Agribusiness

2019 Strathmore Leaders in Research and Innovation

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Award

@iLabAfrica Research and Innovation Centre was this year crowned leading department in research and reporting.

The Centre which spearheads Research and Innovation in Information Communication Technology for the development (ICT4D) of ecosystems towards the attainment of the United Nations sustainable Development goals (SDGs) and Kenya’s Vision 2030, was awarded the Strathmore University Research and Innovation award 2019 for demonstrating significant commitment to timeliness and quality in its reporting obligations on research activities for the year 2018 and 2019.

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@iLabAfrica Centre focuses on 4 main areas.

  • ICT research and Innovation
  • Entrepreneurship and Incubation
  • ICT Outsourcing
  • ICT Policy and Research

The Centre is involved in interdisciplinary research, student engagement and collaboration with government, industry and funding agencies.

@iLabAfrica is made up of the following research units

  • eHealth Unit
  • Cybersecurity Unit
  • Digital Learning Unit
  • Data Science Unit
  • Internet of Things (IoT) Unit
  • Outsourcing and Consulting Unit

For more information about @iLabAfrica Click Here 

 

 

 

 

Strathmore hosts 4th Edition of Nairobi Tech Week (NTW 2019).

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@iBizAfrica, Strathmore University once again hosted this year’s 4th edition of Nairobi Tech Week (NTW) a Moringa School based initiative to bringing all actors and influencers in the tech ecosystem under one roof to foster conversations and learning around technology related topics.

This year’s event was themed, “​Technology in Africa: The Past, The Present and The Future”. It delved into the evolution of technology in Africa, the various solutions being applied in the African context and the exciting opportunities yet to be capitalized on as we navigate the digital revolution.

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Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Director @iLabAfrica and @iBizAfrica giving the opening remarks for the NTW 2019

The 2019 NTW event included a number of activities ranging from; workshops, panels, roundtables, research presentation sessions as well as the hackathon which brought together players in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Platforms, Internet of Things (IoT), Micro services, Technopreneurship, Data Science, and Product Development Tools.

 

Google workshop on Google essentials and Machine Learning led by Marvin Ngesa.

The panels consisted of experts from the tech industry, the government as well as NGO’s shared ideas and solutions towards improving the existing structures in the growing field of technology by filling the gaps left by the current players.

Lease me was one of the teams from Strathmore University that participated in the hackathon competitions and emerged the best.

Lease Me, offered a solution to help aspiring farmers with no land to conduct agriculture by leasing out arable pieces of land and capital, thereby enhancing food security.

Talking at the event, the Principal Secretary of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority(TVET) Dr. Kevit Desai indicated the government’s commitment to supporting technology in Kenya as a backbone to the achievement of the big four agenda.

Sponsors Sponsors for 2019 NTW included GIZ – Make IT Africa, Microsoft, JUMO, Github, Google, Andela, Humanitec, Tala.

The main partners for Nairobi Tech Week 2019 are Strathmore, @iLab Africa, @iBizAfrica, AngelHack, Twiga Foods, Africa’s Talking, Nairobi Innovation Week, iHub, ALX, Metta, Nailab, Lawyers Hub, and the official transport partner – Little Cab.

Big Data Analytics Project to transform Agricultural Insurance in Africa using Climate Data

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Weather affects everything. It is both an essential resource and a significant risk factor for life on Earth. What’s more, weather is one of the most unpredictable aspects of human existence, yet we have no choice but to try our hand at predicting it. After all, our very lives depend on our having ample supplies of foodstuffs that are themselves dependent on adequate precipitation, growing seasons and so forth. Weather is no small matter. Many businesses are directly or indirectly linked with weather conditions. For instance, agriculture relies on perfect weather forecasting for when to plant, irrigate and harvest.

Farmers are highly vulnerable to weather shocks, particularly in Africa, where there is a high reliance on rain-fed agriculture. It is therefore unsurprising that much attention has been paid to developing climate risk management tools for farmers to mitigate and transfer the risk of weather shocks such as drought and flood. Small farms are vulnerable to climate risk, but most smallholder farmers around the world don’t have access to insurance and other financial tools to manage fluctuations in climate.

