Young innovators feted at 2023 AYuTe Africa challenge


Agriculture, Youth, Technology (AYuTe) Africa Challenge Kenya winners at Zen Garden, Nairobi, on August 31.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation

Mutuma Muriuki, a 26-year-old agri-tech entrepreneur, is the overall winner of this year’s AYuTe Africa Challenge Kenya.

The contest, run by Heifer International, acknowledges young innovative farmers providing solutions to challenges in agriculture.

At the gala in Nairobi last week, Mutuma – the founder of Eco Bristo – walked away with Sh1 million.

Maryanne Gichanga, the chief executive of Agritech Analytics, was the first runner-up. She received Sh400,000 while the second runner-up got Sh200, 000.

Eco Bristo showcased simple solar-powered technology to combat insect pests. The lighting system reduces the need for chemical use.

“Many farms grapple with Tuta absoluta and other pests. Our innovation has transformed the management of pests by employing solar traps. This technology reduces chemical costs significantly and promotes organic food production,” Mutuma said.

He added that production costs related to pest management are reduced by 50 to 60 per cent when the farmer uses the innovation.

Mutuma has been working with hundreds of farmers in central and eastern Kenya, particularly those in horticulture.

AgriTech Analytics is a smart start-up employing the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Satellite Imagery and Data Analytics to provide farmers actionable solutions.

“Production has been decreasing over time due to climate change. Soils are degraded, rain is unpredictable and pests and diseases have emerged,” Gichanga, the 33-year-old founder of Agritech Analytics, said.

“It’s time to re-engineer our farming. We must transition from traditional methods to modern approaches. Precision agriculture is important as it can convert arid areas into arable lands.”

IFAD Country Director Mariatu Kamara

IFAD Country Director Mariatu Kamara hands s dummy cheqe to first runner-up Maryanne Gichanga.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

Grow Agric, which was founded by David Njonjo, operates as a platform offering farmers capital, management tools, training and access to markets.

The objective of the AYuTe Africa Challenge Kenya is to recognise the contributions of young people to agriculture through innovation and technology. The first edition was last year.

Heifer International Country Director, Esta Kamau, said the event is aimed at recognising start-ups and motivating them to drive farming growth and development.

“Fighting hunger and improving food security is a collective responsibility. Young people have a wealth of innovation and technological ideas, which, if fully harnessed, will boost production,” she said.

This year’s theme was “Identity, Elevate, Grow Together: Propelling Agriculture Transformation Through Youth-Led Innovations”.

The race attracted 222 applications from across the country.

After a rigorous selection based on pre-defined criteria, a total of 21 innovations made it to the final.

“This is a growth accelerator, leveraging cash incentives and business development efforts to transform the potential and ideas of young innovators into solution providers,” Kamau said.

“We focus on forming reliable partnerships to discover and nurture innovative youth-led initiatives, empowering them through market-oriented training, mentorship and networking. Together, we aim to bring about mutual growth that ultimately benefits farmers.”

The winners were in two categories – Ideation and Product-Stage.The top three winners were in the Product-Stage category.

In the Ideation category, VunaPay was top, receiving Sh250, 000. It was followed by Agronomy Plus which got Sh150, 000.

Silo Africa, the second runner-up, received Sh100, 000, while One Million Avocados and Agronomy Plus received scholarships from Astral Aerial.

Other partners in the awards are E4Impact Entrepreneurship Centre, Mastercard Community Pass, Astral Aerial and Advanta Seeds.