AgriTech: from healthy earth to spatial data

Read the long form "Kenya's green dream"

Making smallholder farming more efficient and promoting soil health were the goals behind Moses Kimani founding Lentera Africa in 2017. Lentera Africa's motto is “Better yield, better market.” Located in Kiambu County (Kenya), Lentera Africa is an innovative AgriTech company that provides farmers with accessible smart climate agriculture solutions. In a country where agriculture accounts for one third of GDP, Lentera is riding the wave of innovation, which is essential to strengthen one of the sectors most severely affected by the pandemic. The company joined the E4Impact Accelerator Program and received a grant from Eni. Previously, Lentera focused on organic fertilizers, but participation in the E4Impact business incubator has led to huge innovation: today, Lentera uses satellite and drone imagery, with the help of OpenNet, the Italian company that provided the satellite in operation at the incubator headquarters. To learn more about the business, we interviewed Moses Kimani, CEO of Lentera. 

Moses Kimani

How and when was your company founded? How do you become an entrepreneur in Kenya?

Lentera was founded in 2017. Having worked with smallholder farmers in an NGO for many years, I felt what was lacking was simple technology and tools to make smallholder farming more efficient. I started Lentera as a soil health company providing farmers with organic fertilizer and later on included advanced technology stack to enable farmers monitor climate and improve yield and quality.

Your business is double faceted: organic fertilizer on the one hand, satellite technology on the other hand. Who are your typical customers and how is your technology changing the life of small farmers?  What are the biggest challenges and future projects?

Our typical customers are medium and small-scale farmers growing horticulture crops, cereals and fruit crops. We provide an end-to-end service where we provide farmers with climate smart inputs, then provide digital advisory services for good agriculture practices, then we provide market linkages through our CropHQ platform.

How is your partnership with the European Space Agency and the Italian company OpenNet structured and what are the advantages for you from such partnership?

We purchase data from the European Space Agency – Copernicus satellite constellation, and from Airbus OneAtlas and Up42 platforms. We transform this data into crop health analytics in an easy-to-read report for the farmers. We worked closely with OpenNet to develop a network of farm sensors that measure farm humidity, temperature and light intensity to enable farmers make precise adjustments to their crop.

You developed the app CropHQ.  So far, you’ve had 300 downloads, with 120 active users, 80% of which from Kenya and the rest from Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Nigeria. How does it work? How do you promote your app?

CropHQ mobile app enables farmers to get hyper-localized weather updates for their farms, satellite-based crop health maps, pest and disease tracking as well as a farm record keeping tool. The app also has a marketplace where farmers can buy inputs and sell their farm commodities. We promote our app primarily on social media and through different trade fairs and events.

How is energy important in your business?

Energy is very important in agriculture, including primary production and distribution of farm produce and processing of farm produce. Our satellite-based crop health analysis system enables farmers to provide precise irrigation and application of inputs in different parts of the farm saving as much as 30% in the cost of fuel and electricity.

What are the recovery prospects for Kenya’s agriculture in the post-Covid scenario and how will the economy of your country change overall?

Agriculture has remained resilient during the Covid 19 pandemic but needs support to cushion farmers from the high cost of inputs brought about by record high freight cost due to unavailability of shipping containers and ships caused by the disruption of the pandemic. Overall prospects remain positive for the agriculture industry post Covid

Kenya's green dream

Innovation and dynamism are the two driving features of the country's focus on a sustainable future, thanks to investments in renewables.

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