Insurance is one way to increase resiliency to climate shocks, but not only in the way you might think. There’s a subtler benefit to agriculture insurance, and one that is essential for adapting our food systems to a changing climate: when farmers feel financially secure, they’re more likely to take productive risks. In the decades to come, we can expect increasingly difficult growing seasons for farmers, and so taking advantage of good years will become more and more important – for both our food supply and farmers’ livelihoods. In recent years, agricultural insurance has become part research Actuarial Science program, particularly weather index-based insurance (WII). The interesting aspect has been that, rather than compensating observed damage, compensation in WII is determined on the basis of an independent index (such as the cumulative precipitation falling in a certain window of time or the average yield over a district).

The agriculture insurance, called weather index insurance, will provide a way to fill the insurance gap by basing payouts on weather and satellite data instead of expensive site visits from claims adjusters. This will be an addition to already developed Livestock indexed based insurance by ILRI researchers. The indexed based crop insurance will protect farmers against financial risks posed by extreme weather events, and has been widely advocated as a tool to help farmer households to escape poverty traps and invest in climate-smart high-productivity agriculture. Over the past decade there has been great deal of effort placed into index insurance–that may have the potential to reach these farmers. Unlike more traditional forms of insurance, which require individual verification of losses, index insurance works by providing payouts when a measurable index flags a major problem that the farmers face, such as a widespread drought or flood. In theory, this should allow insurance coverage to reach many more farmers

Index insurance is innovative, but can it reach a critical mass using Satelitte data provided by TWIGA?

 

Transforming Weather Information Growth In Africa – TWIGA is a 4-year project (2018 – 2021) under EU Horizon2020 aimed to transform weather water data into value-added information services.

Satellite data provide by TWIGA will give index insurance the scaling power needed to reach all the small scale farmers across Africa.

A Kenyan Insurance sector stakeholders workshop will be held this first quarter of 2019 to address the challenges available in implementing weather indexed based insurance. The theme of the workshop will be:  Index insurance is innovative, but can it reach a critical mass using Satelitte data provided by TWIGA? This could be the start of touching the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers across the African continent that are under threat from extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods with risks projected to increase significantly in future years due to climate change.

Developers require the ability to easily combine weather functionality, including forecast and observational data, with numerous data and application services to build advanced web and mobile applications that leverage cognitive capabilities, analytics, mobile and IoT services without wasting cycles installing or managing software and deploying hardware.

In conclusion, remotely sensed data can be used to extend weather index insurance to millions of farmers in Africa and beyond—potentially mitigating their exposure to climate-related risk. On the other hand, inappropriate use of these data could cause great harm. This workshop enabled key players in the weather index insurance industry to engage directly with data providers and scientists. As a result, data providers now have a clearer idea of the ways in which their products are being used. The insurance industry, moreover, has a better understanding of both the opportunities and pitfalls of using remotely sensed data. Following the success of this workshop, the participants agreed that deeper engagement between data providers, scientists, and the weather index insurance industry would be of benefit to all parties. Further workshops, projects, and collaborations are planned to focus on the intelligence and Analytics platform is powered by AI techniques that leverage real-time weather feeds and historical data. This will consider GIS analytics where the following will be the main focus: Live weather feeds from different locations (Latitude/Longitude); Temperature, water level, wind and other sensors continuously transmitting data; Historical weather data publicly available; Weather maps (precipitations, clouds, pressure, temperature, wind, weather stations).

The project aims to achieve the following benefits to the Kenya and Africa as a whole ;

  • Farmers get warned earlier of what the weather will be like for that particular month.
  • Help farmers to take appropriate precautions to stay safe in case of unwanted occurrences.
  • With forecasting methods, farmers can get better outcomes with the help of accurate predictions. Hence farmers will be able to plan the planting as per water supplies.

Women in Tech 2nd Cohort Launched

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WIT

Standard Chartered in partnership with @iLabAfrica this week launched the start off a search for a second cohort of women-led technology startups which will see five entrepreneurs win Sh1 million each.

The Standard Chartered Women in Technology Incubator Kenya is Africa’s leading women in tech incubator, aligning with calls for more diversity in technology and for more opportunities for women to develop entrepreneurial and leadership excellence.

