- The future of agriculture is digital not the hand-hoe
- The more efficient a farm is, the more productive it becomes without necessarily increasing land size.
- AfDB awards US$140,000 in grants to AgriPitch competition winners
Agriculture development for food security and poverty reduction cannot be realized without the adaptation of digital solutions.
Digital solutions offer more effective traceability, compliance and farm management systems which make the commercial, large or small, much more effective. In these modern times of food scarcity in the face of ever-increasing demand, efficiency is the name of the game.
The more efficient a farm is, the more productive it becomes without necessarily increasing land size or the amount of crops or animals.
“When it comes to subsistence agriculture, digital transformation is no longer a choice – it’s a need. You can either go digital or disappear,” warns Simon Winter, Executive Director at Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA).
The Swiss-based non-profit works with smallholders in developing countries to help them raise their yields and tap into markets for better income and food security. It is in finding new ways to cater for the ever-increasing demand for food from limited land that we see the need for digital solutions that will help improve the productivity of a farm, he notes.
“Companies who are in the business of supplying or procuring from farmers need to transform themselves to satisfy their customers’ fast-changing demands and the way to do it is to go digital,” asserts Executive Director Winter.
African farmers and all other agribusinesses must start their digital transformation journey sooner than later if they are going to keep up with growing demand and ever-increasing cost of agro-inputs. Similarly, the market for digital solutions is also growing at a substantial rate as more and more farmers and agribusinesses go digital.
There is a growing market for farm management software and with it more convenient and affordable cloud storage services.
“This calls for a major change, not just in farm management, but also business models, processes and, above all, mindset,” says Winter.
According to him, smallholder farmers across South Asia and Africa are generally trapped in a vicious cycle of low productivity, expensive credit, and lack of market connectivity and because of this, subsistence farming tends to be the norm because they simply do not produce enough to go commercial.
“Therefore, to increase the income of smallholder farmers, an integrated approach of increasing productivity, links to markets and access to inputs have to be adopted,” he advised.
AfDB AgriPitch Competition: Promoting digital solutions in agriculture
Nine African youths have won the African Development Bank (AfDB) 2022 AgriPitch Competition. In collaboration with Private Equity Support, Eldohub, and the Private Finance Advisory Network, the AfDB will award US$140,000 in grants and business skills training to the winners.
“There were 25 semi-finalists including 17 women-owned or led small and medium enterprises. Thirteen are from Francophone countries, while the other 12 are from Anglophone countries,” explains an AfDB media communication.
The AgriPitch Competition is specific for African youth between the ages of 18 to 35 years who are working in the agricultural value chain.
“The 25 youth went on to receive training to build business skill capacity with the requisite tools and knowledge to bolster their investor readiness and financial management, and help them pitch bankable business proposals,” reads the media communique.
Commenting on the finalists, Edson Mpyisi, the Bank’s Chief Financial Economist, said; “These young agripreneurs show great potential and are a testament to the level of innovation that exists across Africa. The Bank’s support, through the AgriPitch Competition, will boost the bankability of these projects and provide a tangible step towards enhancing agribusiness and food security on the continent.”
Mpyisi, who is also the coordinator for the bank’s ENABLE Youth program is dedicated to supporting youth development on the continent, went on to congratulate the finalists and was impressed by the many brilliant ideas that were shared.
Notably, the Competition received over 1,000 applications from youth agripreneurs of which 250 of the entries were women-owned small and medium enterprises. The selected semi-finalists attend a two-week business development virtual boot camp.
After the boot camp, the pitching session was held, and finally, nine agripreneurs advanced to the finals.
Also commenting, Diana Gichaga, a Managing Partner at Private Equity Support said; “It’s reassuring to see and evaluate hundreds of great potential investment opportunities from across the region.”
“It reaffirms the crucial role that the agricultural sector plays in the African economy and the continued efforts to bring these initiatives to the fore through platforms such as the AgriPitch Competition,” she said..
Understanding the AgriPitch Competition
The AfDB explains that the AgriPitch Competition awards three start-up categories: Early start-ups (0-3 years of operation), Mature start-ups (3 or more years in operation), and Women-empowered businesses (firms with at least 51% share of women ownership or founded by a woman).
To win, the finalists are required to pitch their agri-business ideas to potential investors. The finalists are also eligible for one-on-one mentorship and training along with the funding.
The 2022 AgriPitch competition, which opened last October, has already received more than 750 entries from some 38 African countries, and most of the applicants are women (68%).
AgriPitch 2022: And here are the winners
Early Start-Ups category
- Winner: Etoduma SARL, Cote d’Ívoire ($25,000)
- 1st runner-up: Agrisiti (Maatalous Nasah), Nigeria ($15,000)
Women Owned/ Led-Business category
- Winner: Contanna, Senegal ($25,000)
- 1st runner-up: Legendary Foods, Ghana ($15,000)
Mature Start-Ups category
- Winner: Minagro Group, Togo ($40,000)
- 1st runner-up: Faso Elevage, Burkina Faso ($20,000)
The AgriPitch Competition aims to instill a culture of innovation and nurture agribusiness innovations to create jobs and improve livelihoods among the youth, the bank explains.
The competition seeks to promote nutrition and gender-inclusive solution that ring innovation to agriculture and promote inclusive growth at the same time.
According to the AfDB, the expected outcome of the competition is to select winning ideas that can lead to new products, businesses, programs, projects, and processes, while engaging young entrepreneurs eager to tackle the challenges they face as well as global challenges through technology.