Data-Driven Agricultural Solutions: The Technology Behind Decreasing Food Waste and Improving Farm Success

Globally, a third of the food produced is lost or wasted, and in Kenya, that figure stands at between 20% to 40%. Farm to Feed, an agri-tech based in Kenya, is one of the fast-risers in the space. Farm to Feed teams then sort, grade and dispatch the products to clients from its warehouse in Kenya’s Capital, Nairobi. Data collectionOn top of the e-commerce platform, Van Enk said they are building a data platform by collecting granular data including on climate and drivers of food loss, for better farming outcome and to create a more circular food system. I do think that food loss is such a huge impact opportunity and also a very good commercial opportunity,” she said.

Globally, a third of the food produced is lost or wasted, and in Kenya, that figure stands at between 20% to 40%. For Kenya, unlike the developed world, food loss, not waste, is the greater problem, with small-scale farmers, who account for 75% of the total agricultural output in the country, facing a myriad of challenges including inadequate market linkages and a failure to meet the cosmetic specifications for their produce.

However, amid this challenge, a positive shift is happening with the emergence of several startups looking to bridge the market gap for farmers. One of the fast-risers in this space is Farm to Feed, an agri-tech startup based in Kenya. The startup has identified a key issue and is working towards solving it through their innovative approach.

Farm to Feed: Bridging the Market Gap

Farm to Feed aggregates farm produce, including imperfect crop products, like those considered too small, too big or oddly-shaped – products that are often unwanted by distributors. The startup then sells these products to businesses like restaurants and food processors through its sales channels, including an online marketplace.

“I saw firsthand what farmers were not selling even when markets returned, and it is a huge devastation not only on food security, but on the economy too,” said Farm to Feed CEO, Claire Van Enk.

She co-founded the startup with Anouk Boertien and Zara Benosa in 2021, after pivoting from a non-profit program that provided food to people that lost their income during the Covid lockdown. While sourcing produce from farmers, Van Enk realized that while food was plentiful, market access remained a major hindrance, leading to the startup’s launch.

Van Enk further explains, “I saw firsthand what farmers were not selling even when markets returned, and it is a huge devastation not only on food security, but on the economy too.” She adds that food loss and food waste also have a climate change aspect, with rotting foodstuff producing methane, a greenhouse gas that is worse than carbon dioxide.

In response to this issue, Van Enk launched the commercial business to tackle the problem on a larger scale.

A Data-Driven Approach

In order to successfully address this issue, Farm to Feed uses a data-driven approach. The startup uses aggregators to collect produce from small and large-scale farmers in key farming regions of the East African country. The farm teams then sort, grade, and dispatch the products to clients from its warehouse in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

The startup is constantly working on improving their methods and tools and has received a grant from IFC Tech-Emerge to acquire trucks with sustainable cooling solutions. To date, Farm to Feed has raised $1 million in equity and grant funding from various VCs, angel investors, and institutions.

Multiple Sales Channels

Farm to Feed has multiple sales channels, including salespersons, a web app, and soon, a WhatsApp chatbot for customers who prefer social commerce. This enables the startup to reach a wider customer base and further expand their impact.

Other startups with a similar mission include Ghanaian agtech Farmerline, which not only connects farmers to markets but also provides them with access to quality inputs. Additionally, Complete Farmer finds global markets for farmers’ produce, highlighting the growing opportunities in this sector.

The Importance of the Agriculture Sector in Africa

The agriculture sector plays a crucial role in sub-Saharan Africa, contributing about 23% of the GDP. Furthermore, in a region where 60% of the population are smallholder farmers, it is vital for addressing food security and promoting economic growth. As such, innovators like Farm to Feed are focused on making a positive impact in this sector.

Innovating for the Future

In addition to their e-commerce platform, Farm to Feed is also building a data platform by collecting granular data including on climate and drivers of food loss. This will not only lead to better farming outcomes, but also help create a more circular food system.

Van Enk explains, “From our system, which grades food, and using the data platform, we will try to figure out some of the reasons behind, for instance, the disfiguring of produce. If it is because of poor quality seeds, this can be solved by partnering with entities that provide quality seeds, and if the reason is bad harvesting techniques, then we can carry out targeted training on the best way to do it.”

Pioneering New Methods

The startup is currently running a value-addition pilot to explore new revenue streams. Van Enk believes that by adding value to the produce, there is a real opportunity for margin expansion. She also emphasizes the potential impact of reducing food loss, saying, “I really believe there’s so much we can do with odd-looking produce and create value for the farmer and the future of Farm to Feed.”

Farm to Feed is also looking to tap into the carbon market and has conducted a feasibility study with the hope of being pioneers of a new methodology by Verra, a non-profit organization that operates standards in environmental and social markets. This methodology quantifies emission reduction from reducing food loss and waste, allowing the startup to earn from selling carbon offset credits.

By tackling the issue of food loss and waste, Farm to Feed is not only making a positive impact on food security and the economy in Kenya, but also promoting sustainable practices and innovating for the future.

“When you do more value addition, there’s a real opportunity to do margin expansion. I do think that food loss is such a huge impact opportunity and also a very good commercial opportunity,” said Van Enk.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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