Through the Women in Tech Incubator, 10 businesses will benefit from mentorship and seed funding.

The program combines world class startup support with local and international experience to provide Africa’s most competitive and attractive startup incubation program focusing on immersive learning, mentorship, building and growing Africa’s next iconic startups taking on the continent’s most relevant challenges and opportunities.

Shortlisted start-ups will be selected to go through a 12-week incubation period after which five will win Sh1 million.

“The Women In Tech Incubator programme will help identify, grow and bring to the market unique business ideas and change the fortunes of women entrepreneurs and business owners in Kenya,” said Public Services, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia while speaking during the launch on Monday.

Last year, the five businesses which received seed funding were solar cooler company Maziwa Plus, e-commerce platform Heri Online, insurance information app Bismart, career solutions hub Zydii and Africa Solutions.

Some of the winners have gone on to attract funding from local and international investors to scale up their businesses.

How to APPLY

Who are we looking for?
We are seeking to recruit the best entrepreneurial minds, women-lead startup teams leveraging on technology as a key driver of innovation in business. The applicant must:
  1. be a woman
  2. be the CEO with equal or majority ownership in the company
  3. 18 and above
  4. of Kenyan nationality
What are the the program thematic areas?
Applicants may submit applications across but not limited to the following thematic areas:
  1. Agribusiness
  2. Education
  3. ICT
  4. E-Commerce
  5. E-Health
  6. Fintech
What do Participants Get?
  1. Three months incubation at Strathmore University’s leading businss and innovation incubator
  2. Mentorship from world class mentors
  3. Coaching by top business, technology and legal professionals
  4. Immersive, world-class entrepreneurship curriculum
  5. Networking and exposure to expand your business networks
What do Winners Get?
  1. USD 10,000 or KES 1,000,000 equity-free grant seed funding for the top 5 winners
  2. 9 months ongoing support from Standard Chartered and @iBizAfrica to assist with go-to market and scale.
Terms and Conditions
  1. Participants must be physically available to attend the program over the three months incubation
  2. Participant accommodation costs are not catered for

For more information Click here

To Apply click here

Smart Farms-Remote Farm Monitoring system

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Every farmer understands the importance of monitoring the crops and/or animals in the farm. It is important to monitor crop growth, field environment, and farming operations in order to increase the agricultural productivity and to promote efficient management. With the growing green revolution in progress the world of agriculture and smart farms are taking a leading role in ensuring efficient, innovative, dynamic and eco-friendly farms. Farmers are now looking for smart ways to monitor and manage their crops remotely.

Farmers over the years have experienced problems related to water usage and supply, energy supply and the demerit of distance of accessing these resources. The importance of monitoring the water usage in farms is increasing with farmers seeking technology that will help them improve their agricultural productivity.

@iLabAfrica Research Centre based in Strathmore University in collaboration with IBM Kenya, and Oregon State University together with Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO) intend to come together to develop an intelligent farm Management system that leverages Internet of Things(IoT) architecture through remote sensing and low power wide area networks as well data analytics. The overall concept of the system is to be able to build deeper analytics that can provide more information in a predictive model to help farmers understand their farms in terms of soil composition and changes, water usage and evaporation rates as well as the changing weather parameters that can visually present an insightful trend on the changing climate. This project collaboratively explores a way of remote monitoring that could guarantee farmers an easy way to understand various parameters such as temperature, humidity, soil moisture and water levels in various tanks on their farms among other parameters. This is expected to provide a smarter approach to farming, referred to as Precision Farming.

The data collected in the Internet of Things (IoT) stack in this project so far includes temperature, humidity, water level (rate of water evaporation also monitored through the use of evaporimeters –provided by Oregon State University), battery level and  the signal strength of the data transmitting devices.

To reliably provide this solution, the project is expected to use GSM/GPRS and Long Range (LoRa) connectivity to achieve the desired Machine-to-Machine data exchange between the farms and the cloud since the farming areas envisioned in these concept are located in rural areas. These areas experience poor signal strength even on the cellular network. Hence, the need to also gather data on the signal strength of the network.

