Trackball Global Technologies is one of Nigeria’s newest D4Ag companies. Founded in 2019, Trackball provides ICT solutions. Through its e-learning platform, AgriCo, entrepreneurs in urban areas learn best practices for growing crops and rearing animals from the comfort of their homes with interactive online classes tutored by experts in agriculture.
After studying agricultural science and graduating from Kano University of Science and Technology, Wudil in 2018, my colleague and I ventured into vegetable and poultry farming. Our venture was relatively successful and our family, friends and neighbours started requesting that we teach them how to farm. We began teaching them and overtime the number of people requesting our help kept increasing. We thought the best way to reach them was through information technology. That along with our passion was how AgriCo was conceptualised.
Urban farming on the rise
With the rise in urban farming across Nigeria, there is little doubt about these farmers substantial contribution to food security in cities, however they receive very little acknowledgement for their role. At Trackball we recognise the challenges that these farmers encounter including reduced productivity partly due to inadequate access to reliable and relevant information on the best farming practices. Based on their location, some urban farms do not encounter much problem with infrastructure, nevertheless, due to the nature of their products that is high costs of production per unit and susceptibility to diseases, and farms sizes, there is a need for the farm to increase their productivity in order to be sustainable.
AgriCo has so much potential not only for Nigeria but for the entire African region so when our team member, Salihu Hamisu, who is a subscriber of CTA’s newsletters, read about the opening of the Pitch AgriHack competition we applied.
Disappointment to triumph
Pitch AgriHack was quite a remarkable journey. We started working from we received the e-mail stating we, along with over 100 other start-ups, qualified for the first round. It was really exciting. When the initial announcement for the 22 finalists was made we did not qualify. Our team was very disappointed. Much to our surprise, we received another e-mail notifying us that we were selected. A start-up was moved to another category while we were put in their place, that was amazing news for us!
After news of being shortlisted, the Trackball team worked assiduously on AgriCo which we developed during a previous hackathon that we won. We were pleased that we had something to show at the Pitch AgriHack competition, not just an idea.
At AGRF we went through the investment readiness organised by CTA and Impact Hub. We learned how to engage in business talks, we learnt that in business, especially at our stage, we can always make iterations or alterations, there is no one size that fits all. We also learnt about start-up stages, and business economies. In addition to the business knowledge and skills garnered from the training, there was an element of personal development. As my team’s representative for the competition’s finale I initially struggled with pitching our product. However, with the support of our team I eventually overcame that hurdle. The sessions were so informative that Trackball has since implemented a number of changes to our product. We have revised our value proposition, our services, pricing and revenue streams. The training was definitely a game changer for or company.
The Pitch AgriHack competition should be a much sought after endeavour for young entrepreneurs and start-ups. It places a spotlight on the talents of some of the most brilliant minds and creates an avenue through which they can showcase their innovations and get support from established players in agriculture, like CTA.
When Trackball was announced as winner of the Public Choice Award somehow it was unclear for that second, and then it clicked in my head, "Hey it's us, we got it!". Our team walked away with €5,000. We plan to use about 70% of the award for database development, e-learning platform licensing and hosting, while the remaining for professional fees, logistics and some office gadgets.
We want to launch our business with at least three classes and 1,000 paying users by the end of the year. Users of the platform will pay per class though it may evolve into a subscription service in the future. We also hope to reach 40% of the African market by the end of our fifth year.