Growing up in a smallholder farming community and acquiring a Computer Science degree does not inevitably produce an ICT4Ag developer, but when it does, it spurs a wave of innovation. 23 year old Peris Bosire, co-founder of Farm Drive, exemplifies just that.
Ms Bosire drew her inspiration to develop an agri-app from her subsistence farming community in Kisii, Kenya. Her parents are small-scale farmers who seldom access credit from financial institutions because they have no credit profile and farm records.
The Bosires are only a representation of what many smallholder farmers in Kenya experience. To tackle this problem, Ms. Bosire and three peers from the University of Nairobi developed Farm Drive. It is a web and mobile platform that profiles farmers for financial institutions and functions as a book keeping tool, enables risk assessment and connects farmers to potential investors.
Peris Bosire and her team presented their responsive and contextually relevant innovation at the ICT4Ag Hackathon held in Rwanda in November 2013. Farm Drive is one of the success stories of the inaugural Agri-Hackathon. Though the four developers were not among the winners at the hackathon, their project attracted a lot of investor interest locally and internationally. A Japanese investor is interested in replicating the application in Japan. The application is also incubated at C4DLab incubation center at the University of Nairobi. Farm drive is an outstanding success story as itaddresses a real need for farmers using a business model with profit potential.
A successful inaugural hackathon
The success of Farm Drive has seen Ms. Bosire and her team invited back by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the organisers of the Hackathon, to the Fin4Ag 2014 International Conference. Together with developers of the winning application, Ensbuuko, they were part of the post-hackathon analysis team that reviewed the achievements and impact of the ICT4Ag Hackathon.
According to John Kieti, the technical manager of the agrihack championship, the ICT4Ag Hackathon sought to address two challenges that smallholder farmers in East Africa face: 1) efficient bidirectional information sharing between farmers and extension workers and 2) access to financial services through ICT.
The main achievement of the hackathon is that it ignited the development of ICT4Ag applications. This is especially as many of the 9 ICT hubs involved in mentoring finalists at last year’s hackathon, who were not previously engaged in ICT4Ag, have now diversified to include agriculture. Moreover, software developers who participated in the hackathon refined their business skills.
Often software developers fail to highlight the business arm of their innovation. But, the ICT4Ag Hackathon ensured that promising applications learned how to create business models from their mentor ICT hubs. The hackathon also proved to be a key to job creation for developers. Encouragingly, the winning projects, namely Ensibuuko and Farm Drive, have grown into registered companies.
Replicating the Agri-hackathon in the Caribbean
Following the tremendous success and popularity of the ICT4Ag Hackathon in Rwanda, CTA will be organising a Caribbean agri-hackathon dubbed “AgriHack Talents Caribbean”. The main objective of the event slated to be held in Jamaica is to unearth ICT solutions that can revolutionise agriculture.
“The special thing we will be looking for in the upcoming AgriHack Talents Caribbean is ICT solutions for the agriculture sector in the Caribbean that have sound business models,” said Ingrid Riley, the CEO of ConnectiMass Foundation, a key partner of AgriHack Caribbean chapter.
Blogpost by Nyambura Maina, Social Reporter for the Fin4Ag Conference.