4 Startups Lead In The Field of Agriculture

Africa - Agricultural product is a vital source of food and income for millions across Africa. The opportunities of development are still plenty of room for growth.

As The World Bank reported, food production in sub-Saharan Africa needs to increase by 60% over for the next 15 years to overcome a lost generation because of hunger or lack of food and nutrition. But with the challenges to improve production, come new opportunities.

The young generations across the continent are taking matters into their own hands, and kick starting an enthusiasm for agribusiness. Farming and food have helped them break down gender barriers and reap the fruits of success.

Here are four startups doing just that:

A farm for the young

In 2011, former of TV presenter Mavis Mduchwa won funding from a $100 million initiative known as the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme to set up an agribusiness company. She has used the funding to start Chabana Farms, a poultry farm that provides training and work for jobless. Mduchwa now counts herself among the minority of African female landowners.

"In Botswana, about 80% of people survive on agriculture, and many of those people are women," she says. "But for you as a woman to turn it into a business, you have a challenge of finding land. Traditionally, men acquire it, so it's hard to take that bold step and say, 'Okay I need to change this land into agriculture land'."

The problem of farming in sub-Saharan Africa is high prices for animal feed. Many businesses were shutting down, which are often imported from South Africa. So Chabana Farms is currently setting up the area's first feed manufacturing plant designed to help local farmers tackle this problem.

"If we can manufacture feed within the country for the people of Botswana, farmers will be able to have profitable businesses," she explains.

The business of fruit

In Nigeria, women can become successful businesswomen by selling fruits and vegetables.

One of them is Affiong Williams. She is the founder of Reelfruit, a growing food company on a mission to whet the country's appetite for fruit snacks. Launched in 2012, Williams invested $8,000 in savings to get her company up and running. In 2013, she won over $5,000 at a Women in Business Competition in the Netherlands.

Reelfruit now sells a range of dried fruit including mango, pineapple and coconut in brightly colored packets in over 85 stores across Nigeria.

Going Global

Like Williams, Congolese businesswoman Joujou Bomanga is on a mission to grow African product of agriculture, but has her sights set on breaking into the European market. Bomanga, who now lives in Belgium, set up company Evelea Foods in 2011.

"I noticed that there was a lack of certain African greens in the Belgian market. The initiating idea was to introduce fresh high quality groceries from Congo into a European context." She explained.

Evelea sells three traditional Congolese dishes made from cassava leaves, amaranth and a plant known as "ngai ngai", all imported from Congo. Her products, which are sold in jars to stay fresh, are garnering interest among chefs and consumers in Europe and America.

Making "ag-tech" cool

Lack of communication and an agricultural market flooded with middlemen can spell out disaster for many rural farmers in Africa. Technopreneurs are developing technologies to help them to improve production and get a fair price for their produce. Such ventures in digital and mobile technology have given rise to a new industry known as "ag-tech".

Jamila Abass and Linda Kwamboka run the Kenyan platform MFarm, a mobile app that connects via SMS messaging bewteen Kenyan farmers and consumers. Set up in 2010, MFarm also works as a virtual forum for farmers to connect with each other and get advice from industry experts.

Kwamboka said the idea came about when farmers complain and literally cry in the news of TV because middlemen were taking their profits from produce sales.

Inefficiency in the agribusiness value chain has been around for a while, but "Someone had to do something about it." Kwamboka said.