The World Bank, Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture and other partners have announced plans to launch Africa’s first Agri-tech innovation incubator in the next three years aimed at stem disruptive agricultural technologies.
According to the World Bank, the incubator will spur the connection of over a million Kenyan farmers to a digital platform-for-market-access, production information, and financial services.
Experts believe that to enhance the impact of digital and disruptive technologies on Kenyan agricultural value chain, a new shift that involves innovative programme design, systematic investment in the knowledge, innovation and incubation ecosystem, is required.
The agri-tech solutions that the initiative will target include precision agriculture, internet-of-things, drones, crop and soil sensing, weed sensing, disease sensing, and fintech solutions. “Digital innovation is creating unprecedented opportunities for Africa to grow its economy.
Through the One-Million Farmer Initiative, the World Bank Group and its partners, will harness the power of innovation in Kenya to vastly improve food security and farmer incomes,” said Mr Parmesh Shah, the World Bank Global Lead for Rural Livelihoods and Agricultural Jobs.
He was speaking at the ‘Disruptive Agricultural Technology Conference’ recently held in Nairobi. Disruption of Kenya’s agricultural value chains and food systems is aimed at keeping up with the rising food, feed and fibre demand fuelled by the rapidly growing population, urbanization and effects of climate change.
Data from the Institute of Security Studies suggests that food production in Kenya would need to grow by 75 per cent by 2030, in order to plug the demand for and avoid food insecurity.
The technologies will also help farmers to meet the growing demand for agricultural products in Kenya and all over Africa. Ms Jeehye Kim, an agricultural economist at the World Bank, said: “We believe that with this kind of platform, and by supporting start-ups and entrepreneurs into the digital agricultural tech space, we will be able to reach 1 million farmers and transform the way farming looks for smallholders.”
She added: “With these, farmers will benefit from more efficiency in terms of access to capital, labour and be able to take farming to the next level.”
And what will this mean for the developed or budding innovators in the agricultural sector? Digital platforms linking the smallest agricultural businesses to buyers will allow better prices, and increase their incomes by about 50 per cent. The incubators will also lead to growth in food production.
According to McKinsey research, Kenya accounts for 25 per cent of all agri-tech start-ups in Africa, and has a vibrant agricultural sector that is ripe to capitalise on digital technologies and innovations, to support agricultural transformation and the government’s Big 4 Agenda.
“Kenya is already a hub for Disruptive Agriculture Technologies. Our role is to foster collaboration among startups on-profits by providing a platform that provides shared services,” Ms Kim explained.
The innovation incubator platform, she noted, will act as a common access to data, including farm registration data, soil map data and satellite information on weather that can be used by each innovator to scale up their business model.
The growth in agri-tech solutions, is partly due to a responsive legal environment, supportive infrastructure, and a large number of technologically endowed youth. Technologies are rapidly growing and building the resilience of famers to climate change shocks. And innovators, too, have simplified the life of farmers further, by developing technologies that do not require access to internet or sophisticated phones.
Examples abound of innovations that use videos and pictures to reach millions of farmers. Ms Kim added: “Our interest is to create a platform that will supply youth, women and old farmers with technologies that require minimal connectivity to dispense weather or agronomic data.”
Mr Michael Hailu, the director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) reiterated the importance of digitalisation as an entry point into the hugely important agricultural sector for young entrepreneurs.
“The DAT Challenge conference has been an excellent opportunity to see some of the burgeoning and thriving agri-tech ecosystems in Kenya. At CTA, we have seen that digitalisation offers young entrepreneurs the opportunity to create disruptive business models that can transform smallholder agriculture, and provide young people with an entry point into the hugely important agricultural sector,” said Mr Hailu.
Read more stories in Smart Farmer Magazine Issue 43