Coming from a poor family background in Ghana where getting 3 square meals to eat was a daily challenge, Isaac Sesi, 25, developed a strong passion for agriculture while growing up and set out on a personal mission to improve global food security.
Although, he sparked a love affair with creating devices since 2008 when he was only 15 years old, developing tech supported devices to assist farmers only began as part of a research project in an undergraduate degree programme some few years ago.
“I love technology and decided I was going to combine my love for agriculture and technology to develop solutions for farmers and other stakeholders across the agric value chain,” Sesi told Business World Ghana in an interview.
Together with his team (made up of 4 young people from different fields), they helped assembled moisture meters for farmers- a device that enabled farmers to measure moisture content in grains and it came out successfully.
After the launch of the product, the team decided to start a company to commercialize their products while producing in large quantities. This birthed Sesi Technologies which currently produces the moisture meter (Grain mate) in larger quantities.
Currently, Sesi Technologies is introducing a new product line for farmers;
“We call it FarmSense. FarmSense helps greenhouse farmers increase yield and efficiency by making it possible to remotely monitor and control important farm conditions within the greenhouse. Even though we are still in advanced prototype stage, we have quite a large number of preorders from startups in the country,” Sesi proudly says.
With most Ghanaian farmers being smallholder farmers coupled with poor literacy level and the presumed difficulties associated with using these devices, Sesi has a strategy.“We are well aware of the fact that farmers have low literacy level and we factor that in the way we design the products.”
“For instance, we have two models of GrainMate device. One of the models is very easy and straightforward to operate and requires very little training. It has just a few buttons which does just one thing so farmers don’t get confused. For more sophisticated products such as FarmSense, we are not targeting smallholder farmers, but rather farmers who are in the position to appreciate and adopt the technology better,” he added.
For Sesi, it’s all about conducting research in Agriculture and coming up with solutions that enable farmers to improve productivity and efficiency, reduce losses and increase yield and profits.
Now that is exactly what Sesi Technologies is helping farmers to achieve “Farmers definitely derive one or more of the above benefits when they use our products and services,” he noted.
For now, the startup is focusing on FarmSense and GrainMate and putting the relevant structures in place to help scale up production.
Driving sales for such products could prove a bit patchy as most farmers in Ghana are small holder farmers and does not have the needed resources to acquire such devices but his approach is, reaching out directly to people who he believes will be interested and pitching to them.
An article on the Government of Ghana website, ghana.gov.gh, attributes 80 per cent of total agriculture production in Ghana to small holder farmers
He further explained that small holder farmers are currently not the ones buying the product as the primary group doing the buying are donor organizations and crop aggregators.
When asked about sales he noted, “sales is good; our main challenge is not sales. It is producing enough to meet increasing demand.”
Gradually, his effort is paying off as Sesi Technologies got into the Tony Elumelu 2018 Entrepreneurship Programme which is currently running and promises of a cool $5000 at the end of the programme.
Through the programme entrepreneurs will receive online training and mentoring and use the skills acquired to develop business plans prior to receiving $5000 as capital.
The future holds a lot for the team as they are still at the initial stages of introducing new products unto the market and also working on setting up an assembly facility to increase production volumes.
With automation taking over jobs and a lot of the youth grappling with job search stress, many hold the view that agriculture is the antidote to the problem and Sesi concurs.
“Oh yes the future of the youth lies in Agriculture. The African Agriculture sector has so many problems begging to be solved. This means there are more opportunities for entrepreneurial youth and I will definitely encourage any young person who is considering venturing into agriculture to do so.”
By Pamela Ofori-Boateng/Business World Ghana