For a long time, the Kenyan agribusiness sector has been held hostage by cartels and middlemen who reap huge returns at the expense of the hardworking common farmer.
The tendency to hike prices for the common mwananchi, while at the same time providing paltry compensation to the famer is an ingrain habit that has been adopted, legalized and made operational by the cartels.
In trying to curb this problem and help farmers circumvent the brokers, a software development company, Fineteklabs has created a mobile-based app dubbed Zalisha that helps farmers boost production, access market, cut brokers and remotely manage their farms.
Currently incubated at the Kenyatta University’s Chandaria Business Innovation and Incubation Center, the startup has a business platform called Zalisha for business; which assists farming companies, aggregators, farm input providers and cooperatives to manage their activities and operations through the app.
The app also offers agronomy and weather information depending on the farmer’s geolocation, using IoT solutions customized for the mobile phones, as well as financial services ranging from credit score services to enable farmers access financial services.
Speaking to the Kenya National Innovation Agency, Ian Cheruiot, a Computer Science student and web developer at Fineteklabs says the app provides the farmer with a wholesome package of agribusiness solutions.
“Zalisha enables farmers to do on farm record keeping using IoT solutions, real-time and efficient farm monitoring, and enable contract farming through our interlinked solutions. We have integrated machine learning and artificial intelligence to offer agricultural solutions to the famers,” he says.
Cheruiot however states that Kenyatta University through the Chandaria Business Innovation and Incubation center has played a significantly vital role in their success but states that transitioning from classwork to business has been an uphill task.
“The benefits of being incubated at CBIIC are very many; we got confidence while pitching, we have access to training programs and the center provides all the facilitation we need to attend events. This business is however not short of challenges, once you’re thrown into the market, the theories you learnt in class become very difficult to apply.”
The app which was founded in 2016 but operationalized in 2017 also connects farmers directly to local consumer market, enabling the farmers to sell their produce will a lot of ease. At the same time, buyers and farm input retailers can get in touch with farmers without having to physically scout for the produce in the market.
The tech startup is currently working with about 500 farmers in the pilot phase of the app and is aiming at growing the number tremendously to impact more famers in the country and across Africa.