On Saturday, 8th September 2018, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA) concluded a five-day Pitch AgriHack final, with the awarding of best startups in the presence of African heads of states and heads of governments, in Kigali, Rwanda. The initiative was conducted during the 2018 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), with the support of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Suguba Africa and with the collaboration of partners including Impact Hub Kigali.
All 26 finalists involved in the start-up competition (including 14 women-owned companies) participated on 04 and 05 September in a training on investment readiness and financial management organised in collaboration with Suguba Africa. The objectives of the training were to help finalist start-ups identify key limits of their financial management strategy and identify actions they need to put in place to better manage their finances, and improve their readiness to raise capital (grants, loans, equity investments, etc.) from potential investors and development organisations.
Awards were given on 8th September during the closing ceremony of the AGRF, after a presidential exchange session, in the presence of officials including: H.E. Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda; H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President, Republic of Ghana; H.E. William Samoei Arap Ruto, Deputy President of Kenya; H.E. Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, Prime Minister, Republic of Gabon.
The following four winners were announced in the early stage category:
- Illuminum Greenhouses Kenya, Kenya (€7500)
Illuminum Greenhouses™ Kenya is a farming solutions company providing affordable greenhouses equipped with solar powered sensors that automate irrigation; it therefore enables the Internet of Things (IoT) to penetrate and reach the base of pyramid farmers. So far, they have built about 1,200 greenhouses across East Africa, with 5,500 Smallholder farmers using their technology.
- Fenou Foods/Fenou Packaging, Benin (€7500)
The young company offers AgriPack, an online platform that allows agrofood stakeholders to find and buy the right packaging for their products. It offers a selection of biodegradable bags and advices young agripreneurs on how to pack food in an environmentally friendly way. The company also produces agro-processed food.
- Develop Digitally, Jamaica (€5000)
The startup offers Farm Credibly, a platform that allows unbanked farmers in Jamaica to easily access credit. By getting data from suppliers and distributors, a trusted and secure farmer profile is established. FarmCredibly empowers creditors with the means to reduce risk in issuing loans and insurance to farmers by leveraging Blockchain technology. They recently won an IBM hackathon.
- Farmignite Company, Nigeria (€5000)
Farmignite gives you the opportunity to fund a farm, empower small-scale farmers and share in the harvest. The system facilitates the aggregation of investors’ requests. Farm Ignite is helping to increase farm output, reduce food importation, and increase revenues for farmers and investors.
In the advanced stage category, the winners included:
- CowTribe Africa, Ghana (€15000)
Cowtribe is a cloud based demand aggregation and last mile animal vaccine delivery management platform. On the client side, farmers can place orders for vaccines via a USSD platform or android app. The system then aggregates these orders by zones and region for optimized deliveries. The mobile app allows service providers to receive job notifications, manage and optimize delivery tasks. More than 9,000 vaccine requests have been fulfilled.
- Agro Innova, Ghana (€15000)
AgroInnova offers “Akokotakra“, a mobile and web based management software which helps poultry farmers to record, monitor and keep comprehensive records of their farm operations in real time, both online and offline. More than 100 poultry farms signed up on the platform three month after its launched and they are steadily generating revenues.
- Ankora Global Services, Nigeria (€12000)
With their product SmartFarm, Ankora Global Services provides commercial farming hub where busy professionals and beginning farmers can get access to land, modern farming facilities, professional management and market. They provide various ICT-enabled services including using drones. They have collaborated among others with the Central Bank of Nigeria to empower farmers.
- CLIN SARLU (e-agribusiness), Togo (€12000)
CLIN SARLU is an agricultural information system equipped with a call centre in local languages, a USSD, SMS, web and mobile applications. It enables farmers to find new markets for their products. It provides buyers with relevant information to facilitate their purchases. The start-up has just been selected to provide services to government projects in Togo and Côte d’Ivoire.
In addition to the above-mentioned prizes, Suguba Africa offered a special award to the best Francophone start-up led by a woman. The prize worth €2,500 was awarded to FENOU PACKAGING from Benin.
