By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
COLDHUBS and Hello Tractor have been selected as the winners of the inaugural US$1.5 million Heifer International AYuTe Africa Challenge.
Founder Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu of ColdHubs, a Nigerian business that provides solar-powered, walk-in coolers for smallholder vegetable farmers and founder Jehiel Oliver of Hello Tractor, a Kenyan company that has become known across Africa as the Uber have been named 2021 AYuTe Africa champions.
According to a statement issued in Lusaka yesterday, the winners were chosen from an impressive field of young agritech innovators from across the continent and were announced at the 2021 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) summit.
Heifer International senior vice president of Africa programmes, Adesuwa Ifedi, said across Africa, young creative professionals were deploying tech innovations, reimaging farming and food production.
“We want to do our part to help companies like Hello Tractor and ColdHubs as they provide Africa’s smallholder farmers with much-needed products and services to develop sustainable, profitable business,” Ms Ifedi said.
She said the winners would receive US$1.5 million in grants along with support from a team of expert advisers, accomplished business veterans to help them translate their funding into an aggressive expansion strategy.
This was part of Heifer International’s efforts to support young entrepreneurs developing affordable tech innovations to scale their businesses.
Ms Ifedi said doing so would ensure greater access to services that enable African farmers to overcome long-standing challenges while encouraging a new generation to pursue opportunities in agriculture.
Hello Tractor provides technology that allows farmers to connect with local tractor owners on the Hello Tractor marketplace and book a machine for as long as they need it.
ColdHubs owns and operates dozens of compact, walk-in, solar-powered coolers at rural produce markets in central Nigeria.
The transportable, stand-alone units give local farmers a way of keeping their beans, peppers, tomatoes and more fresh for days or weeks, reducing waste.
“Our ambition is for Hello Tractor to be available across Africa and we’re excited that winning the AYuTe Africa Challenge will help make that happen,” Mr Oliver said.
He said the entire continent of Africa sees about 15,000 new tractors every year while India alone sees about one million.
“With support from Heifer and the AYuTe Africa Challenge, I think in five years we can grow from 50 to about 5,000 ColdHubs across West Africa and create new income opportunities for smallholder producers,” Mr Ikegwuonu said.