RiceAfrika Technologies is a startup with a big vision: to build an Africa that can feed itself and the world.
It’s a tech-driven agriculture optimisation service provider that connects smallholders with the equipment and materials they need to increase food production and tap into a structured market. And with such critical ambitions, it’s probably no surprise that RiceAfrika won the Technology for Humanity award at LEAP 2023.
We asked Ibrahim Maigari (Founder and CEO at RiceAfrika Technologies) what happened next – and what advice he’d give to YOU if you’re thinking about pitching your startup in 2024’s Rocket Fuel Competition.
How and why did you start RiceAfrika Technologies?
“We started RiceAfrika Technologies to solve the problems of hunger and food insecurity in Africa that is as a result of the under-productivity of our smallholder farmers. Smallholder farmers produce 80% of the food we eat in Africa – and we thought any effort to solve the perennial hunger (over 300m people are facing severe hunger in Africa according to the UN/FAO) in Africa must start by improving the productivity of the smallholder farmers.
“This underproductivity starts from a lack of access to mechanisation (in land preparation and harvesting), lack of access to high-yielding seeds, lack of environmentally good chemicals, lack of farm extension services, lack of affordable fertiliser, and lack of access to a structured market.
“We started the company to create a solution to these problems.”
Why did you decide to enter the Rocket Fuel competition?
“We entered the competition because we wanted validation of our business model from experts; and the global recognition and support of the LEAP platform. We also needed the cash prize to boost our operations.”
And how did you feel when you won the Technology for Humanity award?
“Humbled, because it is a privilege to be selected among hundreds of innovative companies from all over the world. It is also an inspiration for us to do more, as well as a validation that we are on the right track. Beyond the cash prize, for our company to be selected as the best in the category of Technology for Humanity is something we will never forget.”
Since LEAP 2023, how has being a competition winner helped you achieve your goals?
“Since winning the competition we’ve achieved so many things, apart from the global recognition. Here are some specific milestones:
- We’ve settled all outstanding liabilities associated with starting a business in Africa
- We have consolidated our expansion into Tanzania by acquiring two brand new harvester machines that have so far (in only two months) harvested over 380 hectares of farmland, and saved over 1 million kg of grains that can feed an extra 3.5m people in Africa. We have also saved over 10,000 labour hours
- We’ve increased our workforce by over 30%
- We have also invested 50% of the prize money into provision of fertiliser loans to farmers using our FarmEASY operating system in Nigeria (which has been oversubscribed due to the affordability, because before the award we were using a facility from a bank and majority of the farmers could not afford the cost)
Our goal is to extend the fertiliser loans to 2,500 farmers owning 1,350 hectares of farmland in 2023 in Nigeria.
And what are the next steps for your startup?
“We are expanding to Rwanda before the end of 2023, and Ghana by the Q1 of 2024, God willing. We’re updating our FarmEASY mobile platform to include more features. We will import more essential farm equipment like threshers, land levellers, tillers, and harvesters that can handle other crops like maize, sorghum, and soya beans. And we’re also exploring the importation of more spare parts.”
What would you say to a startup that was considering entering the Rocket Fuel competition in 2024?
“They should develop a unique business model with a clear and measurable impact. They should have a thorough understanding of their business and/or product. They should be confident and master the art of pitching under pressure.
“And also know that impossible does not exist. If we can do it, you can do it too.”
Thanks to Ibrahim Maigari at RiceAfrika Technologies. Be a part of the 2024 Rocket Fuel Competition.
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