Ghana’s agritech scene is fledgling and continues to grow at a faster pace.
University students, graduates and business executives are making inroads into agrictech entrepreneurship by creating devices, developing technology driven solutions and building on existing technologies to boost the agriculture value chain right from the planting stage to marketing of farm produce, but the question of how these innovations directly impact on the agriculture landscape especially among smallholder farmers still lingers.
Ghana isn’t the only African country with rising agritech startups. Fact is, the Agrinnovating for Africa: Exploring the African Agri-Tech Startup Ecosystem Report 2018, places Ghana behind Nigeria and Kenya as the third leading country with a lot of agritech startups in Africa.
According to the report, Africa is home to 82 agric-tech startups with Kenya touted as the pioneer of agri-tech entrepreneurship in Africa.
Much as the rise of agritech entrepreneurs and startups is good news for farmers and the economy in general owning to the fact that agriculture is the back bone of Ghana’s economy (the sector employs over 40% of working Ghanaians), it isn’t really good news for smallholder farmers who contribute about 80 % to total agricultural production in Ghana.
Firstly, some of these devices and platforms are not designed with smallholder farmers who are probably tucked in a village somewhere with no electricity in mind.
Most of these devices are connected to smartphones making it unmaneuverable for smallholder farmers who may have little or no formal education.
Part of the problem is the language barrier as most of these devices are designed with instructions or manual in the English language.
The cost of these technologies developed by agrictech entrepreneurs further compounds the obstacle for most of these farmers whose meagre earnings leave them with almost nothing after selling their farm produce.
For example, one of Ghana’s leading agritech powerhouses, Sesi Technologies’Gainmate (Grain Moisture Metre) sells at GH₵500 (A little over $100). As cheap as it may seem compared to similar devices available elsewhere, small-scale farmers lack the fiscal strength to acquire one.
Grain Mate Moisture Meter is a device developed in Ghana and sold across the African continent. It helps prevent post-harvest losses in grains by helping farmers determine the exact moisture content in their grain crops before storage. It further helps to prevent growth of aflatoxins which damages grains and are toxic to human lives.
In a previous interview with Elorm Allavi, Chief Executive Officer of Sycomp Ghana LTD- a technology driven organization supporting agriculture initiatives, he explained that these technology driven devices should be targeted at warehouses and storage operators who can afford and properly use it rather than the farmers.
He further recommended that agritech entrepreneurs should consider local language versions of their devices.
The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) predicts Africa’s agribusiness sector to reach US$1 trillion by 2030 and for Ghana to fully partake in this opportunity, there should be a conscious effort to make the impact of these innovations real in the lives of farmers.
Ultimately, the government needs to form sustainable collaborations with agritech startups to scale up their businesses and sell these devices at subsidized fees to reach more farmers which will in turn increase yield and go a long way to augment the economy.
Yes! the agritech space is growing- agritech entrepreneurs are winning many awards with their groundbreaking tech solutions through impressive PowerPoint presentations on international platforms, now is the time to make it real in the lives of farmers.
By Pamela Ofori-Boateng/ Business World Ghana/ 2018©