According to Livestock Research for Rural Development (LRRD), dairy farming is the single largest sub sector of agriculture in Kenya. Kenya’s dairy sub sector contributes about 8% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with an annual milk production of 3.43 billion L. Although smallholder Dairy farmers make up to 80% of total dairy producers and produce 56% of total milk in Kenya, they are constrained by factors including low technical skills on husbandry practices and lack of reliable statistical information on milk market outlets.
A six month research by Savanna Circuit Tech LTD, an open innovation start-up formed in July 2017, found similar constraints to those found by LRRD in the Kenyan dairy sector. In particular, post-harvest losses where we found that there is dire need for a solution that incorporates effective management to solve these losses. Hence the company created Maziwaplus.
From farm to market
MaziwaPlus is an integrated software platform and hardware equipment that ensure the safety and traceability of milk from the farm to the factory. The hardware collects, preserves and chills the milk on transit using solar energy while reducing milk spillage. On the other hand, the software offers real-time data from collection points that is used for mobile money payment, farmer records, accountability and projection of dynamics in the value chain.
The product comes in a variety of sizes. Maziwaplus mini is suitable for motorcycles and can hold up to 140 L of milk for up to 15 h while the larger Maziwaplus Mega that holds up to 800 L of milk for up to 72 h. For the past year that we have been in operation, we have covered 30% of the Kenyan market, on-boarded over 8,000 smallholder dairy farmers in Kenya and transported over four million L of milk.
Pitch AgriHack validated our product
Startups are like toddlers; they need someone to show them the way. Though we had a good product we knew there was much more we could learn. Pitch AgriHack proved to be useful in helping us to strategise and prepare a refined business model.
Our team was first introduced to the Pitch AgriHack competition in 2017 after learning about the winners for that year’s staging. We entered the competition in 2018 and were among the finalists but we did not win. However, that did not deter us from trying again. We believed that our idea of improving agriculture through digital platforms aligned with the focus for the 2019 competition. Our efforts to transform the dairy industry in Kenya were recognised and we again were among the finalists.
The reality of pitching our ideas at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Ghana before experienced judges and other finalists was overwhelming but we remained confident. We scaled our product to suit the international market. This included researching and aligning it with regional policies in our target markets.
Pitch AgriHack prepares young companies to participate in this market. The training sessions and interaction with the competition judges gave us the tools we needed to better design our product. The investor readiness boot camp was really impactful. From the training, we realised that we were blindsided by our love for the product and the positive responses from our customers that we did not consider our business sustainability and the ability to make a profit out of it. Immediately after the competition, we engaged a consultant to develop a good business model.
Hearing the head of CTA, Michael Hailu, announcing our company as a winner was exciting. We won the second prize in the early stage category (World Bank award) with a cash prize of €5,000.
Beyond dairy - Looking to the future
Encouraged by the response of the Kenyan market and aware of the opportunities that exist in other regional markets, we already have our eyes set on cross border expansion. Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Ghana are top choices for us since we have already received orders from these countries. To meet the demand, we are putting the finishing touches on our manufacturing facility in Nairobi, Kenya. We recently entered into a deal with a farmer NGO to on-board over 10,000 farmers from western Kenya.
Additionally, the company has employed the services of an ICT team to develop and manage our digital platform. We have also partnered with Government regulatory bodies to ensure that our product is validated.
With relative success in the dairy sector, Savanna Circuit Tech LTD is now looking to enter other sectors such as fishing and horticulture. Our initial tests indicate that with minimal alteration Maziwaplus would be helpful for these sectors and therefore give us a larger market share.