Currently, two IoT devices of this kind have been deployed to a test farm in Kitengela, south of Nairobi. The devices are currently powered by mini solar-panels and continually transmit data at an interval of 15 minutes. These devices make of the GSM/GPRS technology as at now. The project as is, has proven to be working and data can be relayed from the farm to both a web and a mobile interface through IBM’s Cloudant database. The information gathered provides real-time information on the parameters described to the farmer.

The next step of development will be to  deploy the solution in more farms and build a low cost, low maintenance weather station that can be used by farmers and also provide an irrigation service that can intelligently be measured and remotely actuated. Alternative Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) communication technology, in this case, LoRa will also be implemented to provide a more stable and reliable service of transmitting these data.

@iLabAfrica IoT Manager and project lead Mr. Leonard Mabele mentioned that “with more funding, we can reach out to more farmers in remote areas and acquire more devices for deployment, mass testing and implementation. This will also allow us to reach out to IoT security experts to enable us to not only develop a working solution but a securely tested one as well. This projects will see us uplift the process and yields of farmers and in return build their communities.

For more information about this click HERE

The World Bank Agritech Challenge

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The World Bank AgriTech Challenge, powered by Nest, is the region’s first open innovation programme focused on agribusiness. We’re calling everyone from trailblazing startups and industry veterans to visionary teams from universities to apply*. This is your opportunity to build an actionable solution that could transform agriculture in Kenya!

Facilitated by the World Bank and Nest, selected teams will work closely with one of the region’s leading agribusiness companies to conceptualize, co-develop and prototype a product to alleviate acute challenges in the Kenyan agribusiness value chain.

* Note: The programme is open only to Kenya-based teams

What World Bank is trying to solve

As one of the largest contributors to Kenya’s economy, there is tremendous opportunity to drive value creation and impact through innovation in agribusiness. The World Bank AgriTech Challenge aims to collaboratively prototype solutions that drive productivity, accountability and operational insight in the agribusiness value chain. Here are some of the pressing challenges we’d like to work together to solve:

  • How can we digitize the way in which produce is tracked from farm to shelf?To a large extent, tracking of produce and shipment is done manually and on paper-based systems. Through this programme, we hope to leverage platforms that can digitize the tracking process across the value chain, centralize data & record keeping, and mitigate the risk of errors & tampering.
  • How can we facilitate seamless communication between farmers and field technicians? Farmers (outgrowers) and the staff of large agribusiness companies communicate on an ad-hoc basis over phone calls and/or through SMS. Is there a way to streamline and structure the communication using tech based solutions to better manage the value chain and resolve operational issues?
  • How can we digitally monitor farm productivity and wastage, and drive insights to enhance yield? Currently, the analysis of farm productivity relies on manually synthesizing fragmented information which slows down the process of making sourcing and packaging decisions. Can we develop a “real-time” solution that allows for efficient analytics of farm performance?
  • How can we digitize the monitoring of product quality, packaging and shipment across the value chain?Demand from export markets is susceptible to short term fluctuation. Is there a way to deploy an efficient solution that can track age, quality and storage of produce to allow large agribusiness exporters to intelligently manage shipments and reduce waste.

About the Programme

The World Bank AgriTech Challenge is the first open innovation programme that bridges Kenyan techpreneurs with a vertically integrated agribusiness value chain. The 2-month long co-creation activity will include integration-focused workshops, one-on-one interactions with industry veterans, and structured product development. Each team will aim to develop a prototype or customize a solution in partnership with experienced operational professionals. These will be then presented to senior executives and investors at a Demo Day for potential commercial adoption and scale.

We’re looking for multidisciplinary teams that are passionate about AgriTech. You could be a startup, a promising SME, a team of agribusiness / logistics / supply chain technologists, or even a bunch of college students with a compelling idea and the ability to execute.

Benefits

  • Accelerated product development:A chance to work with a leading, established industry player to build, test and potentially scale your solution
  • Resources: Access to the insights, internal infrastructure and operational excellence developed by the World Bank and one of the region’s most successful agribusiness corporates
  • Mentorship: One-on-one guidance from agribusiness veterans, integration consultants and startup capacity building experts
  • Intros to senior executives and investors: A platform to present a your solution to senior industry executives and quality investors

Timeline

Have another idea? Suggest a challenge that needs solving in your application.

