Agriculture Moment: VC Funding, Farmer Social Networking

Recap of recent agriculture-themed events and blogs posts

Farm blogs: The agriculture themed blog Tracking The Scent had a recent post that linked to an article by Bedah Mengo about farming being unattractive to young Kenyans.  The blog was the winner at the recent Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) in the category of  agriculture blogs and that also included several worthy competitors including Kipsizoo 

 Young Agropreneur Chronicles of a Kenyan Farmer and the Pan-African Agribusiness & Agroindustry Consortium blog.

Other recent blogs and articles of note relating to agriculture include: 

Timbuktu Chronicles had a post about going back to farming that noted Although Kenyan youths make up over 75 per cent of the country’s population, farming is not considered an attractive option. This mentality has been entrenched in the education system that traditionally dooms the academically challenged to farming, otherwise known as the ‘poor man’s profession’. As a result, according to Kenya’s agricultural ministry, the average age of a Kenyan farmer is 55. However, the tide is beginning to turn.

The blog How We Made it in Africa highlighted nine agribusiness opportunities including fruit juices, cassava, soya bean, sorghum (replacing barley in Kenyan beer) vegetables, milk, and equipment leasing. 

The  Business Daily newspaper had an article on large scale (white) farmers in Kenya  in Tanzania, and some the challenges in terms of production, leasing, markets, diversification and business secessions.

Farm Networks & New Media Tools: The iHub blogged about the results of the Rockefeller Foundation 2012 Innovation Challenges Competition which aimed to generate innovative ideas for how to address water insecurity, food insecurity, as well as key challenges posed by urbanization. Four Kenyan Entries were shortlisted as finalists and two emerged the winners in the categories farming now and decoding data. The one on farming was by Joseph Macharia and aimed to empower youth with agricultural information through radio and other ICTs.

At a recent Wireless Wednesday session at the mLab, several mobile applications relating to agriculture were showcased including Mkulima Calc (a farm management system) GreenhousePro (an input calculator) FarmPal (equipment for hire, sell produce online, find temp farm staff)  Fishmate, GreenHouseDIY and Mpoultry.

There is a very nice & informative Farming Kenya group on Facebook group as well as a mobile social network for farmers called

Financing: Away from the traditional financiers in agriculture like banks and the agriculture finance corporation. They covered a variety of targets sectors and are of interest to farmers willing to invest alongside the funders.

Last week saw the launch of a new  Kshs 2 billion (~$25 million) African Agricultural Capital Fund by Pearl Capital Partners that will invest  in high growth businesses in the agricultural value chain in East Africa

They have been in investing in the East Africa region for a few years in diverse companies including in seed, certification, ethanol and poultry. They invest, advise and growing with investee companies over  5 – 7 years.

  The fund is seeking agri-business firms with a  turnover of less than $10m, fewer than 150 employees, less than $5m asset value, but which have high-quality management chains to invest amounts of $300,000 to 2.5M (Kshs 25 – 200M shillings) in debt or equity. 

At the launch, Jane Karuku, the  president of  AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), spoke about their goal of promoting food security, by invest throughout the food chain from seed to market (including sustainable markets, regional/export) and the work they had done with partner banks and institutions to finance $4 billion in Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and Tanzania where they have had the greatest success by funding seed companies.