In August 2014, after facing severe losses as new poultry farmers, a group of university engineering students hatched an idea that would not only save their chickens but that of hundreds of Kenyan smallholder poultry farmers.
Poultry farming requires a constant amount of heat throughout the brooding or incubation stage, however, many Kenyan farmers continue to use archaic heating methods that can neither be monitored nor regulated. This not only causes high death rates among chickens, but it causes high stress among farmers, with some even sleeping inside chicken coops to respond immediately in case anything goes wrong.
After speaking with local farmers with similar challenges, international industrial design experts and conducting our own research, the Smart Brooder came to life.
The Smart Brooder is an environmental control device with temperature and humidity sensors that regulate brooding spaces resulting in optimal living conditions for chickens. With the help of the sensors, the device records data and stores it on a chip. The information gathered helps to determine and automatically adjusts the heating requirements for chickens. Additionally, with Smart Brooder, farmers receive updates via SMS on their mobile phones if the device fails to regulate. After successful trials, our team at Arinifu introduced the product to other local farmers.
With a tried and proven product that was steadily gaining momentum in the local market, it was time to introduce it to the international community with the hope of securing additional funding to improve our product and expand our service.
Pitch AgriHack, the journey
After reading an issue of Spore magazine, in which our company was featured, Arinifu was inspired by the stories of past Pitch AgriHack winners. We were amazed at the work being done by other agritech start-ups. Motivated, our team did not hesitate to apply for the 2019 staging of the CTA competition and we were pleased to be among the 22 shortlisted finalists.
From the early stages of the competition, we recognised that Pitch AgriHack was unlike any other competition of its kind. We knew the competition would be challenging but thoughts of that were soon overshadowed by our enthusiasm and determination to showcase the potential of the Smart Brooder.
During the finale of the competition at the African Green Revolution Forum 2019 (AGRF) in Accra, Ghana, Arinifu underwent a week of training and pitching activities before the winners were announced on the final day of the event. Throughout the sessions, we were exposed to useful information that could take our start-up to the next level. One of the most insightful sessions for us was investor readiness as it gave us useful information about where and when to look for investment as well as the investment options available. Also, we learnt that although investment is important it should not be the only goal for start-ups. Sometimes start-ups stand to gain more from having technical knowledge.
After weeks of preparation, training and finally pitching our product to the judges and the public at AGRF, it was euphoric when our team won the prize for first runner up in the mature stage start-up category, copping €12,500.
The future of the Smart Brooder
We will use 80% of the cash prize for further product development which will help farmers to improve farming operations. We also intend to scale-up our operation by using part of the money for talent acquisition hiring a sales executive and a marketing specialist. In addition, we wish to expand our reach within Kenya and enter the regional market.
CTA’s Pitch AgriHack competition is one of the most enlightening initiatives Arinifu has attended and we encourage all budding agritech start-ups to apply. You stand the chance to not only win a grant, but also be part of a rich agritech start-up ecosystem.