The Kenya AgriHack, organized by AICCRA, took place on November 8th and 9th in Nairobi, Kenya, aiming to address post-harvest losses in horticulture, cereals, and dairy value chains.This event emphasized gender-responsive, collaborative solutions involving engaged ecosystem players.
By: Caroline Musau, Mercy Zulu-Hume, Lidya Tesfaye, Amy Harris
Post-harvest losses pose a significant challenge to agriculture in Kenya, with statistics revealing their pervasive impact on various value chains. The Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) project, the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT International (ABC), CGIAR Accelerate for Impact Platform (A4IP), in collaboration with The Rallying Cry, recently organized the launch of the Kenya Agri Hackathon (Kenya AgriHack) on November 8th and 9th, 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya in response to this challenge. Emerging as an initiative from the Climate Smart Investment Plan (CSAIP) for Kenya, this event aimed to address the critical issue of post-harvest losses, particularly in cereals, horticulture, and dairy value chains.
The Climate-Smart Agriculture Investment Plan (CSAIP) for Kenya is a strategic plan designed to support both public and private investments towards nationally supported and scientifically screened climate priorities, with a specific focus on the implementation of innovations in climate-smart agriculture. Notably, post-harvest losses emerged as a significant challenge, especially in Kenya, where an estimated 40 percent of harvested crops are lost annually, leading to financial losses of up to USD 500 million (WFP, 2023). For instance, maize recorded a loss of 16.7 percent (African Post-Harvest Losses Information Systems - APHILIS), while dairy experienced a 4.5 percent loss (MoALF, 2013), and these losses surged to a staggering 50 percent in certain horticulture value chains.
With over 130 applications received, the hackathon brought together 15 teams and 9 individuals, totaling 24 ideas. These innovators converged to develop solutions targeting post-harvest losses while integrating gender and climate-smart approaches into their innovations. In addition (6) entrepreneur support organisations (ESOs), (6) research Institutions, (3) policy makers and (10) other private sector stakeholders were present to support in design of solutions.
Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Jonathan Mueke, inaugurated the event by delivering the keynote speech. His inspiring words resonated: "Don't just be a hacker; become an architect of change, ensuring no harvest goes to waste. Let's leave a lasting impact for a generation where every harvest truly counts." He emphasized the critical importance of the hackathon challenge, underlining the opportunity costs incurred by the Kenyan economy due to a historical failure to address the issue.
The 2-day event featured panel discussions, roundtables, exhibition sessions, and workshops for the innovators.
Panel Discussions on Post-Harvest Losses, Technology, and Finance: Engaging dialogues explored the intricacies of post-harvest losses, delving into challenges and opportunities. Key themes like food security, climate change implications, and gender disparities took center stage, fostering insightful discussions. Additionally, a dedicated session in technology and finance delved into transformative solutions, with a focus on promoting inclusive growth and mitigating losses within agriculture.
Roundtable Discussions: This session's primary objective was structured to pinpoint sector-specific challenges related to post-harvest losses and propose interventions encompassing climate resilience and gender inclusivity. Participants were organized into four themed groups: Private Sector Agribusiness Players, Connecting Science and Business, Entrepreneur Support Organizations (ESOs), and Access to Finance and Insurance. The key outcome encompassed a shift in perceptions and mindsets by breaking down barriers between different sectors. This led to a fruitful exchange of diverse ideas, fostering enhanced collaboration.
Exhibition Session: Agripreneurs showcased innovative products targeting post-harvest losses, providing a platform to exchange ideas and explore potential collaborations.
Workshop Sessions for Innovators: Participants embarked on a structured journey through design thinking stages, empowering them. Starting from problem framing, user-centric design, and moving through product-market fit and prototyping, this guided process ensured a comprehensive understanding without overwhelming participants.
Pitch Preparation and Mastering: Innovators refined their pitches through interactive workshops, gaining insights into crafting compelling narratives and condensing complex information into concise presentations. Mentors offered invaluable support, transforming the tense pitching atmosphere into confident storytelling opportunities.
"The training and mock pitch sessions, guided by mentors, were invaluable in helping us craft an award-winning pitch deck. The pitch template differed from most traditional formats I had previously used. The coaches simplified the entire process, transforming the usual tension I feel before pitching into a calm opportunity to share our story confidently. The on-site development of the pitch with limited timelines fostered a one-on-one connection with supportive mentors." (Florence Mathingau-Founder, Agri-business Solutions)
Final Pitch Presentations: As the event reached its culmination, each team presented their innovative solutions to a diverse jury, showcasing their hard work and groundbreaking ideas.
