- Press Release
Lagos/Nairobi/Johannesburg, 31 January, 2023—Heifer International announced today the 2022 winners of the AYuTe Africa Challenge that supports agritech innovators: ThriveAgric of Nigeria, Kenya’s DigicCow and Botwana-based Brastorne Enterprises.
ThriveAgric is a fast-growing start-up boosting farmer incomes and production with its breakthrough “agriculture operating system.” DigiCow is an agritech firm using digital tools to modernize production on small-scale dairy farms, while the digital technology for feature phones developed by Brastorne Enterprises is narrowing Africa’s rural digital divide.
“At a time when Africa is facing unprecedented food-related challenges, it is incredibly inspiring to see these young African champions firmly focused on an agriculture-led future that provides farmers with the innovations they need to succeed,” said Adesuwa Ifedi, senior vice president of Africa Programs, Heifer International. “We launched this competition in 2021, challenging African youths to bring us innovations poised to provide the positive disruption our farmers urgently need. ThriveAgric, DigiCow and Brastorne are more than ready to meet the moment,” she noted.
As winners of the 2022 AYuTe Africa Challenge, the three companies will receive a sizeable monetary investment: a total of USD 1.5 million in grants, along with ongoing support from a team of expert advisers—accomplished business veterans—to help them translate their funding into an aggressive expansion strategy. This is part of Heifer International’s commitment to support young entrepreneurs developing affordable tech innovations as they work to scale their businesses. Doing so makes new services and technologies available to African farmers to overcome long-standing challenges while attracting a new generation to unlock the huge potential of agriculture on the continent.
All three of the 2022 winners are helping African farmers by providing a novel solution to everyday obstacles:
ThriveAgric addresses a key challenge for small-scale farmers in Africa—a lack of access to finance, technical advice, business skills and market opportunities. It does so by using a proprietary Agriculture Operating System to help a team of 2,000 field agents support some 500,000 farmers across 22 Nigerian states with insights to improve their production and profits.
“We’ve developed the technologies, strategies and partnerships we believe can build the largest network of productive, profitable farmers Africa has ever seen,” said Uka Eje, Thrive Agric’s co-founder and CEO. “ThriveAgric’s 500,000 farmers are already producing and earning much more than the average Nigerian farmer. Investors are responding to our potential and this prestigious award from Heifer International will accelerate our plans to expand across the continent.”
DigiCow is helping small-scale African dairy operations increase productivity with technology that provides free access to livestock management experts and links farmers to skilled and qualified veterinarians, artificial insemination providers and feed supply services—all from their mobile phones.
“I grew up watching my mom struggle to get our cows to produce enough milk, and I’ve spent 15 years working with small-scale dairy farmers, so I know the challenges farmers face,” said Peninah Wanja, the founder of Nairobi-based DigiCow. “That’s why it’s been so exciting to see 60,000 farmers—many of them women—now using our DigiCow apps to become more profitable and productive. With this new support from Heifer International, I’m confident we can expand our reach to help small-scale dairy farmers across the continent.”
Brastorne’s apps, such as mAgri, give farmers access to farming information, markets and short-term finance using the capabilities of any feature phone, such as SMS and interactive voice technology. The Brastorne mobile service Mpotsa (“Ask me”) provides rural unconnected mobile users with localized information, and Vuka harnesses USSD technology to allow users on any phone to create profiles, add friends, create chat groups, and more. These technologies have helped farmers realize a 250% increase in yields and achieve 85% savings in communication and information access. The company also boasts 100% youth employment.
“About 80% of Africans cannot afford smartphones or expensive data — but they do have feature phones, and Brastorne is ensuring those phones connect farmers, youth and women to the resources they need,” said Martin Stimela, co-founder and CEO of Brastorne. “We look forward to working with Heifer International to connect the rural poor with equitable access to markets, information and community.”
About Heifer International
For 78 years, Heifer International has worked with more than 40 million people around the world to end hunger and poverty in a sustainable way. Working with rural communities across Africa for 48 years, Heifer International supports farmers and local food producers to strengthen local economies and build secure livelihoods that provide a living income. For information, visit https://www.heifer.org.
ThriveAgric is a fast-growing agricultural technology company passionate about ensuring food security. It links farmers to capital, data-driven best practices and access to local and global markets for their commodities.
About DigiCow Africa, LTD
DigiCow Africa is a Kenyan company registered in 2014, with operations beginning in 2016. Its core business is the development of mobile phone technologies for the agricultural sector to enable the agricultural value chain to increase productivity and profitability through data-driven decisions. In April 2019, DigiCow won the Disruptive Agricultural Technologies challenge organized by the World Bank, emerging as the most innovative agritech in Kenya.
About Brastorne Enterprises
Brastorne harnesses USSD technology of basic feature phones to connect millions of rural Africans to information, markets, legal services and community, narrowing Africa’s digital divide. Brastorne services are used by 40% of Botswana’s active feature phone users and the company launched services in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2021. Brastorne Enterprises is one of the 60 beneficiaries of the Google for Start-ups Black Founders Fund Africa 2022 program.