Agritech Startup VunaPay Empowers the Farmers, Reshaping the Small-scale Agriculture

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When VunaPay, an agritech startup offering produce management solutions, was established last year, its co-founder and CEO, Judy Njogu Mokaya, didn’t expect the platform to gain momentum so quickly. However, within months, the startup has partnered with three cooperatives and is currently serving over 9,000 farmers, with tens of thousands more eagerly waiting to join.

“Small-holder farming accounts for 30% of the nation’s GDP. But there is little value generated from this enterprise. A sign that something is broken in the sector. We cannot see the benefit of the earnings derived from small-holder farming,” Njogu said

Bringing a diverse set of experiences, Njogu, who has previously worked at Safaricom and Oracle, teamed up with Koya Matsuno, an experienced Japanese entrepreneur, and Ian Wambai, a tech expert, to establish VunaPay. Their goal was to empower farmers to receive instant payments for their produce. The trio of co-founders first collaborated during a sprint project within the startup accelerator program Antler, where they were tasked with creating disruptive innovations to drive social impact. Matsuno now holds the position of the company’s COO, while Wambai serves as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

After conducting thorough research on Kenya‘s agriculture industry, VunaPay’s founders pinpointed a significant issue: broker exploitation worsened by delayed payment disbursement. Farmers delivering their goods to cooperatives often had to wait for months to receive payment. Recognizing the unsustainable characteristic of this model, VunaPay understood that it was driving individuals away from the sector.

Smallholder farmers, constituting 80% of Kenya’s agricultural sector, cannot afford to wait for monthly or quarterly payments. They require immediate payment to support their daily livelihoods and purchase essential farm inputs like fertilizers. When farming becomes unprofitable and yields losses, young individuals are deterred, opting for alternative, more lucrative opportunities.

According to Njogu, the average age of Kenyan farmers is sixty, reflecting generational disinterest. She lamented that without embracing technology and offering immediate returns, the trend of young people selling their inherited lands or pursuing opportunities in the oversaturated real estate sector would persist.

“We often encounter many eighty-year-olds within agricultural cooperatives. Our youth are not venturing into coffee farming. This is the change that VunaPay aims to bring about,” stated Judy Njogu.

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