Award Ceremony: The winning teams were then recognized for their exceptional ideas and efforts in addressing post-harvest losses, fostering a competitive yet collaborative environment.
The Kenya AgriHack facilitated knowledge exchange and collaboration through practical workshops, discussions, and real-time problem-solving, fostering collaboration and innovation to combat post-harvest losses in agriculture.
The event yielded significant outcomes, including the creation of gender-sensitive and climate-smart innovative solutions specifically tailored for the Kenyan agricultural landscape.
Winning Innovative Post-Harvest Harvest Losses Solutions:
a) Winner: BioAfriq Energy
Location: Machakos, Kenya
BioAfriq offers solar hybrid dehydrators to assist agripreneurs in combating post- harvest losses in Kenya. Recognizing the limitations of solely solar-powered dehydrators during rainy or cold seasons, they innovated a solar hybrid model using both sunlight and biomass. This innovation allows year-round operation, utilizing biomass waste as an alternative energy source through a process called gasification. This eco-friendly approach also produces organic fertilizer and cleaner air. BioAfriq Energy adopts a 50/50 staffing principle, ensuring equal gender representation in their workforce.
b) 1st Runners Up: Agri Business Solutions Ltd
Location: Machakos, Kenya
Agri Business Solutions Ltd focuses on mitigating post-harvest losses within the horticulture-avocado value chain. They collaborate with 12,000 farmers across East Africa, concentrating on non-export avocado varieties overlooked by the market. By employing a zero-waste circular economy model, they process rejected avocados into valuable products like crude avocado oil and briquettes, reducing significant annual losses of 30,000 to 40,000 tons. The company also emphasizes gender empowerment, with 80% of farmers and a significant portion of the company's leadership being women.
c) 2nd Runners Up: Botanic Treasures
Location: Tharaka Niithi, Kenya
Botanic Treasures specializes in drying various agricultural products like turmeric, ginger, hibiscus, and more, preventing harvest losses due to market linkages or storage issues. They've developed innovative dryers and digitized processes using an app to enhance quality control. With 70% female employees and female directors, the company ensures pay equality and fair hiring practices, contributing to reduced instances of sexual harassment in agriculture.
The Kenya AgriHack fostered ecosystem collaboration essential for tackling challenges in post-harvest losses.
“We connected with like-minded individuals in the space and engaged extensively with skilled mentors and trainers.” (Samuel Thuo-Co-Founder, Ziada Solutions)
Participants underwent a notable shift in mindset, embracing innovative strategies like adapting business models, developing consumer personas, and employing design thinking methodologies. This transformative learning environment facilitated a deeper exploration of their operations, empowering them to effectively address consumer challenges and align with market needs.
“Initially, we operated under a sales-based business model, selling dehydrators to our target market. However, we realized its limited accessibility to smallholder farmers with sufficient resources. After gaining profound insights into our customers' challenges during the hackathon, we explored alternative models. One approach involves collaborating with microfinance institutions that empower women, allowing them to acquire dehydrators through instalment payments. The second model entails strategically installing dehydrators and offering dehydration services, enabling smallholder farmers to pay only for the volume they dehydrate. Furthermore, we facilitate market connections for the dehydrated products.” (James Nyamai-Founder, BioAfriq Energy)
The Kenya AgriHack not only sparked innovation but also fostered a collaborative ecosystem approach to addressing post-harvest losses in the agriculture sector. The event exemplified an alternative approach to developing solutions that are demand-led, inclusive, and sustainable for agriculture in Kenya.
Looking ahead, the Kenya AgriHack has set the stage for ongoing progress in reducing post-harvest losses in agriculture. To sustain this momentum, it's crucial to focus on collaboration, scaling up successful solutions, and continuous innovation. Building on the connections forged during the event, ongoing partnerships and knowledge-sharing platforms will be key.
Scaling up winning ideas to benefit more farmers, investing in further research, and advocating for supportive policies are key strategies. Additionally, empowering farmers—especially women and youth—and engaging local communities will ensure inclusivity and lasting positive impacts. Cultivating a culture of continuous learning and adaptation will drive enduring and impactful change in Kenya's agricultural landscape, promising a brighter, more sustainable future for agriculture in the country.