Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

Innovation Hub

Hot startup of the month: Kenya's Farmshine

Article Image
About 80% of sub-Saharan Africa's agricultural production is by smallholder farmers and the female share of the agricultural labor force in the region is the highest in the world. Yet this female-dominated workforce has been unsupported for too long.

Often having to juggle domestic duties and agricultural work – sowing and harvesting the crops while ensuring their families have food on the table – women face bigger challenges in achieving high yields than men do, an issue compounded by their relative lack of access to land, agricultural extension services and new technologies. Failing to provide adequate support to this crucial workforce harms global food production.

According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), if women were given the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase the yields on their farms by up to 30%, which would in turn reduce global hunger by between 12% and 17%.

In Africa, where tech entrepreneurs are increasingly building out digital platforms to solve fundamental problems, there are a number of companies operating in the agriculture space, working on solutions designed to help farmers produce more and better crops and make more money, thus making a sector still known for its poverty more sustainable.

Kenyan farmers monitoring their sorghum crop.  (Source: Farmshine)
Kenyan farmers monitoring their sorghum crop.
(Source: Farmshine)

Key among them is Kenya's Farmshine, which helps smallholder farmers aggregate quality crops for sale directly to large buyers. Formed in 2017, the startup also licenses its platform to help organizations manage the entire agriculture value chain with end-to-end traceability.

Basically, Farmshine allows farmers, buyers and service providers to trade on mutually beneficial terms, away from the meddling of middlemen. Its agriculture operating system allows smallholder farmers – 70% of whom are women in Kenya – to aggregate and sell their harvests directly to large commodity companies.

App assistance

The Farmshine mobile app ensures farmers are offered clear, fair and reliable contracts from legitimate buyers. Combine this with the on-the-ground support provided by Farmshine's field officers, and the female-driven smallholder farmer industry is getting a real boost.

Co-founder Chris Mimm says over half of the farmers on the Farmshine platform are women, a percentage the startup is proud of but wants to increase, and that Farmshine is offering them very real assistance in growing their businesses.

"In addition to helping them sell more crops at better prices, our platform provides female farmers with a verifiable trade history. Based on this record, these farmers can, for example, apply for loans or purchase inputs on credit. This is a vital enabling factor in connecting farmers to the broader agricultural ecosystem," he said.

Kenyan farmers weeding their bean crop.  (Source: Farmshine)
Kenyan farmers weeding their bean crop.
(Source: Farmshine)

Farmshine's founding team has some expertise in this space, with CEO Luca Alinovi previously the head of the FAO Kenya and Somalia offices, while Mimm's Co-founder Alessio Colussi was head of Green Coffee at Illycafe before leading the agribusiness team at FAO Kenya.

The company was formed to solve a problem recognized during their time at FAO, that the traditional analog agriculture value chain prevented farmers, especially women, from realizing the true value of their production.

"Traditionally, there was no way for smallholder farmers to transact directly with large buyers. Buyers were simply not able to process thousands of small purchases. By enabling farmers to aggregate large quantities of product, validating the quality through our field teams, and providing traceable logistics and payments, we have addressed a major problem on both the supply and demand side of the market," explained Mimm.

Investor interest

So significant was the potential of Farmshine to address these problems that in December 2019 the startup raised US$250,000 in funding from GMC coLABS – an early-stage, sector-agnostic, gender-aware investment portfolio of impact investor Gray Matters Capital.

"Since then, we have partnered with both 2Scale and the World Bank to connect farmers to our platform through licensing partnerships with county governments in Kenya," Mimm said.

"In 2020, the company partnered with Vestergaard, a Swiss multinational with extensive experience in the African agriculture sector. Through this partnership we have created a new company, Grainconnect, which combines Farmshine's platform with Vestergaard's expertise in storing agricultural commodities. Ultimately this partnership will enable the company to increase the net income and decrease the economic risk of tens of thousands of farmers throughout Kenya and Africa."

