Nairobi-based startup wins USAID’s Fall Armyworm Tech Prize

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Nairobi-based agri-tech startup Farm.ink has secured a cash prize of US$150,000 after winning the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize at the AfricaCom conference in Cape Town last week.

The prize, run by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Land O’Lakes International Development, and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, was seeking digital innovations that could help farmers manage the recent spread of fall armyworm, a voracious agricultural pest, in Africa.

Winners were announced at the AfricaCom conference in Cape Town last week, following a competitive co-creation and evaluation process and the field-testing of prototypes, with prizes worth US$450,000 awarded to six organisations.

The overall winner, taking home the grand prize of US$150,000, was Kenyan startup Farm.ink, which has integrated a Fall Armyworm Virtual Advisor into its Africa Farmers Club mobile service.

The online group and chatbot already provides more than 150,000 farmers across Africa with farming information, with the new virtual advisory feature providing specific information on how to identify and treat fall armyworm.

Two runners-up secured US$75,000 each, namely Ugandan startup Akorion, which added an enhanced fall armyworm diagnostic to its EzyAgric app, and the US-based AfriFARM.

US$50,000 was awarded to two Ghana-based initiatives – Farmerline and Henson Geodata Technologies – as well as the Nigerian-based eHealth Africa, to further develop early-stage mobile applications that will provide tailored information for combatting fall armyworm.

The prize received 228 entries from organizations around the world, 80 per cent of which were based in Africa. A diverse panel of global experts working in agriculture, technology entrepreneurship, and impact investment judged the entries and made final selections.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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