One Ugandan boy’s vision to improve, modernise and simplify livestock management for farmers in his country has blossomed into an international business that has the potential to positively impact countless persons along the agricultural value-chain.
As a 12-year-old orphan, I reared rabbits to finance my schooling. Imagine my dismay when I awoke one morning to find that my source of revenue had died from an undetectable disease that quickly killed all of my rabbits. From that moment I purposed to find a way to prevent the spread of animal diseases for other livestock farmers while also improving productivity.
My purpose fuelled an interest to study software engineering at the Makerere University in the country’s capital city, Kampala. While still a student, I shared my vision with other students who came on board to make it a reality.
The vision realised
Fast forward to 2017 and my friends and I started Jaguza Tech, a company that uses cloud-based technology for livestock management. The company uses artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, machine learning and big data to solve some of the major problems plaguing the livestock sector. These are namely the loss of livestock to common diseases, livestock theft and a lack of proper livestock tracking and management systems.
Jaguza’s system incorporates the use of low-cost sensors, drones, livestock collars and smart ear tags, and GPS trackers to gather real-time information about location, speed and body temperature of animals. This information is then processed to find solutions to some of the existing problems in the sector. The information and solutions are packaged in the form of a mobile application where farmers can access real time information on market prices, weather forecast as well as record daily farm activities and access online veterinary services.
In addition to livestock farmers, particularly those who rear cattle, goats and pigs, our system also targets buyers, consumers, researchers, extension and health information officers, veterinarians and policy makers. Though we are a relatively young company, we are currently operating in three additional countries: Fiji, Mozambique and Namibia with plans for a pilot operation in the United States of America.
Pitch AgriHack – a worthwhile experience
We participated in the 2017 staging of CTA’s Pitch AgriHack competition in where we were one of the finalists. However, for the 2019 staging we were even more confident in our product and its ability to drive digital transformation for sustainable food and livestock. The journey towards Pitch AgriHack was an exciting one though demanding. To prepare we had to read and research, practice pitching, modify our product to rectify some suggestions made by our customers.
The finale of the competition during the 2019 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Ghana was particularly useful for our team. The session on investment readiness was quite insightful. In addition, we learnt how to determine the stages of a start-up. This is crucial when selecting investment options such as grants, personal savings, venture capital or crowd funding. We also learnt to successfully interact with potential investors as well as how to pitch before investors. An additional nugget for us was learning about business modelling which is helpful for determining market penetration.
AgriHack Talent initiative is very important as it provides training to young entrepreneurs and start-ups helping us to make informed business decisions. More importantly, the competition provides visibility, constructive feedback and mentorship.
After entering previous stagings of the competition, we were particularly anxious about this year’s outcome, especially since we worked assiduously to improve our product for the finale. When it came time to announce the winners, we heard other companies receiving awards and we thought we had missed out yet another time. However, to our surprise Jaguza received the last prize announced- the mature stage category and we proudly walked away with €15,000.
The wealth of knowledge gained coupled with the monetary award, we plan to continue our expansion by operating in other East African countries, namely Kenya. In preparation, we have already acquired ISO certifications from the National Information Technology Authority (NITA) Uganda. We recently identified a local manufacturer to make our smart ear tags. This will provide employment and reduce production costs so that our product is more affordable.
Additionally, we plan to use the money to set up a demonstration farm in western Uganda. The farm will be used for educating potential customers, livestock farmers, veterinarians, researchers, students and other agricultural stakeholders about our livestock management system
All in all, CTA’s Pitch AgriHack journey was worthwhile.