Fri, Oct

Young entrepreneurs compete for seed funding to revolutionise agriculture

KIC teams interact with Aveyime rice farmers

Twenty young entrepreneurs in five teams have moved to the next stage of the Kosmos Innovation Centre’s (KIC) AgriTech Challenge 2016, a formal competition in which invited young business leaders are tasked to use innovation to develop commercial solutions to challenges within agriculture. 

The latest culling of competitors comes after the most recent round of business presentation which resulted in the selection of five teams by a panel of expert judges drawn from academia, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), and other private sector enterprises. 

The ultimate winners of the competition will receive seed funding and technical assistance from the KIC, as well as mentorship from MEST, to help them turn their ideas into viable businesses.

Nurturing big ideas: AgriTech Exchange 

More than 100 young entrepreneurs from all over Ghana entered the competition, which began in April this year with the inaugural AgriTech Exchange event, an interactive and informative brainstorming session in which experts in agriculture, business and technology gathered to define the most pressing challenges facing Ghana’s agricultural sector. 

There was a round-robin session with participants divided into small mixed groups to meet with technology specialists. Each technology specialist demonstrated how their ICT tool addressed a real-world agricultural problem. 

The round-robin session was followed by Ghanaian agribusiness specialists describing the problems that they face on a day-to-day basis in a small group setting, divided into two broad segments of the value chain – pre-harvest and production, and post-harvest and marketing. 

At this stage, the groups then formulated and presented clear, concise ‘problem statements’ describing a challenge that needs to be addressed by technology.

There were also expert lectures about the factors that drive successful adoption of agricultural innovations. 

The groups then brainstormed various ideas for ICT solutions that could address the problem statements they had outlined to form the basis of a viable business proposition or product line. Participants then formulated a business concept based on the ideas generated during this session.

Each group was allotted time to present their business concepts to the whole group, detailing the relevance of the problem being addressed, the technological solution that was formulated during brainstorming, and the potential commercial viability of the project. 

In a highly competitive selection process that followed the event, the young entrepreneurs presented preliminary ideas to the panel of judges. Just 44 entrepreneurs were selected to move forward to the next stage of the competition.

Turning ideas into viable business plans

In May, the 44 young entrepreneurs – known in the programme as “AgriTechies” – attended a series of lunch-and-learn programmes aimed at deepening their understanding of the agricultural sector, studying the challenges identified in the AgriTech Exchange and preparing for a 13-day field research tour. 

The KIC-sponsored research tour took participants to five regions in Ghana – Greater Accra, Volta, Eastern, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo – to interact directly with more than 400 farmers and 34 agribusinesses to collect valuable input. 

The 44 young entrepreneurs, who had formed 11 teams, continued to refine their ideas and formulate business proposals which were presented to a panel of expert judges in June. 

The 20 entrepreneurs on five teams who survived this second pitch round continue to work on their business plans in advance of a final pitch on August 23  to select the winners. 

Promising new talents

The Vice-President and Country Manager of Kosmos Energy, Mr Joe Mensah, expressed satisfaction at the progress that had been made in encouraging the young entrepreneurs to tackle challenges identified in the pilot area – agriculture. 

He said the programme had attracted and discovered talented individuals who had a passion for innovation and who saw real business opportunities in agriculture. 

“They have put in an extraordinary amount of work and received a lot of support over the last several months. Everyone at the Kosmos Innovation Centre is looking forward to the excitement of the final pitch round,” Mr Mensah said.

Building a brighter future

Created in 2016 to help build a brighter future, the Kosmos Innovation Centre is Kosmos Energy’s flagship social investment programme in Ghana. The KIC begins its work by choosing an area of focus from one of Ghana’s many different sectors. 

In its first year, the KIC has turned its attention to agriculture – the largest sector of Ghana’s economy – where it will pursue and nurture the development of market-based solutions that address development challenges.