In this special episode of My Life in Tech, we speak with Emeka Nwachinemere whose work brings together technology, finance and agriculture. He is founder at Kitovu Technology Company, a startup that deploys data to improve agricultural practice and yield for smallholder farmers, with the goal of pulling them out of poverty.
What is climate-smart farming, and how is it different from regular farming?
Climate-smart farming is an integrated approach to farming that takes into consideration the impacts of climate change and increasing soil degradation on farm productivity. It differs from regular farming in the sense that it is data-driven; farm-operational decisions are made not based on gut feelings or farming knowledge passed down from one generation to the next, but on climatic, soil, and field data that keep changing in real time.
What are some of your company’s milestones?
We are currently enabling over 16,000 smallholder farmers across nine states of Nigeria to transform their livelihoods, providing them end-to-end support from inputs to market.
We have built three functional products to support farmers: YieldMax, a satellite-based advisory, crop health audit, and inputs recommendation platform; eProcure, a commodities aggregation tool; and Storagex, a post-harvest management system that also leverages warehouse receipts as collaterals for farmer financing. We are a 20-people team at the moment, with 50% of our senior management team being women.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?
I think perhaps the synonym for agriculture in Nigeria is “challenges”. But to name a few, we have experienced lots of difficulties getting banks and financial institutions to come on board to provide financing for smallholder farmers, which is a huge challenge, given that smallholder farmers have low purchasing power. This sort of limits adoption and scale rate. Another challenge is the high cost of data capture, especially for a space that has limited data available. Insecurity has affected us so badly. We had to close some farmer’s service centres in Niger [a state in Nigeria], and that has limited the ease with which we are able to engage our farmers. Most recently, the difficulty in accessing cash has been a big pain for us, especially with the majority of farmers who do not have bank accounts. This has increased the cost of farm commodities by over 40%.
How easily can farmers adapt to your technology?
We adopted what we call a “human tech” approach. So there are our products, and then there are agents and micro-entrepreneurs we work with. We train them on platform use, and they earn an income by providing the services to the farmers last-mile using, their smartphones. We don’t burden the farmers with the problem of learning how to use technology, especially given that the average age of smallholder farmers in Nigeria is 64 years. Using that human tech approach removes that problem for us.
What should we expect from Kitovu Tech in the next five years?
It’s 2028. KItovu will be operational in five African countries, serving at least 200,000 smallholder farmers whose crop yields are increased by 30%, post-harvest losses reduced by 20%, and annual incomes increased by 40%. One million tons of Greenhouse gas emissions reductions would have been recorded by a combination of climate-smart good agriculture and regenerative practices by our farmers. We would have also created 2,000 new income-earning opportunities for young people working with us, under our microenterprise programme. Leading financial institutions are working with us to truly transform African agriculture by providing tailored lending. We’ve hit $1 million in annual revenue, and we have just closed our Series A.
We recently spotlighted Emeka Nwachinemere in our exciting new video series, My Startup in 60 Seconds. You can watch his episode here and other videos in the series here.
My Life in Tech (MLIT) is a biweekly column that profiles innovators, leaders, and shapers in the African tech ecosystem, with the intention of putting a human face to the startups and innovations they build. A new episode drops every other Wednesday at 3 PM (WAT). If you think your story will interest MLIT readers, please fill out this form.