Tanzanian agri-tech startup that wins MEST Africa Challenge bagging $50k

Tanzanian agri-tech startup Kilimo Fresh, a digital distributor of fresh produce to hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, institutions, wholesalers and export mar¬kets, was named winner of the MEST Africa Challenge, winning $50,000 in equity investment.
Kilimo Fresh is B2B produce distribution platforms that con¬nects smallholder farmers and produce buyers to a fair and re¬liable market, enabling buyers to access better-quality and fresh produce directly from farms at affordable prices, and have it de¬livered directly to their locations.
The solution gives consum¬ers access to a simple online or¬dering platform through which they can purchase fresh pro¬duce, and provides farmers with stable pricing and direct access to the market for their crops, also eliminating food waste.
Winning the MEST Africa Chal¬lenge, which is run by pan-Afri¬can training programme, seed fund, incubator and hub MEST Africa and saw Kilimo Fresh beat off competition from start¬ups from Ethiopia, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Ghana, Sen¬egal, Nigeria and South Afri¬ca is a major landmark for the startup, whose journey began in 2015 when co-founders Bara¬ka Jeremiah and Justice Man¬gu graduated from university.
“Due to a common inter¬est, we went into farming, we were growing tomatoes, capsi¬cums, and watermelons and we would sell to middlemen who would sell to a wholesaler in Dar es Salaam,” Jeremiah said.
“During this time we faced major frustrations as a result of low margins, lack of mar¬ket information, and demand visibility, as well as a lot of food waste. Because of this, we formed Kilimo Fresh in 2018 to help solve this problem for other farmers in Tanzania.”
Farmers in the country, it turns out, lose more than 40 per cent of the food they pro¬duce before it reaches the market, due to fac¬tors such as poor farming practices, lack of storage, and a highly fractured trading system.
Jeremiah pointed out that produce that makes it to market passes through a num¬ber of middlemen, who increase the price significantly. When a product reaches a con¬sumer, it costs more than what was initially paid to the farmer. These problems extend to the markets, where farmers would let their products go to waste for the inability to store for a longer period and access the market.
The startup was initially bootstrapped from personal savings, friends, and families, which gave it a little runway until it was able to acquire customers and cover operational costs. It is now ready to grow, with the MEST money in the bank and Kilimo Fresh having also raised $30,000 from the Seedstars Tan¬zania Accelerator in December of last year.
According to Jeremiah, “We’re still looking forward to raising $200,000 before February 2021.”
The company currently operates in two regions of Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, supplying them with their dai¬ly needs of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Plans are in place to expand operations to Zanzibar and Arusha, as well as other East African countries, especially Rwanda.