Awarding a total prize pool of USD 45,000, the competition recognized and celebrated the brilliance of young minds that are reshaping the future of African agriculture
The Pitch AgriHack (https://apo-opa.info/3Zaz0kE) 2023 results are in, capping an inspiring journey celebrating Africa’s most exciting agritech visionaries. Applicants from 39 African countries went through a rigorous selection process until six winners were crowned at the Youth Innovation Awards on the final day of The Africa Food Systems Forum hosted at the Julius Nyerere ICC, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This year’s Pitch AgriHack theme, “Unleash your Innovation,” resonated deeply with the entrepreneurs who demonstrated how technology can be harnessed to drive sustainability, improve productivity, and uplift communities.
Pitch AgriHack (https://apo-opa.info/3Zaz0kE) 2023 was jointly organized by the African Food Systems Forum (AGRF), Heifer International, and Generation Africa. This year participants and supporters witnessed an impressive showcase of innovation. The competition underscored the power of technology-driven solutions in addressing pressing challenges across the agricultural value chain. Awarding a total prize pool of USD 45,000, the competition recognized and celebrated the brilliance of young minds that are reshaping the future of African agriculture.
“This competition serves as a dynamic showcase of sustainable practices and innovation that is set to define African agriculture. Beyond acknowledging inventive ideas, Pitch AgriHack underscores the steadfast commitment of our youth to revolutionize the sector. At Heifer International, we recognize technology’s pivotal role in fostering prosperity for smallholder farmers and rural communities,” said Adesuwa Ifedi, Senior Vice President for Africa Programs. “We are deeply committed to investing in and enabling young individuals to create solutions that enhance the yields of smallholder farmers, and the agritech solutions presented not only address challenges within the agricultural value chain but also promote environmental conservation, resource efficiency, and long-term viability.”
Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA and Former Special Envoy to the UN Food Systems Summit, remarked, “The achievements seen at Pitch AgriHack 2023 truly celebrate entrepreneurial excellence in agriculture. These young innovators are not only shaping the sector’s trajectory through their creativity and dedication, but they’re also inspiring future leaders to consider impactful careers in agriculture and agribusiness. The technologies presented demonstrate the power of youth to drive practical and sustainable solutions, paving the way for a resilient and prosperous tomorrow.”
The innovative solutions developed by the 2023 Pitch AgriHack finalists span a diverse spectrum. From turning waste into cooking gas and electricity, to ultra-fast composting with integrated nutrient analysers, these young entrepreneurs are finding value in nature-positive projects. Cost-saving measurement devices that analyse crop and soil health, providing recommendations that empower farmers, also impressed the judges. Artificial Intelligence integrations featured in several digital farming assistants. Drawing on massive data sets they optimize production, detect diseases, and generate recommendations for improved farming practices.
The entrepreneurs also presented game-changing inclusive finance solutions for women farmers and commodity-backed, post-harvest handling and storage for smallholders. With automated farm management and monitoring systems and behaviour modification solutions that reward farmers for following better practises, Africa’s young innovators are determined to build a better food system.
“The multi-facetted technologies, environmentally-aware approaches, and thorough business models we saw here today indicate that our youth entrepreneurs are building more resilient businesses with more comprehensive offerings that in turn help their farmers become more resilient, too,” said Dickson Naftali, Head of Generation Africa. “It is exactly the type of transformation we need, at scale, for the responsible development of the African food system. Pitch AgriHack not only celebrates such innovation but also fosters networking, collaboration, and exchange among these enterprising youth, mentors, investors, and industry experts. It creates a supportive ecosystem that propels them to grow. We are excited to see how they benefit from this opportunity.”
The Pitch AgriHack 2023 Winners are:
Winner: Watson Matsa, Co-Founder and CEO of eSusFarm Africa, South Africa
eSusFarm connects with rural farmers via feature-phone USSD, allowing them access to value-chain services, markets, and credit providers. Their system helps small farmers build their track record by collecting farm production data, and monitoring produce quality. Connect with Watson’s venture at www.eSusFarm.Africa.
Runner-up: El Mahdi Aboulmanadel, Founder and CEO of DeepLeaf, Morocco
DeepLeaf is an agricultural deep learning lab that is focused on leveraging the latest in AI technology to revolutionize the way we grow crops. Their intelligent farming chatbot, Morshida, uses deep learning to analyse plant images and assist farmers in disease analysis. With natural language processing, Morshida can communicate in 14 different languages and dialects. Connect with El Mahdi’s venture at https://DeepLeaf.io.
Mature and Growth-Stage Winners:
Winner: Tunde Adeyemi, Founder and CEO of D-Olivette, Nigeria
D-Olivette builds Bio-Tanks, anaerobic digestors that transforms organic farm waste into fertilizer and biogas for cooking and electricity generation. Their solution is helping smallholder farmers to reduce operational costs, pollution, and CO2 emissions. Connect with Tunde’s venture at http://D-Olivette.com.
Runner-up: Reem Nafea, Co-Founder and Business Development Director of BioMasr, Egypt
Biomasr’s new Rafik app is a hub for organic agriculture in Egypt. It connects farmers to ecological waste management, clean energy production, and organic fertiliser suppliers, while also empowering women farmers to grow and sell quality organic produce. Connect with Reem’s venture at https://BioMasr.com.
Women-led Agribusiness Winners:
Winner: Priscilla Wakarera, Co-Founder and CEO of Rhea, Kenya
Rhea helps smallholder farmers make the right decisions by providing affordable, convenient soil testing for smarter farming. Their IoT device does moisture testing, NPK measurements and soil PH tests before sending AI generated recommendations for fertiliser, pH adjustments, irrigation, and crop recommendations. Connect with Priscilla’s venture at www.Rhea.Africa.
Runner-up: Solape Akinpelu, Co-Founder and CEO of HerVest, Nigeria
HerVest is about inclusive finance for African women. They provide easy access to target savings, impact investments and credit financing for smallholder women farmers and women-owned/led SMEs in Nigeria. Connect with Solape’s venture at https://www.HerVest.ng.
The winners were selected by an esteemed panel of judges that included experts and leaders in agriculture and technology. Pitch AgriHack contestants were honoured to get invaluable advice and guidance from this highly-respected judges group consisting of:
- Barbra Sehlule Muzata, Communications Lead – CGIAR
- Dr. Nalishebo Meebelo, Executive Director – Regional Network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes (ReNAPRI)
- Nono Sekhoto, Sector Lead – AL for Agribusiness Network – African Leadership Academy
- Victor Mugo, Head of Local Youth Action – World Food Forum
- Sheila Kaaya, Lead – Agriculture, Agribusiness and Agrifood systems – The Mastercard Foundation
- Jane Lowicki-Zucca, Senior Youth Advisor – USAID
- Patrick Heffer, Deputy Director General – International Fertilizer Association
- Jehiel Oliver, Founder & CEO – Hello Tractor
- Dr. Charles Iyangbe, Signature Program Director – Africa Programs – Heifer International
This year’s Pitch AgriHack applicant breakdown mirrors Africa’s youthful dynamism. 79.3% were early-stage startups, embodying the innovative pulse of the competition. Mature/growth-stage agritech ventures represented 20.5%, underlining the sector’s growth.
The innovation showcased at Pitch AgriHack 2023 is a strong affirmation of the commitment of AGRF, Heifer International, and Generation Africa to nurture innovation, create job opportunities, and enhance food security across the continent. Through this dynamic competition, the partners seek to inspire a new generation of agritech entrepreneurs who will not only revolutionize the agricultural landscape but also empower smallholder farmers to overcome challenges and embrace sustainable change.