Onesmus Kasee runs a busy grocery shop in South C, a sprawling middle-class suburb in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. His morning to mid-day task is dominated by sourcing the stock for the day –making early morning trips to various fresh produce wholesale markets in the city, buying various fruits and vegetables and then arranging for their transport to his shop.
Thanks to an agritech innovation, Kasee’s early morning trips to the fresh produce wholesale markets have now reduced; he spends less on transport and has more time to perform other tasks. This is because he has started using Terralima, a new agritech startup that is streamlining farm-to-retail linkages for smallholder farmers in Africa.
Roy Njoka, the chief executive and co-founder of Terralima, describes it as an online marketplace that connects the farmer directly to the retailer with the platform being the intermediary which sources from the farm, warehouses, sorts, packages and delivers to the retailer.
The startup is part of the innovation hub in Nairobi known as Delta40, a venture studio that aims to increase incomes and tackle climate change in Africa by building and investing in technology ventures. Delta40 focuses on technology-driven energy, agriculture, and mobility ventures led by diverse, experienced founders.
Kasee said one of the biggest advantages of using the Terralima platform is that it has helped him cut operational costs, free his time for other tasks and access high-quality produce.
On the outskirts of the industrial town of Thika, about 40 km north of Nairobi, is Patricia Wanjiku, a retired public servant who now does small-scale commercial farming of chickens for eggs. Three months ago, Terralima field agents recruited her into the network, her role being one of the 2,000 farmers supplying hundreds of retailers with eggs.
“Terralima buys up to 68 crates of eggs every week. Before I joined them, many traders were coming to pick eggs from my farm. The difference is that Terralima is consistent. This is why I want to keep this relationship with them. Their payment is prompt, no credit and this is good for my business,” Wanjiku said.
Wanjiku is now directly connected to retailers, meaning that she is assured of demand for her eggs. As a result, she is planning to increase the number of her birds to 2,500 from the current 1,500 to meet the demand-driven market opportunity under Terralima.
Terralima’s solution helps match supply with demand and in the process, cuts off many destructive intermediaries otherwise known as brokers from the fresh produce farm to the fork chain. To ensure each of them gets a profit, these brokers buy from farmers at rock-bottom prices to preserve margins along the chain, meaning the retailer gets the produce at six to ten times the farm gate price and the consumer unknowingly pays exorbitant prices.
“We started six months ago. We have 2,000 farmers and 800 retailers. We offer prices that are lower or similar to those at the retail market. Our platform is transparent. Our target is that in five years, we shall have at least 3 million farmers on our platform,” said Roy Njoka, the co-founder of Terralima.
Terralima’s biggest challenge is the logistics of getting produce at the farm gate and being able to deliver it at high quality to the retailers, which Njoka said is being addressed through technology options of using stickers that prolong the shelf life of fruits, use of special films to cover the produce while being transported to preserve the freshness and exploring other options like the cold storage.