A woman fetching water in a rural area.  (Source: alkags on Pixabay)
A woman fetching water in a rural area.
(Source: alkags on Pixabay)

Although Farmshine is for now focused on scaling its operations in Kenya, Mimm said it is looking at expanding to other East African countries as well as exporting its product to Europe.


Want to know more about African startups and new innovations on the continent? Check out our Innovation Hub here on Connecting Africa.


In spite of the strong growth, Farmshine, which receives a percentage of the trade conducted on its platform, has faced numerous challenges in changing the way things are done.

"Changing any established system is inevitably challenging. It took time to convince large buyers that smallholder farmers could produce the quantity and quality of crops they require. Similarly, we worked to convince farmers that the effort required to produce a higher quality product would be reflected in the prices they were paid at harvest," Mimm said.

That challenge has now been overcome, at least in Kenya, and Farmshine is now working towards helping Africa's female-run smallholder farmers access market quicker and more easily than ever before.

Related posts:

*Top image source: Farmland photo created by freepik - www.freepik.com.

— Tom Jackson, co-founder of Disrupt Africa, special to Connecting Africa

Innovation hub

Story

Hot startup of the month: South Africa's Zoie Health

This month's hot startup is South African digital women's health clinic Zoie Health – a digital app that focuses on family planning, fertility and maternity care.

Story

Orange Côte d'Ivoire launches 5G lab in Abidjan

Pan-African telecoms operator, Orange, has launched a 5G lab in Côte d'Ivoire in anticipation of its 5G network rollout in 2023.

More Innovation hub

Partner perspectives

5G is lighting up the future of North Africa
By Chris Meng, VP of Huawei Northern Africa Carrier Business Department

The moving target that is telecoms fraud
By Clémentine Fournier, Regional VP Sales, Africa, BICS

How mobile operators in Africa can address signalling threats and secure the network
By Katia Gonzalez, Head of Fraud and Security at BICS

All Partner Perspectives

Africa Tech Perspectives

Story

Women in Tech: Spotlight on inclusivity with Digital Council Africa's Juanita Clark

Digital Council Africa founder and CEO, Juanita Clark, talks to Connecting Africa as part of our Women's Month series about her career and what needs to be done to make the tech industry intentionally inclusive.

Story

Women in Tech: Spotlight on legal tech with Life.file's Sinal Govender

Life.file co-founder, Sinal Govender, talks to Connecting Africa as part of our Women's Month series about her career and how we can encourage more young girls to enter the legal tech field.

Story

Digital inclusion as a catalyst for economic empowerment: Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu

Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu talks to Connecting Africa about how digital payment solutions and mobile money are transforming the lives of small business owners, women and marginalized groups in East Africa.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Latest video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Guest Perspectives

Story

Omdia View: July 2022

By Omdia Analysts

Kenya and Zambia move towards 5G with new spectrum allocations while Tunisie Telecom plans to shut down its 3G network - that and more in this month's Omdia View.

Story

Omdia View: June 2022

By Omdia Analysts

5G was the major news trend across Africa in June, as Orange became the first operator to launch 5G in Réunion and operators in Senegal accelerated their 5G plans despite spectrum delays.

More Guest Perspectives

Upcoming events

Africa Tech Festival
November 7-11, 2022
CTICC, Cape Town
More Upcoming events

Archived webinars

Africa Green ICT: Lighting Up a Sustainable Continent

The ICT industry is the leading industry in the commitment to carbon neutrality, whose focus has shifted from setting ambitious targets to taking initiatives. The push for zero-carbon and for green energy development, it isn't just about CSR – it's also good for sustainable business.

The path to sustainable development requires green energy. Governments are looking at potential policy approaches to make green energy more widely available and affordable. Without sustainable energy, there will be no digital transformation and no chance of making Africa more economically competitive in the post-pandemic era.

Africa Green ICT Webinar 2022 will bring together ICT industry leaders and senior industrial analysts to provide insight, best practices and key learnings on how to achieve zero-carbon targets and practice green development in Africa.

More Webinars

Sponsored video

More videos

Flash poll

All polls

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up