Agripoa, loosely translated to ‘smart agriculture’, is a Tanzanian-based start-up established by an enterprising young innovator Placidius Castus Rwechungura in 2019. The ATU Africa Innovation Challenge 2020 finalist who hails from Mbezi Louis-Msumi, Dar es Salaam, holds a bachelor’s degree in Engineering (Information Systems and Network Engineering) from St Joseph’s University in Dar es Salaam.
Rwechungura’s innovation is designed to enable farmers plan, monitor and analyze all farm activities as well as gain access to experts such as veterinary doctors through the application. It also connects them to fellow farmers for advice and encouragement and facilitates their easy access to livestock food and drugs, among others.
An optimist, he resigned from his workplace to take a chance with Agripoa. Within a short time, his savings which he channeled towards the innovation, were swept out. “I had to take up jobs such as building websites, hosting and software development to pay my home and office bills,” he reveals.
Rwechungura was convinced that his venture has a place in the future of Tanzania’s agriculture landscape. He had observed for example, that as a result of farmers lacking data to provide to insurance companies for their animals and plants, many of them are not insured and therefore are exposed to a wide range of vulnerabilities.
“From this, I thought of developing a software that could help the farmers keep their farm data, track their daily expenses and use data insights to predict the future and consequently put them in a better position to get insurances,” says the ATU Innovation Challenge finalist.
Agripoa has elevated him to the top as Placidius emerged among the top 11 finalists in the continent wide ATU Africa Innovation challenge 2020. The 35-year old’s journey to the top 11 finalists began with an email prompt from Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture, a voluntary and multi-stakeholder platform on Climate-Smart Agriculture. He was the recipient of the email due to his membership to the organization. He also encountered the advert on various social media platforms, further elevating his interest.
“Being an engineer with a spirit of providing solutions, I felt the opportunity was mine for the taking. That is how I decided to undertake the application process,” he says, delving in on the process. Rwechungura looks forward to expanding the innovation by incorporating additional crops and the use of Artificial Intelligence in the application. Together with the team, he is also working towards adding features that can record farm data and activities and link farmers with farming goods and suppliers.
Mr. Rwechungura (centre) showing farmers how to take photos of their farms using a drone
“I was excited, nervous, and optimistic about winning the challenge during the award ceremony,” he says. Although he did not turn out the overall winner, he is delighted with the exposure he received and the interaction with stakeholders such as Huawei, Intel, GSMA and ITU who have expressed willingness to walk the journey with him and other finalists of the Challenge.
Success in the Challenge has opened countless opportunities for Mr. Rwechungura. For example, a few weeks after the Challenge, the number of people using his application shot from 1000 to 3000 and they were farmers from various African countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria. Also, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) is supporting the Agripoa team. They first connected Mr. Rwechungura and the team to a startup Ecosystem in Dar es Salaam and are currently working on giving them an opportunity to conduct online training for farmers in Tanzania once the approval process is concluded.
Mr. Rwechungura (right) teaching a farmer how to map his farm using the Agripoa app
“Due to the exposure that came from participating in the Challenge, Agripoa has also been selected to be a part of an acceleration programme run by UKAid and the Human Development Innovation Fund (HDIF) in Dares Salaam and we will also be partnering with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture to help them reach their farmers all over Africa. We have also received investment from Seedstars even though we haven’t started generating revenue yet,” he says, adding that the publicity his innovation has received from China Global Television Network (CGTN) and local radio and TV stations has deepened the possibility of expansion.
Mr. Rwechungura managed to register his company and launched Version One of Agripoa in Dar es Salaam with poultry farmers. He looks forward to launching it in five other counties in Tanzania and plans to expand to other countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda within the coming six months. He is currently seeking support in terms of equipment that is to be used by the agronomists in the regions as well as funds that will enable him expand his app to include a wide variety of features including a payment system that will make it possible for him to start charging for the service.
Contact Mr. Placidius Rwechungura