Mr Jehiel Oliver, founder and chief executive officer of Hello Tractor, a Kenyan firm known in Africa as the "Uber of tractors," is the joint winner of the inaugural Sh165 million Heifer International challenge.
Mr Olivier will share the financial award with Mr Nnaemeka Ikegwuon, founder and chief executive officer of Coldhubs, a Nigerian business that provides solar-powered, walk-in coolers for smallholder vegetable farmers.
Hello tractor was awarded for its creative solution to Africa's farm machinery while Coldhubs was awarded for its solar-powered pop cooling stations.
The financial awards will help fund rapid expansion plans, providing much needed service for smallholder farmers in Africa.
The winners were picked from a field of young agritech innovators from across the continent and were announced on September 8 at the 2021 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) Summit in Nairobi.
"Across Africa today, young, creative professionals are deploying tech innovations that are reimagining farming and food production," said Ms Adesuwa Ifedi, senior vice president of Africa Programs at Heifer International.
"We want to help companies like Hello Tractor and ColdHubs as they provide Africa's smallholder farmers with much-needed products and services to develop a sustainable, profitable business."
“(Mr) Ikegwuonu and (Mr) Oliver are examples of young agritech innovators who can help change the negative narrative surrounding farming in Africa that can be profitable, productive, stimulating and rewarding," said Ms Ifedi.
The two companies will receive support from a team of experts who include accomplished business veterans to help them translate their funding into an aggressive expansion strategy.
This is part of Heifer International's efforts to support young entrepreneurs developing affordable tech innovations to scale their businesses to 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 enable local farmers to keep their beans, pepper, and tomatoes fresh for long periods and thus reducing waste.
"Our ambition is to make Hello Tractor available across Africa and we're excited that winning the AYuTe Africa Challenge will help make that happen," said Mr Oliver, Hello Tractor founder and chief executive officer.
"The entire African continent sees about 15,000 new tractors every year while India alone sees about one million. Our farmers need a lot more tractors and Hello Tractor offers a proven pathway for increasing access to this important technology," said Mr Oliver.
"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," said Mr Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, said the chief executive officer of ColdHubs.
"Too many African farmers do not get the income they deserve because they have no way of keeping their produce fresh, forcing them to sell it soon after harvest. ColdHubs offers an affordable, pay-as-you-go refrigeration option available right in the middle of local markets," added Mr Oliver.
The competition dubbed Agriculture, Youth and Technology (AYuTe ) Africa Challenge was sponsored by the Heifer International a not-for-profit organisation based in the US which partners with African farmers and local producers to help them access new technologies to strengthen local economies and build secure livelihoods that provide a steady living income in a bid to end hunger and poverty in a sustainable way.