Industry experts to discuss ‘lack of capital Vs lack of…
Ever since the Kosmos Innovation Challenge started in 2016, the foundation has produced some of the region’s most competitive and successful agritech startups.
The 2016 Agritech winners, TROTRO Tractor have so far received grant funding from the Alliance for a New Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to implement the Smallholder Agricultural Mechanisation Project in different regions of Ghana.
AgroCenta, also past participants of the KIC programme, went on to be crowned Global Winners of SeedStars World earlier this year earning USD$500,000 in equity funding. Meanwhile, Agro Innova, another company that came out of KIC, was one of several winners across Africa of the annual Pitch Agrihack Competition in Kigali, Rwanda earlier this year.
Clearly there is synergy within the agritech ecosystem and the problems that entrepreneurs (with the assistance of KIC management) are solving; as their impact is felt in the ecosystem, even while they’re still in the programme.
So we recently caught up with Caroline Pomeyie, CEO of ProFish – one of the double winners of the KIC Challenge this year.
How did ProFish come about?
ProFish started as part of our market research while visiting farmers during the Kosmos Innovation Challenge. We felt there were many challenges we could solve and transform by leveraging on technology. There is a myriad of opportunities that exist within the sector, but they are largely untapped.
Why is it important to you as a company to solve this particular challenge in the fishing industry, where is the opportunity?
Every year, Ghana consumes about 950,000 metric tonnes of fish and yet we are currently producing about 450,000 metric tonnes. This means over 50 per cent of the fish we consume is imported. At the same time, Ghana is the third largest consumer of fish in the whole of Africa. The amount of potential revenue that we are losing due to the fact that we cannot scale up production is worrying. Therefore, it is very important to us in our own little way to start building up this sector so that in years to come we can feed ourselves and also supply other countries.
Can you please delve deeper into what your technology can do?
What we found out in terms of farm management practices was that even though our own local farmers are producing fish, they lack access to markets to sell their produce. The farmers in rural areas particularly face challenges such as logistics, and lack of cold storage. What we first thought of doing was to help them manage their farms by providing farm management software. However, they were doing well producing even in those circumstances, and what they needed were markets. So we decided to change focus by connecting them to customers and providing transportation assistance.
Through USSD technology, a farmer can dial a short code which they use to send us their location and tonnes in harvested produce. On the other hand, the customer also has a short code that they use. They will tell us the amount of fish they need. We pick up the fish from the farmer, repackage and dress the fish the way the customer has specified and then we deliver. That is our product Lojaanor [which means ‘markets’ in the local Ga language of Ghana]. It is Uber for Fish.
How has Profish been funded so far?
We are the 2018 winners of the Kosmos Agricultural Challenge which automatically qualified our company for USD$50,000 in funding. As a result, we are currently growing our business, solidifying our business processes and fine-tuning our technology. We are currently operating in Accra even though we source fish from outside Accra.
Who else is a part of the team at ProFish, and what do they do?
I am working with Emmanuel Tetteh Akweku, who is our Operations Manager. He’s hands on; ensuring we have our stock delivered and that we have the customer’s deliveries done. Then we have Alex Calvin Gbetie, who is our technical lead responsible for our web, mobile and USSD technology. He doubles up as our designer as well. Then we have Benjamin Setho, our Sales and Marketing Lead. Then as the team lead, I do a little bit of everything from financials to mainly communications.
So, how do you make your money?
We make a fee from the service we provide.
What have been some of your memorable highlights this year as a company?
Once we understood that farmers need markets and that the middlemen have huge margins, we decided to test if we could solve this problem. Once we concluded our financial projections and shared them with our mentors, they felt that our numbers were a bit ambitious so we scaled back based on their advice. As part of the process of validating our idea, we decided to test it for six weeks. This was our minimum viable product testing phase, and when we collated the results we were shocked and surprised because in six weeks we made 52 deliveries, delivered four tonnes worth of fish and we made over USD$12,000 in revenue.
What’s your 10-year vision for Lojaanor?
The biggest distributor of fish in West Africa.