Kenya’s Start-up Deploys Blockchain, AI to Improve Farm Processes

Kenyan agri-tech startup Shamba Records has built a blockchain-based platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to collect farmers’ harvest records, process payments and issue credit.

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Founded in 2017 and already used by over 6,000 farmers, the Shamba Records platform provides users with features such as data collection and mapping, payment aggregation, smart contracts, and bulk SMS, making farms more efficient and collecting information that can allow them to access financial services.

It was developed by a team with first-hand experience of farming in Africa.

“Each founder has a story to tell of how inefficient the agriculture space in Africa is, for example, poor records, delayed payments, no credit alternatives, lack of communication tools, and so many other challenges,” chief executive officer (CEO) George Maina told Disrupt Africa.

These inefficiencies are major problems on a continent where over 600 million people depend on agriculture as their main source of income. Many African farmers belong to associations or cooperatives, most of which still use manual records and have no proper systems or platforms with which to distribute resources and manage harvest collections.

“One of the farmer’s cooperatives we are working with used to pay their over 1,300 farmers using bank cheques, and this provided room for errors. Another challenge is the delayed payments running into months, and while waiting for the payments the farmers lack a credit facility that can assist them to stay afloat,” said Maina.

Shamba Records was built to change all this, and has had an immediate impact. Onboarding major farmer cooperatives means it is used by more than 6,000 farmers active in the coffee, tea and dairy sectors.

“In the process we have been able to capture major marketing agencies that market coffee and tea for many cooperatives in Africa. We’re working on ways on how we can digitise the whole value chain, so as to have real time data on production, farm inputs, resources, quality and market prices,” Maina said.

“We have also landed a contract to collect data and do mapping for one of the biggest counties in Kenya, which has more than 100 cooperatives.”

The startup makes money through three income sources – subscription fees charged to cooperatives, transaction fees on payments made through the platform, and interest on credit services provided to farmers. Maina and his co-founders have been pumping revenues back into the business, but investment is needed to help it grow.

“To scale, the company is currently fundraising,” he said. “Our intention is to scale locally and regionally to the neighboring countries. We are also in talks with partner institutions over how our product can be used in the Asian market.”

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