By Mark Kawalya
Kilimo Fresh, a Tanzanian digital supplier of farm produce to supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and the export market, bridges the gap between smallholder farmers and reliable produce markets while offering competitive rates.
The firm that emerged winner of the MEST challenge, winning $50,000 in equity investment during MEST, was founded in 2018 by Baraka Chijenga and allows farmers to use their platform to showcase their produce, giving them an opportunity to reach prospective buyers across Tanzania. Kilimo Fresh is B2B-oriented and enables firms to access fresh farm produce at affordable rates and have it delivered to their premises.
So far, the firm has onboarded various smallholder farmers in Tanzania’s coastal regions as well as the Northern and Southern Highlands of the East African country. The company offers a simple online framework through which consumers can order and purchase farm produce, while also cushioning farmers with stable pricing and direct access to markets as well as eliminating produce waste.
As the winner of the 2020 MEST Africa Challenge, a competition that is run by MEST Africa, Kilimo Fresh overcame contenders from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Senegal in what is considered a large milestone for the firm, whose early journey started in 2015 when its co-founders Justice Mangu and Baraka Chijenga graduated from university.
The start for the duo was not easy as they had to bootstrap from the little finances, they had saved up along with a few contributions from friends and family. This oiled the wheels for the venture to take off, enabling them to gain traction and make a profit that catered for their initial operational costs. 2019 was their turnaround as the firm raised $30,000 through a round from Seedstars Tanzania Accelerator, giving them the necessary momentum to finalize their ordering platform.
The firm has ambitious expansion plans and hopes to expand its storage facility so it can hold more stock and work with larger volumes of fresh produce, cutting down on daily trips to farms.
“We could limit these to just three to four trips per week instead of the current seven trips. We’d also install a cold storage facility to keep produce fresh for longer, even after it reaches our customers, ” says Baraka.
Additionally, the firm has plans to purchase its own trucks and motorbikes so that it can internally control the logistics process so that it can cut down on the cost of the service, which is currently outsourced.
“Apart from that, we’d finalize the development of our USSD service for farmers as well as a mobile application for street vendors.
This would give us proper visibility of demand and supply and give us room to streamline and automate the food distribution from farm to fork,” Baraka says.