In June 2022 Heifer International Kenya launched the AYuTe Africa Challenge Kenya to promote and reward agriculture technology innovation. This years challenge was themed “Reimagining the future of African Agriculture”.

The applications for the challenge ran from 14 June to 14 July, while the proposal evaluation pitching and judging were concluded by August 31. The top 15 finalists were competitively selected through a rigorous judging process and finally three winners were selected.

The overall winner was John Waweru, a Kenyan and founder of Optimerce Consulting Ltd, a business that digitises the process of produce collection at farm-gate through mobile apps.

Joshua Gitonga, scooped the first runners up and is the founder of RafikiPay, a company that deals with the processing of sunflower, groundnuts, soya and canola oil from the hybrid seeds.

Grace Kyarimpa, Managing Director of Agrodiverse Limited Kenya, a business that converts insects, earthworms into sources of protein in animal feed and high-quality organic fertilizers, emerged as the second runners up.

Creative innovators

The winner, first runners up and second runners up and were awarded cash grants of Sh1 million Sh500,000 and Sh250,000 respectively.

The 15 finalists will benefit from a three-month accelerator and mentorship programme that seeks to transform their businesses.

“Having worked with farmers for very many years we see the AYuTe challenge as an opportunity to identify exciting young innovators who have wonderful ideas. We walk with them through the journey of fine-tuning those ideas as well as providing linkage to the opportunities to scale up those ideas,” said Esta Kamau Country Director Heifer International Kenya.

A 2021 study by Heifer International pointed to the need for more investments to embrace agriculture as a desirable career. Funding, training, and access to agricultural technology were identified as the three key areas to encourage youth involvement in agriculture.

“The AYuTe Africa Challenge Kenya competition has affirmed our understanding that many young tech companies require a combination of significant investment and expert guidance, I am confident that we have filled that need, not just for the top three winners but also for those who made into the top 80,” said Kamau.

Powered by E4Impact Accelerator, the competition aims to offer young entrepreneurs in Africa the opportunity to pitch for investment in their agri-tech solutions to boost the incomes and productivity of Africa’s smallholder farmers.

“As E4Impact we were glad to have been involved by Heifer International Kenya to provide capacity building, training and mentoring of the young agri-tech innovators in the various stages of the competition,” said David Cheboryot, Director of the E4Impact Entrepreneurship Centers.

Ruth Ndegwa the acting Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Climate Innovation Centre noted that the innovations are timely to drive key agricultural processes and address food insecurity.

“The youths have shown us that they are capable at changing our fortunes on food security. They just need our support which we are ready to offer them”, added KCIC boss.

Besides the top three innovations, other finalists included Azma Foods Limited, Digital Farmer, Ento (insects) Solutions Limited, Farm Mall, Farmerline Technologies, Limachain, Nalima Digital, Shambaline Limited, Soluvax, Stofresh Africa, Toothpick Company Limited, Vermi-Farms Initiative Limited.

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