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Market for farmers: Can a phone app deliver?

Transportation costs can limit farmers’ choice in where they sell their crops, and may affect which type of crops they grow and how much of their harvest they sell, exchange, or consume. Transporting horticultural crops can be particularly costly for individual farmers without coordination across producers, given the potential for crop spoilage. Because optimal cropping and harvesting cycles yield more frequent, small volume harvests.

Two graduates, Martha and Elvin are tackling this problem head-on. The duo are developing an app that will connect farmers directly to markets. With post harvest losses arising from inadequate market access by most farmers, this innovation is timely. 

The app, Okoa Foods, is an online platform (Android and web application) that offers a marketplace for agricultural products. The app connects farmers, livestock producers, small farm produce retailers and fisherfolk to consumers. The agricultural products range from avocados, onions, pineapples, mangoes, maize and beans, along with predictive weather and climate analytics and accurate agricultural advice for farmers.

Launched in August 2020, the enterprise has connected more than 50 farmers and 30 food processors to a direct market. In addition, it has provided two permanent employment opportunities. 

Okoa Foods is available online and soon will be launched on the google play store. The founder says one will have to download it and install it on their mobile phones to access it. 

“Okoa Foods aims to help farmers get accurate and consistent weather for the present and future. It will advise on crops to plant, the timing, the required procedures for farming and how to combat crop pests. Moreover, it will advise farmers on the period for harvesting and how to do it safely, to gain maximum yield,” said Martha Akinyi, the Managing Director of Okoa Foods.

The application offers farmers better and accurate predictive farming information depending on their various locations by providing proper soil, crop and microclimate data through a farmer portal that also keeps track of their farming activities.

“Okoa Foods will connect farmers directly to the local consumer market. This will give independent farmers and cooperatives the ability to sell their farm produce easily and as well enable buyers to contact farmers easily,” says Martha.

One of the unique features of the app, according to Martha, is the profiling feature which will help to identify the type of produce farmers in a specific location will have in a given season and their anticipated harvest period, which guides the out takers to link them to.  As a bonus, Okoa Foods will provide a forum for one to ask questions related to their farming practices and provide a communication channel for farmers through the formation of communication channels and groups.

By using the app, the farmer is guaranteed robust data to reduce surplus overtime, attain halal certification to access takaful funds and microcredits, and enjoy refrigeration services, professional packaging, & mentorship. On the other hand, consumers’ benefit includes being able to order directly from farmer & subscribe to flexible weekly service, shop for halal certification products (if Muslim), bid for competitive and fair prices, and receive & give food donations, & access fast and reliable deliveries.

In 2019, Okoa Foods participated in IbizAfrica/ Standard Chartered Women in Tech Incubator programme and Covid Innovation Challenge Hackathon to get insights into the technology world. Besides the tech training, the app developers have expertise in sharia certification of non-interest credit products and Halal certification training and encoding knowledge, which sets them apart from the average entrepreneur.

Currently, the enterprise is enrolled in the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre incubation program under the AgriBiz program. “Our partnership with KCIC was timely. We have access to immense support, including; business advisory, practical training and business coaching to facilitate proof of concept and access to financing. By leveraging on KCIC’s partner networks, Martha says her enterprise received capacity building and established a rapid business growth path, creating an enabling environment for Okoa Foods Ltd to launch successfully. 

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