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Kenyan mobile-based B2B distribution platform Twiga Foods wants to put about 8000 acres of unused agricultural land in Kenya to use to meet growing demand for its platform — which connects vendors with fresh produce farmers — the startup’s CEO Grant Brooke said today.
Brooke (pictured above, right) was responding to questions by venture capitalist Christopher Schroeder of Next Billion Ventures, at Gitex Future Stars, an expo hosted in Dubai alongside Gitex Technology Week.
Brooke said while his platform currently serves 2000 informal vendors a day, meeting demand for the traders that source fresh produce from the platform to then retail, still remains a challenge.
On top of this the country imports between $6-billion and $7-billion worth of food annually.
Twiga Foods wants to put about 8000 acres of unused agricultural land in Kenya to use to meet growing demand for its platform
Brooke said the startup has embarked upon some trials and is looking to start a programme where the startup leases land from landowners and in return pays them a royalty fee from the foodstuffs sold that are produced on the land.
The pilot would look to put about 8000 acres of undeveloped farm land to use, he added.
“Largely it (land) is unused because people haven’t been able to plant knowing that there’s a market that they can sell to. But they don’t know how to monetise and develop it (the land),” he added.
Second investment round
Things have come a long way since Brooke founded the startup four years ago with Peter Njonjo — the former head of Coco-Cola in West Africa — while he was doing a doctorate on food economics focusing on informal markets.
It follows the $10.3-million the startup raised in a round led by Wamda Capital and Omidyar Network, which was announced in July last year.
Last year the startup was also one of six African startups that took part in the fourth class of Google’s Launchpad accelerator.
‘Four markets by 2025’
Brooke said he wants to see Twiga Foods in four African countries by 2025 and is keen to make available rice, oil, flour and other staples through the platform — on top of the bananas, tomatoes, onions and potatoes it currently sources from farmers for vendors.
Twiga Foods’ biggest challenge, said Brooke, is the shortage of suppliers and distributors that the startup can tap into. It means that the startup has “do everything” itself, he said.
“Our number one value is to own our own problems. We just vertically integrate everything and get to know it and get to be good at it, because everything has to be built.
Conceded Brooke: “There’s a lot of value in doing that, but it’s at a slower pace”.
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Stephen Timm is in Dubai as a guest of Gitex Future Stars. The article was sponsored by Gitex Future Stars.
Featured image: Next Billion Ventures’ Christopher Schroeder (left) in conversation with Twiga Foods CEO Grant Brooke (Stephen Timm).