Agritech investment remains low in Africa despite great successes by some startups. Egyptian agritech startup FreshSource Global announced last February 28 it has secured seed funding to finance its expansion. The B2B platform, which connects farms to businesses in Egypt and provides last-mile solutions, said it has raised an undisclosed “seven-figure” round in dollars from Wamda Capital, 4DX Ventures, and some angel investors.

“We are planning to use the funds to expand our team and invest more in our technology. Also, we are going to be covering all of Egypt’s governorates by the end of 2023. By 2024, we will start considering a global expansion plan,” said co-Founder Farah Emara. She believes the new resources will help "accelerate our mission to create more sustainable fresh food systems through data and technology to transform the lives of producers, businesses and consumers and improve the planet."

FreshSource acts as an intermediary between agricultural producers and businesses such as supermarkets. The company founded in 2018 and launched in 2019 relies on a digital platform through which it centralizes supply from farmers and demand from retailers. It ensures that customers' needs are met by reducing the number of intermediaries through which agricultural products pass. It also ensures the safety of agricultural products, particularly in terms of preservation and transportation to the buyer.

By 2020, FreshSource was already claiming 300 local farmers as users of its service, creating 1,500 jobs and also having prevented 200 tons of food loss. According to Farah Emara, "By reducing food waste, you reduce the cost of fresh food and enable a segment of the population that couldn't afford it before to live a healthier lifestyle. Also, this method increases producers’ income and thus improves their quality of life.”

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Tech

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

Published in Solutions

Tunisian AgTech startup Lifeye launched an innovative solution to help farmers in Africa increase their livestock and milk production. The solution was quickly adopted in several countries on the continent.  It is an app (MooMe) downloadable for free on Google play store and Huawei AppGallery.

MooMe was designed in 2019 by three entrepreneurs who wanted to address recurrent problems of cattle farming in Tunisia, such as poor fertility and difficulty in detecting early diseases. The services built into the app will help users better monitor cow calving and fertility, and have full control over their animals, including troublemakers. "The most important thing for a breeder is to know when to do artificial insemination. This data allows us to alert him in advance," explained Ahmed Achballah, one of MooMe’s founders and a graduate in applied sciences.

According to Mohamed Kallel, also co-founder of MooMe, the platform offers accurate data and enables the farmer to quickly detect when something is going wrong with his cattle. The app is linked to a connected cow collar, which is equipped with a small sensor that analyzes the level of rumination and movements to identify diseases such as mastitis or lameness. The collar also helps evaluate the animal's fertility period. MooMe collects data via boxes that are installed in the cowsheds. Once collected, the information is translated into algorithms and spreadsheets that are sent back to the startup's headquarters in Tunis, where the platform to which farmers have access is located.

The connected cow collar is sold for TND200 (€62) with monthly subscription bundles. It was tested on farms in the northwest of Tunisia and provided great results. Lifeye claims 2,500 cows registered in its database and more than 1,500 users in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Senegal, in addition to Tunisia. The company has secured financing, last year, from Maxula Seed Fund to improve its app.

Muriel Edjo

Published in Solutions
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