Stories of resilience, innovation and impacts from agri-food businesses across Africa in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic!
Hydroponic Farms is a home-grown climate-smart urban farming social enterprise that primarily designs, manufactures, and distributes hydroponic farms in Uganda. Their mission to empower urban communities to grow their own food and increase agricultural...
Hydroponic Farms is a home-grown climate-smart urban farming social enterprise that primarily designs, manufactures, and distributes hydroponic farms in Uganda. Their mission to empower urban communities to grow their own food and increase agricultural yields throughout all seasons has kept the team going despite the consequent challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mahikaho Amon, the CEO of Hydroponic Farms Uganda, and his team thus preferred to make strategic decisions and sacrifices to ensure that this mission remains undeterred by COVID-19. A majority of the staff has had to adapt to a new work-from-home system while the entire staff took a 30% salary cut and reduced allowances to allow for proper management of cash flow. The team then went ahead to create innovative ways to make their farms even more automated. They utilized open-source software to run a custom server with a separate network that could be tied to their clients' Local Network. This allows for the system to function without internet access while using an IOT platform with a customized GUI (graphical user interface). They further introduced more microcontrollers and solar-powered farms for off-grid clients and emergency situations, thus, making it easier for farmers to monitor their farms on their handsets wherever they are. Partnership plays a key role in their resilience story as they collaborated with another organization, ChiIAiGroup to enhance their use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) to serve their clients better. The team continues to work towards the improvement of the quality and availability of food for urban dwellers through their improved farm technology.
Amon’s message to other agri-food businesses in Africa
“All entrepreneurs in agri-food landscape should be encouraged not to give up. The challenges come to strengthen us and through them, we emerge stronger. I would also like to advise fellow agri-food entrepreneurs to seek for important cooperation and share knowledge with existing peer innovators.”
Loshes Chocolate is a bean-to-bar Chocolatier operating in Lagos, Nigeria, that delivers handcrafted chocolate from a single source of cocoa bean to finished products, made without additives or preservatives. The inevitable limited access to market...
Loshes Chocolate is a bean-to-bar Chocolatier operating in Lagos, Nigeria, that delivers handcrafted chocolate from a single source of cocoa bean to finished products, made without additives or preservatives. The inevitable limited access to markets and controlled movements of goods arising from the pandemic threatened the existence of Loshes Chocolate’s cocoa bean suppliers. These suppliers comprise farmers and factory employees that supply the equipment and resources involved in the process of making their premium chocolates and cocoa products. “We cannot afford to let them down”, said Femi Oyedipe, the Chief Executive Officer of Loshes Chocolate. Femi and her team thus saw the pandemic as an opportunity to bridge the existing gaps in the confectionery industry. For instance, the COVID-19 stay at home enforcement ensured that more people spent time on digital platforms, cooking (baking) and trying out new recipes. With chocolate being the world most famous food and food flavor compound, there was an organic increase in cooking chocolate demand and the Loshes team seized this opportunity to produce more of these. Also, the team had to devise a way to work with several delivery companies for safe and monitored doorstep delivery service to clients. Door-step delivery of chocolate was fraught with risks given that chocolates are ultra-sensitive to heat and humidity, but the team adapted quickly and designed their own chocolate transport boxes taking into consideration the unique temperature and humidity requirements as well as affordability for customers and profit maximization for the company. This doorstep delivery and curbside pickup have continued to date even as the lockdown began to ease across the country.
Femi’s message to other African agri-food entrepreneurs
“Now is the time to closely look at the industry or sector you operate in and identify easy wins. This is the time to focus closely on your business and see how to remain true to your vision by devising creative ways to still delight your customers and modify operations as best as possible without tampering with the promise your product or service offers”.
SOLLISSY is a private company that has been in existence for over a decade with experience in mass production and sales of bread, supermarket, training, consultation, importation exportation, as well as a major distributor for food-producing comp...
SOLLISSY is a private company that has been in existence for over a decade with experience in mass production and sales of bread, supermarket, training, consultation, importation exportation, as well as a major distributor for food-producing companies. Following the incidence of COVID-19 which greatly impaired the company’s access to raw materials for production, Sollissy came up with unique redress mechanisms that directly engage their customers. First, Sollissy introduced a free delivery system to strengthen relationships with online customers. Further to this, the company leveraged the use of social media platforms to showcase its products, creating a weekly program tagged ‘SFB Moment with Adeniran Olusola’. In the words Olusola, the CEO of Sollissy, “ this program is a deliberate effort to showcase all our products in a unique way and to also engage our customers on various topics revolving around my entrepreneurship sojourn and practical experiences in the last 10 years”. Olusola frequently receives positive feedback from her customers on how the strategies shared on the program has helped their businesses. The program has yielded a substantial increase in the company’s online followers through both organic and sponsored posts on Facebook and daily advertisement on WhatsApp, subsequently leading to an increased customer base and sales.
Olusola’s message to other African agri-food entrepreneurs
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We believe it is important to highlight the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the agriculture and food sector as well as the positive and innovative ways entrepreneurs across the sector are pushing on through these hard times.More