000, respectively.

In addition, all the 15 finalists in the contest will benefit from a three -month accelerator and mentorship program.

Besides the top three innovations, other finalists included Azma Foods Ltd, Digital Farmer, Ento (insects) Solutions Ltd, Farm Mall, Farmerline Technologies, Limachain, Nalima Digital, Shambaline Ltd and Soluvax.

Also in the contest was Stofresh Africa, Toothpick Company Ltd and Vermi-Farms Initiative Ltd.

In June 2022, Heifer International Kenya launched the AYuTe Africa Challenge Kenya, to promote and reward agriculture technology innovation across different agricultural value chains in Kenya.

The applications for the challenge run from June 14 to July 14, 2022, while the proposal evaluation pitching and judging were concluded by August 31.

“Having worked with farmers for many years, we see the AYuTe challenge as an opportunity to identify young innovators, walk with them through the journey of fine- tuning them, and linking them to opportunities to scale up those ideas” said Esta Kamau, Country Director, Heifer International Kenya.

A 2021 study by Heifer International pointed to the need for more investments to embrace agriculture as a desirable career.

Funding, training, and access to agricultural technology were identified as the three key areas to encourage youth involvement in agriculture.

“The AYuTe Africa Challenge Kenya competition has affirmed our understanding that many young tech companies require a combination of significant investment and expert guidance,” Kamau said.

Powered by E4Impact Accelerator, the competition aims to offer young entrepreneurs in Africa the opportunity to pitch for investment in their agritech solutions, to boost the incomes and productivity of Africa’s smallholder farmers.

“As E4Impact, we were glad to have been involved by Heifer International Kenya to provide capacity building, training and mentoring of the young agri-tech innovators,” said David Cheboryot, director of the E4Impact Entrepreneurship.

The national competition represents a new phase of Heifer International’s AYuTe Africa Challenge, established in 2021 to award cash grants annually to the most promising young agritech innovators from across Africa.

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