How agritech can improve profits for farmers and vendors on ‘CNN Marketplace Africa’

This week on ‘CNN Marketplace Africa’, the programme examines the financial benefits of agritech for Kenyan farmers.

Eleni Giokos, host of ‘CNN Marketplace Africa’, visits Kiambu County, 25 kilometers from Nairobi, where 60% of the population relies on farming. Giokos meets Joseph Kiarie Ng’ang’a, a farmer in Kiambu who explains the biggest challenge that he faces: “The middleman is making the most money from our hard work. We are small scale farmers and those who require our produce might bill us large quantities.”

Agritech is helping to bring order to the market and Twiga Foods is one company helping farmers and vendors to improve profits. Vendors order stock from Twiga’s online platform and the company delivers products from small holding farmers to shops the next day.

Twiga says it serves about 3,000 farmers a month and 6,000 clients a week. Grant Brooke, CEO, Twiga Foods explains the benefits of this technology: “If you can aggregate the purchasing power of Africa’s markets, farmers will organize themselves around that purchasing power. They’ll make investments on the backend knowing they have insured market and their production numbers will go up.”

The programme meets Patrick Macharia Njoroge, a vendor who discusses how Twiga has improved the buying process and the stock that he receives: “Using Twiga is cheaper than purchasing products from the market. Before Twiga, I used to buy products from the country. It was a waste of time. Some of the goods were spoiled even before they arrived. But Twiga provides fresh products.”

CNN learns how agritech like Twiga has also helped to enhance the ease, communication and safety for the delivery of produce which, in part, is helped by the mobile money service M-Pesa which is well-used in Kenya. Martha Kariuki who works in the delivery team for Twiga describes how her job has improved in terms of safety and efficiency thanks to agritech: “I’m delivering bananas worth 1,200 Kenyan shillings. He’s going to get a text message. And then he’s going to pay via M-Pesa. It’s easy. We don’t have to carry cash so we’ve eliminated the risk of stealing or getting robbed. Plus, there’s no transaction costs in cards, it’s free.”

Data and analytics are being used by i-Procure to help farmers get products faster and at a better price. i-Procure say that they’ve supplied about 22,000 farmers with produce at a rate 15 to 20% cheaper than the market price. Stefano Carcoforo, CEO, i-Procure tells CNN how their service is beneficial especially for those in more isolated areas: “Most farming communities in Kenya live in quite remote locations. And so access to certain agricultural inputs…in most places, they’re not readily available. The other issue is the price point. The cost of product is significantly higher than what it would be in an urban area. So really, the name of the game is getting the raw materials they need to them in the quantities they need when they need them.”

With agritech proving to be successful, local government would like to work more closely with companies like i-Procure so they can scale even faster. The hope is that providing farmers with more technology will lead to higher yields, and higher profits for Kenya’s agriculture industry. James Nyoro, Deputy Governor of Kiambu County explains: “There needs to be some interaction so that as soon as the innovation is developed, it can be replicated very quickly and then it reaches more farmers.”

‘CNN Marketplace Africa’ airs on Friday 16th February at 1815 EAT CNN International