Nigerian tech solution linking small farmers to offtakers wins $10,000

To solve the problem that smallholder farmers face in terms of lack of direct access to markets, Ifeoluwa Olatayo founded Soupah Farm-en-Market Limited; an e-marketplace that connects rural small-scale farmers to large off-takers with end-to-end supply chain traceability.

Her agritech solution earned her the Agriculture Youth and Technology (AYuTe) Challenge grand prize of $10,000. Participants at the event described Olatayo’s win as “well-deserved”.

Due to market fragmentation and rural-urban distance, smallholder farmers are the most vulnerable to bad pricing after having done all the hard work till the point of harvest. There are many middlemen as foods move from farm to fork and the activities of these myriad of middlemen are exploitative.

“We connect rural smallholder farmers to urban markets by using a simple USSD short code as a procurement interface. So majorly, we’re improving the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers by giving them added profit, instead of just allowing them to sell the products cheaply to the middlemen. We buy from them at better prices, about 50 percent higher than the typical traditional market,” Olatayo said at the grand finale ceremony of Heifer’s AYuTe challenge for agritech innovators held Wednesday in Lagos.

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“There are a lot of solutions that can be created, and the reason is that Nigeria is full of so many problems. Agriculture, for example, is not producing enough GDP like it should, so it tells us opportunities are available in that industry. Where problems abound, solutions should abound also. Using technology, we can scale faster and grow bigger”.

The AYuTe Africa Challenge, an initiative of Heifer International, is aimed at improving smallholder farmers’ productivity, increasing visibility for growth while serving as a springboard for identifying outstanding young agritech innovators in various Heifer countries, as well as assisting in the formation of strong partnerships.

Heifer International started work in Nigeria in 2021, investing in the creativity of young Nigerians and new technologies to unlock opportunities within the agricultural sector for sustainable living incomes, food security, improved livelihoods, and resilience.

Adesuwa Ifedi, senior vice president of Africa Programs at Heifer International, said the new technologies and innovation can combat/address the prominent issues such as weather challenges, access to markets, insecurity, etc., that the sector is currently faced with.

Emmanuel Fatai Audu, director of Agriculture Training Institute who represented Abisola Olusanya, the Lagos State commissioner for Agriculture, made reference to the Covid period when the lockdown ground commercial activities.

“Nobody needed much fuel, clothes, vehicles, a change of TV, but everybody needed food, every household required food, so much so that we saw the break-ins into food storage warehouses because at every point in time, there’s always a demand for food,” Olusanya said.

Rejoice Amarachi, the first runner-up of the challenge and founder of SimKay Foods Limited is using her innovation to address the issue of increasing tomato wastage and post-harvest losses for fresh tomato farmers.

SimKay Foods is addressing this problem by training farmers on climate-adaptive farming practice, thereby encouraging all-year-round tomato farming. The organisation offtakes the farmers’ excess and processes them into tomato powder to retain the original tomato taste, and flavour and increase its shelf-life. She earned for herself the second prize of $6,000.

Stephen Obe, founder of Evet Technology, an organisation building smart technologies to improve farm productivity and prevent pre-harvest wastages was the second runner-up. He won a $4,000 cash prize as the third-position innovator at the challenge.

Evet’s debut product is a mobile application that uses machine learning and data to help farmers detect the earliest possible signs of animal and plant diseases and provide them accurate recommendations on how to tackle it.