Applications close July 25, 2017. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so the sooner you submit the better!

Apply Now 

Team Convifarm Wins the Strathmore- Waterloo Inaugural Agribusiness Mobile Tech Challenge

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The Winners Convifarm with Dr Victor Kyalo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communication and Information

WINNERS: Team Convifarm with Dr. Victor Kyalo (PS, Ministry of Information and Communications)

Six fervent teams of university students across the country, took part in an exciting 1 year incubation programme courtesy of a strong collaboration between Strathmore University and University of Waterloo. The six who were shortlisted from a group of 45 teams comprised of; Mkulima, Kilimo Watch, Convifarm, Greenup_africa, eVet, and Agribora. Greenup_africa won 2nd place while Convifarm bagged the winning price.

The challenge aimed at producing solutions that would address agricultural issues in Sub-Saharan Africa using mobile and social networking technologies. Mobile technologies are transforming sub-Saharan Africa through providing individuals in the region with previously unimaginable access to information and, as a result, significantly impacting the economies of the region. This has opened opportunities to develop and improve social and economic systems in ways that can truly impact the ‘bottom-of-the-pyramid’ in Africa. Agriculture was chosen due to the mainstay of at least 80% of the Kenyan population and therefore has a direct impact on the bottom of the pyramid masses.

“The University of Waterloo is rich on entrepreneurship, it is the one reason we were happy to join hands with them. While we chose agriculture because it is one of the businesses that provides a large revenue to the country,” Dr. Sevilla, Director at @ILabAfrica Research Centre and @IBiz Incubation Centre, explained while giving his welcoming remarks.

The business incubation was facilitated by the use of a Virtual Technology Platform – a CONRAD University of Waterloo initiative and the first of its kind to be used in Africa. The platform aims at enhancing opportunities for entrepreneurs with novel ideas to benefit from training and funding that will launch sustainable enterprises. The program also aligns to the running policy of the Jubilee government on entrepreneurs’ empowerment. This programme was also officially launched during the awarding ceremony.

Dr. Victor Kyalo – representing CS Ministry of Information and Communications, while giving the key note address lauded the students for engaging in a virtual incubation initiative that is different. He also stressed out the fact that there are numerous opportunities for information capital to be exploited in the country and such a step is commendable.

The winning team Convifarm, comprised of two students – Norman Muga from Strathmore University pursuing a course in Bachelor of Business Information Technology (BBIT) and Mburu Njunge from Kenyatta University pursuing a Bachelor of Science (BSCs) in dry land agriculture and enterprise development. Convifarm was created to bring convenience to farmers through mobile agriculture in accessing information and services across diverse enterprises along the agricultural value chain.

The team wins a fully paid trip to Waterloo, Ontario Canada where they get an opportunity of observing the Waterloo eco-system of venture creation, and to meet individuals and groups that can further assist in developing their idea.

The second team Greenup_africa comprised of three students – Peter Okwara from University of Nairobi (UoN), Samuel Kamau from Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology (JKUAT) and Hiral Shah from USIU. Greenup_africa connects farmers to farmers and eventually farmers to buyers. It helps farmers reduce the production process by cutting the middlemen and brokers. The team hopes to scale this application to the counties, helping the grassroots farmers to have control on whatever they produce by stabilizing the market and stabilizing the prices.

2nd Winners GreenUp Africa with Dr Joseph Sevilla and Alfred Gathogo

2nd Place: Team Greenup_Africa with Dr. Sevilla(Director @iLabAfrica) and Mr. Gathogo(SEDC Lectrurer)

The team win the option of participating in the Enterprise Development Program offered by the Strathmore Enterprise Development Centre (SEDC) worth Kshs 480,000. Team members will have the chance of meeting seasoned entrepreneurs and trainers enabling the team to practically implement their business model and grow their enterprise. The team was also given the opportunity to engage the county government administration through Ms Anna Othoro who represented the office, on potential funding options for their application.

We thank all the teams for taking part in this competition and all stakeholders for the support that they offered.