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TechShelta: Greenhouse farming solutions powered by digital technology

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Bob Hawkson Amponsah, one of the winners of the Pitch AgriHack competition 2019 receives his award during the closing session of the AGRF conference

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Four young Ghanaians armed with technological insight and passion, are making it their mission to revolutionise agriculture in their country. The group, that met in 2018 during an innovation challenge competition, pooled together to form one of Ghana’s youngest agritech companies focusing on maximising greenhouse farming efficiency through innovative solutions.

Where is all started

TechShelta began operating in December 2018 after the group’s research between March and September that year revealed vegetable greenhouse farmers in Ghana achieve only about 40% of their expected yields due to inadequate knowledge, inefficient manual operations and lack of marketing support.

Ghana’s limited rainfall means the country imports most of its food, whether it’s onions from Niger, tomatoes from Burkina Faso, or garlic from China. Hence, greenhouse farming was introduced to Ghana to reduce the heavy importation of vegetables such as tomatoes due to its ability to aid all year-round production. However, each farm our team visited, the intention and design of this form of farming was not being realised thus leading TechShelta to focus on this niche area. We therefore began providing a suite of web and mobile based application that enables greenhouse farmers to have on demand access to advisory, automation, management, training and market linkages opportunities for the produce of greenhouse farmers and inputs of greenhouse dealers on our Agric market (A-market) platform.

So far TechShelta offers a subscription-based model service to 122 clients across Ghana. Our service remotely controls existing manual operating systems such as irrigation, temperature and humidity, with the aid of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. TechShelta also organises Farmer Field Schools (FFS) and Competency Based Training (CBT) for farmers and youth.

Pitch AgriHack builds the capacity of start-ups

We were introduced to CTA’s Pitch AgriHack competition through recommendations by past participants which includes: AgroCenta, Trotro Tractor, Cowtribe and AgroInnova. Our team was particularly encouraged to participate because of the competition’s approach to helping young e-agriculture startups from capacity building to efforts needed to scale as a business across the agricultural value chain.

Around the time that TechShelta was announced as finalists for Pitch AgriHack, my team was at a crossroad as we were about to launch new products and features for our Greenhouse Village Farm. Therefore, coming to the finale in Accra was quite difficult especially because I had to leave the daunting tasks for my cofounders to handle.

However, the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2019 experience was an experience my team and I anticipated knowing the learning and networking opportunities that the conference and competition would offer. Being alone at the competition, I was extremely anxious, but this was quelled by the various capacity building exercises and finally by my high expectation for a positive outcome.

It was also good being in the company of other young agritech entrepreneurs and sharing their experiences. Though our companies had different focuses and came from different countries, we all shared similar degrees of successes and challenges.

The training sessions leading up to the announcement of the winners at AGRF were quite informative. My interest piqued during the session on valuation- understanding your business and knowing its stage of development. Pitch AgriHack helps young entrepreneurs appreciate the extent to which ideas and innovations can be shared and scaled up. It also informed us about the support services and networks available for entrepreneurs within and outside Africa.

TechShelta won a cash prize of €5,000 provided by GreenTec Capital, a Pitch AgriHack partner. The cash will be used to improve and to customise our technology application as we currently rely on third party tools for our web and mobile applications as well as IoT devices. We will also have the opportunity to benefit from support in framework of the GreenTec Capital Results4equity‘s model.

Looking ahead

During the first two quarters of 2020, we will replicate our greenhouse village model and increase from 14 to 20 greenhouse structures in eastern Ghana. Also, by the end of 2020, we plan to introduce our web and mobile applications support services to open field farmers and begin operation in two other West African countries.

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