Farming is vital for the majority of African economies and accounts for at least 15% of the region’s GDP. Also, around two-thirds of the African population is employed within this sector, the vast majority working on small-scale farms that currently produce approximately 90% of all output.
Lack of access to prerequisite capital that boosts productivity and unstable market demand for farm produce are widespread challenges small-scale farmers in Africa face. As a result of these challenges, Agrorite, an agritech startup company based in Nigeria, has set out to help manage the end-to-end relationship between farmers and premium off-takers while supporting farmers with capital at the beginning of every farm season.
The startup is helping smallholder farmers flourish by managing the value chain between the farmers and premium off-takers. These off-takers sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Agrorite before a farming cycle. The MoU specifies the quality and quantity of farm products that would be provided to the off-takers by Agrorite at the end of a farming season. To fulfil this commitment, Agrorite onboards farmers that cultivate the required produce, then provide them with funding sourced from micro-investors on their crowdfunding platform.
Babatunde Sahliu, Co-founder and CTO at Agrorite, in a recent media chat with Space in Africa said the idea for the company was borne out of the genuine concern of the company’s founder and CEO, Toyosi Ayodele, to help a smallholder farmer in a rural community in Benue State, Nigeria’s food basket, during his mandatory community service year known as NYSC.
“The story of Agrorite started with one farmer, and we currently have over 6,000 smallholder farmers on our network,” Saliu said.
“When we onboard the farmers, we provide them with financial services which we do via our funding platform on agrorite.com. We further offer advisory services where our extension officers are in the field with the farmers in their various communities, and the extension officers make sure these farmers produce the quality required by the off-takers. Then at the end of the farming cycle, we distribute the produce to the premium off-takers who we already a commitment with,” he added.
Using this model, Agrorite has been able to sign up several large commercial buyers of farm produce from within Nigeria and abroad. Saliu revealed that the company had exported over 81 thousand tonnes of farm produce from farms across Nigeria to premium off-takers in eight different countries.
The company is growing and plans to sign up more farmers from other West African countries beginning with Ghana and Benin Republic to Cote d’Ivoire.
In terms of growth in product and service offering, Agrorite is developing a satellite-based farm management tool that would enable farmers to have real-time advisory on their farm and weather conditions, yield predictions and soil testing.
“We are currently working with our farmers in Kaduna state [northern Nigeria] to test the farm management tool. At the end of the nine months testing stage, the tool would be ready for commercial deployment,” Sahliu said.
The management tool also helps to deepen the trust level between Agrorite and the farm sponsors on their crowdsourcing platform, as sponsors can be able to monitor the progress of the farm seamlessly.
The farm management tool is powered by Airbus using the UP42 platform where the startup gets the satellite images and processing algorithms to help process whatever the satellite image is getting from the farms.
Sahliu said that their involvement in the Africa4future Aerospace Accelerator had accorded them the opportunity to collaborate with industry leaders in remote sensing technologies and development actors with a track record of making an impact in Africa.
“The acceleration program has been an insightful journey that has changed the way we view our business model and changes a lot of things for us on the team. It has also exposed us to a network of international agri-tech companies and their approach to foreign solutions. It has been a helpful and great experience for us,” Sahliu concludes.