Senegal: Agtech startup Tolbi to boost agricultural irrigation in Africa

By : Ruben Tchounyabe

Date : mardi, 01 février 2022 00:41

Last updated : mardi, 01 février 2022 00:49

Senegalese multiple award-winning agtech startup Tolbi announced plans to raise $500,000 this year to develop its activity. Tolbi, which means field in Wolof, was founded by Mouhamadou Lamine Kébé, a graduate of the Dakar polytechnic school who majored in telecom network systems. Lamine initiated the idea in 2019 with three of his classmates to tackle the water management problems experienced by Senegalese farmers.

Tolbi offers a set of connected objects based on artificial intelligence and edge computing to facilitate field irrigation and improve agricultural yield. "We use drones, satellite imagery, and connected objects with moisture sensors to allow the user to have real-time information about the water and fertilizer needs of their fields. This helps optimize irrigation and improve yield. It makes it possible to reduce water and fuel inputs upstream, thus reducing production costs," Mouhamadou Lamine Kébé explained.

Tolbi’s team of engineers process the data collected by sensors through AI algorithms to extract key information for decision making. The analyzed data is made available to users via dedicated apps to enable them to make a decision. The solution is accessible to all farmers, even those with modest incomes or illiterate, via a mobile phone and a SIM card. All the farmer has to do is dial the device number and interact with a voice command system in Wolof or Pulaar, two languages spoken in Senegal.

"We have succeeded in optimizing agricultural yields by up to 30% while reducing water losses by up to 60%," Lamine Kébé said.  The startup has grown well since its launch and now offers many other services such as plant counting, land shaping, yield estimation, plant health analysis, and weed analysis.

The strong impact Tolbi has on agriculture has earned it several awards including the Grand Prix of the President of the Republic for Digital Innovation in 2020. The startup aims to become a leader in smart agriculture in Africa. For the upcoming year, it plans to enter Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, and Morocco.

In 2018, agriculture contributed 9.4% to Senegal's GDP, according to the 2020 report of the National Agency for Statistics and Demography (ANSD).

Ruben Tchounyabe


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