ITIKI: Africa’s Latest Shift within the AgriTech World
The recent begin Agritech ITIKI, may be a tech tool that permits drought prediction which was invented by a young researcher with the aim to ease the burden of farmers as regards rainfall accuracy. Its forecast is completed via a man-made neural network that uses AI algorithms and therefore the equipment learns the historical rainfall pattern of a specific location then accurately predicts a future time. The brain box behind the invention, Muthoni Masinde confirms that this model provides predictions which are usually correct with a 98% degree of accuracy on an outsized scale but this has its limitations for low-cost prediction.
Professor Muthoni and a gaggle of researchers came up with the ITIKI invention between 2011 and 2012 within the incubation hub of the Central University of Technology, Free State, South Africa . “The rationale behind ITIKI is to supply relevant drought forecasts for small-scale farmers. Relevant within the sense that we make the various available forecasts useful to the typical small-scale farmer as most of our farmers need micro-level prediction, a minimum of within a distance of 500 meters. We fill that data gap using the indigenous knowledge and little hand-held wireless sensors, hence, getting accurate prediction results. this may prevent a scenario where rainfall is predicted for a neighborhood but just some locations find yourself having rain.” Muthoni Masinde, CEO of ITIKI, says.
Since the very fact has been nailed that the main target would always be subsistence farmers, SMS are forwarded to them within the ir language so on dispatch the forecasts in the most relatable manner. Prof. Masinde explains that “instead of telling them the millimeter of rainfall they ought to expect, we tell them ‘the rainfall that’s coming this season won’t be enough to grow your usual maize, why don’t you plant millet or sorghum?’ Or when it’s on the brink of rain cessation, we advise them to prevent planting because rain are going to be over in another three weeks and therefore the SMSes are usually sent at the start of a season or when there’s a suspected change within the weather pattern.”
At first, the system was just for forecasts but currently it started spreading its tentacles to incorporate other things like locusts as there was also the time when armyworms attacked and these predictions are demand-driven. In agreement with the startup’s traceable progress, Masinde says the forecasts, also as other things that make the merchandise unique, quickly won people’s hearts and ITIKI boasts of a growing user base and is currently active in Kenya, Mozambique, and South Africa — where it popularized in 2013, 2015, and 2017, respectively as there’re over 10,000 in Kenya, about 2,000 in Mozambique, and fewer than 2,000 in South Africa .”
Onboarding is sort of easy for smallholder farmers because it is completed through ITIKI ambassadors, field agents intrinsically getting farmers inquisitive about educating them about the main target , perks and requisites of the tech tool before signing them on the mobile application. The ITIKI group came up with a technique to retain and increase its customer’s base by allowing a subscription payment plan as this entails permitting installment payments of 150KSH per season.
Also, the market entrance strategy that was adopted ensured that the tool remains within the market with the help of appropriate funding like funding from the host university, a $500,000 USAID fund in 2017, and other investments from the govt of South Africa which it’s enjoyed from inception till date. Masinde believes that the startup’s financial model is sustainable and it’ll take a more refined form as soon because the payment collection system is sorted out but she feared that the business wouldn’t survive long on only the B2C, hence the upgrade to B2B. because the smallholder farmers are still the main focus , the B2B model targets large groups of subsistence farmers, thereby fostering bulk payments. “For example, an insurance firm or bank in Kenya that provides farmers loans then ensures they harvest enough to be ready to repay the loans. Now this company adds another service to its services, that’s ITIKI service,” she explains.
Masinde mentions how getting farmers curious about some African markets are often capital intensive due to their attitude. “African small-scale farmers are too donor-inclined. They always want to receive it. We encountered this in Kenya and South Africa where they expected us to feed or pay them first.” However, budgeting for an identical situation in subsequent expansion won’t be necessary since the main target is now on B2B, especially groups created by the govt .
“We know that the foremost lucrative customer for us is that the government. they’re curious about small-scale farmers becoming self-sustaining because they won’t need to rescue them whenever they are going hungry,” Masinde says. Although the larger plan is that the entirety of Africa, within the next 18 months, ITIKI has eyes on three other African countries: one in East Africa , one in Southern Central African Republic , and one in West Africa . because the ITIKI team seems to be prepared for the approaching months, the hope is that beyond attracting revenue, it’ll still tackle the challenge that inspired the thought at inception.