Best Pitch AgriHack final ever
“Pitch AgriHack has been fantastic. First of all, just being in Kigali has been an eye-opening experience. Specifically, the investment readiness workshop has been extremely useful for us. We take home a lot of lessons and we will be certainly using them to keep propelling us forward; we’ll definitely make better use of funding having gone through this training” – said Varun Baker, CEO of Develop Digitally and winner of Pitch AgriHack 2018.
Prior to the announcement of results, the start-ups pitched their solutions to AGRF participants and a panel of judges on 06 September, in a very lively, fascinating and entertaining day. Before the pitching day, the entrepreneurs had the opportunity to attend a pitching training session delivered by Impact Hub Kigali. They learnt useful tips on how to structure their pitches, and were able to practice and receive feedback from mentors and peers.
The 26 entrepreneurs highly valued the Pitch AgriHack experience as they had the opportunity to interact with other young entrepreneurs, network with potential investors and with high-level officials and agribusiness leaders.
“This was by far the best Pitch AgriHack final we have organised so far in three editions, said Ken Lohento Senior Programme Coordinator in charge of the activity at CTA. “With the theme of the competition focused on women entrepreneurs, we had over 50% of women finalists; we had an audience of close to 3,000 AGRF participants and the quality of start-up services have much improved”. The start-ups will now be benefit from various opportunity to grow, apart from cash prize won.
Pitch AgriHack 2018 is a competition that aims at accelerating e-agriculture entrepreneurship for improved livelihoods in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. It targets start-ups founded by young entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 35 years. 325 start-ups applied initially. The finalists come from 9 different countries (Nigeria, Kenya, Benin, Uganda, Ghana, Jamaica, Togo, Suriname and Rwanda) and are both at early-stage and advanced-stage of their business development. Other partners involved in the organisation of the competition are Women in Tech Africa, Wennovation Hub (Nigeria), East African Trade and Investment Hub, Jokkolabs (international), Impact Hub Bamako (Mali), Impact Dakar (Senegal), BongoHive, the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND) and Yeesal AgriHub (Senegal).
Written by Impact Hub Kigali
Project Manager – Impact Hub Kigali
Hackathon for Climate Early Warning- ‘Internet of Things (IoT) for Climate Early Warning and Recovery in Rwanda’ Project
On Tuesday July 24th, the Rwanda Meteorology Agency (Meteo Rwanda) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) concluded a 5-day Hackathon on the application of IoT for Climate Early Warning.
The Hackathon brought together different developers and climate data scientists across the region to test technology and applications to address Disaster Preparedness and Early Warning Systems through ‘real time’ environmental data collection, analysis and dissemination.
Rwanda is a country highly prone to disaster, including landslides, flash floods, droughts, windstorm, lightning and earthquakes. Over 157,000 people vulnerable to drought, 7,431 are vulnerable to landslide, and over 5,000 houses are vulnerable to windstorm in the rural areas. Real-time micro level climate data is critical for disaster risk management, early warning and for rapid response to disaster. However, collection of this data is challenging. A large part of present data collection is done manually, with data being sent monthly by phone and paper forms. This can delay the early warning mechanism and in the face of large scale disaster, be inefficient to provide first-hand scoping information, and moreover lead to loss of data.
In order to pilot new and innovative methods to effectively collect and disseminate micro-climate data that matches the needs of the people, Meteo Rwanda with the support of UNDP and funding from Noreps has been implementing the ‘Internet of Things (IoT) for Climate Early Warning and Humanitarian Recovery in Rwanda’ project. Through multiple workshops and consultations with local stakeholders facilitated by Impact Hub Kigali, the project identified opportunities for technology innovation to support data collection, analysis and dissemination.
The 10 teams, total 34 engineers and climate data scientists set out to prototype solutions to these opportunities during the 5-day Hackathon in Kayonza district. Meteo Rwanda, MIDIMAR, RISA, RAB, RWFA,Tumba College of Technology (TCT), District & Sector officials together with representative farmers and other stakeholders from the relevant government institutions and non-governmental organisations were present for the the first half of the Hackathon to talk with the developers to better clarify the pain points and
challenges that the organisations face with disaster preparedness and early warning systems.
In addition, Meteo Rwanda staff and students from Tumba College of Technology were given training sessions on IoT devices including communications, calibration and data analysis, durability and security, and their maintenance. Education and knowledge transfer was present throughout the entire hackathon as the students, staff and hackathonparticipants benefited from the expertise and the presence of mentors from the Rwanda private sector, Ghana and Kenya, University of Tokyo professors, and the Impact Hub Kigali
Serge Senyana, Meteorological Applications Officer at Meteo Rwanda noted “ when the weather patterns become disastrous, you get smarter to reduce vulnerability; so, you need design thinking and hacking capabilities to provide good solutions.”
A partnership workshop for the main stakeholders was held on Tuesday morning to work on ideas for scale up of the IoT project after this phase, validate the applications/solutions that were developed from the first phase of the IoT project which was concluded in February, and as well as present awards to the teams that participated in the Hackathon.
René Kabalisa, Principal Research and Development at RISA enthusiastically noted “Wonderful to find more than 40 young innovators with an eagerness to come up with ideas to solve issues in our society utilising ICT and taking leadership in implementing these solutions for our community and the country as a whole”.
Elisabeth Yambabariye, Flood Risk Management Engineer at MIDIMAR echoed this sentiment about the hackathon: “The Hackathon was really amazing and Rwanda is lucky to have young engineers like these young people! The future free of vulnerable people to disasters is secured.”
Gaspard Twagirayezu, Science and Technology Policy Analyst at the National Council for Science and Technology, who was present at the Hackathon as one of the mentors for the teams said “The hackathon is proof that we have young people who are able to create solutions to our challenges using technology”.
Participants demonstrated a good understanding of challenges in disaster management and worked hard to come up with solutions that have potential to transform the sector. The participants need to be encouraged
and supported to ensure their solutions are successfully deployed. “Indeed, the participants are going to be supported to implement their solutions. Meteo Rwanda and MIDIMAR will be implementing some of the solutions and RISA has expressed interest to fund implementation and scaling of some of the solutions.
Final prototypes awarded included the below three Grand Prizes. Four teams were awarded Silver Prizes and 3 teams awarded Inspirational Prizes.
Team Ecodev – Applied machine learning to disaster risk assessment and prototyped an initial model which can be ‘trained’ by adding historical weather and disaster information.
Team Binary Earth – A coordination platform between Meteo Rwanda, MIDIMAR and other institutions using a dynamic Geographic Information System (GIS) to pass on weather hazard information and disaster risk assessments in a timely and effective manner.
Team STES- Prototyped a solar powered WMO standard compliant soil moisture sensor mesh network system using radio transmission so that can be set up in remote areas. Soil moisture data is critical for flood and drought disaster prediction.
Meteo Rwanda: Rwanda Meteorology Agency was present to ensure that the technologies and applications being developed are relevant and meet the needs of the users. Meteo provided further clarification of existing systems and the current gaps/challenges.
RISA: Rwanda Information Society Authority in charge of implementing the national Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) policies and programs to fast-track socio-economic growth. RISA will be supporting some of the solutions to be scaled up and will play a big role in the next phase of the IoT project.
UNDP: The United Nations Development Programme was the lead agency implementing the whole project based on partnership with Meteo Rwanda.
NOREPS: Network of humanitarian organisations and private companies facilitated by innovation Norway. They were the overall funder of the project.
MIDIMAR: Rwanda’s Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs. MIDIMAR was present to provide meaningful insights on disaster related issues and what specific challenges they face in regards to early warning systems.
RAB: The Rwanda Agricultural Board was present to share the specific challenges from the Agriculture point of view, and to ensure the needs of the agronomists and farmers will be considered as solutions are developed.
RWFA: Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority. RWFA provided insights on issues related to deforestation and landslides and opportunities available in regards to early warning systems.
University of Tokyo: The University of Tokyo helped in capacity building by training students on setting up and use of IoT sensors.
Impact Hub Kigali: part-innovation lab, part-incubation center offers a unique ecosystem of resources to grow positive impact. IHK was the overall facilitator of the project, provided technical mentorship to the teams, and held training sessions on IoT.