Illuminum Greenhouses, Kenya

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Illuminum Greenhouses, Kenya: Smart Mobile Farming

Nairobi, KenyaKericho, Kenya
Year Founded:
2014
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

A drip irrigation automation system with sensors that monitor the soil moisture and control the water through the drip lines. This system is then linked to the farmers mobile phone to enable remote monitoring and control of their farms via a simple SMS on their mobile phone.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the african small-scale farmer could irrigate their rural farm from wherever simply by SMS ?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We seek to establish a long lasting solution to the over reliance on rain fed agriculture where in Kenya, 93% of all small holder farmers depend on rain in order to farm. Outdated farming technology is one of the greatest problems affecting our agricultural sector causing very low production in farms resulting in food insecurity and famine.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our solution is modern greenhouses and drip irrigation kits with sensor technology. Greenhouses offer a conducive controlled environment while drip irrigation kits enable farmers farm all year round with no dependency on rain for water. So, what’s different with ours?We seek to integrate farms with sensors that monitor temperature, humidity, soil moisture and most importantly regulate the water supply which is channeled through drip lines and link them up to the farmer’s mobile phone via SMS. The monitoring and regulation is done by the farmer remotely through their mobile phones. The system automates irrigation leaving the farmer to focus on crop husbandry while ensuring the crops receive adequate water leading to upto 60% water savings.

Awards

Global Entrepreurship Summit- 2nd Best Start up of the year- USD 15,000 (JULY 2015), African Entrepreneurship Forum in Benin as Africa’s most Innovative Start-up, Finalist for African Prize for Engineering Innovation-Royal Academy of Engineering.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Due to its customized design for small scale farmers generating income irrigation, the sensors technology targets users with drip irrigation systems to enhance water use efficiency in the farm and save time during watering of crops. Sensor tech is readily applicable to drip irrigation systems in the open field and greenhouses. As a result, for farmers to use the technology they are required to shift from traditional irrigation methods that are inefficient compared to modern irrigation applying drip kits. The innovation is tailored for reach by the smallholder farmers who cannot afford expensive technology existing in the market for large scale farmers. The farmers are hence able to plant high value produce all year round.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We would measure this by the amount of produce that our farmers are able to produce before using drip irrigation technology against current harvests as a result of using our systems. There has been a 70% increase in production will be translated to a 60% increase in income from the sales for over 300 farmers in Kenya. Our the desired future impact can be achieved by setting up co-operative for our farmers with smart drip irrigation kits and greenhouses and thus locking them us one trading organization. This entity will then be able to constantly follow up with farmers while providing them loans and training which they can use to improve their farming background. These farmers can then plant in a rotational basis to ensure the co-operative has a constant supply while the drip irrigation allows the farmers to farm all year round.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We are soon starting mass production of our farm automation system that will be able to retail across Kenya enabling farmers to start automating their farms and improve production using drip and greenhouse technology. We are set to enter market with 1000 devices for sale during the first 6 months of introduction. We will also raise a series A round of investment to fund our expansion to Uganda and Tanzania while also increasing our system units to 10000 devices within 5 years.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our current last annual turnover was USD71650. We expect to grow this to USD550,000 in the next five years mainly powered by greenhouse structures, drip irrigation kits sales and sensor technology sales.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Drip irrigation kits and greenhouses exist in kenya however we are providing these products with a value add of solar powered sensors linked to farmer's mobile phones. This has made our structures and kits to sell even better. Secondly, our greenhouses are constructed using wood as its material lowering start up costs by up to 3 times lower than the common metallic greenhouses that are in the market. Wood is readily available all over the country thus making it easier to purchase our greenhouse due to lower transport charges. Our sensors differ from existing soutions as it is solar powered
Team

Founding Story

Having been raised in an agricultural home, I constantly grew up watching my parents experience losses on her crops due to droughts or prolonged rainfalls. When i joined campus, i met my co-founder and together started sharing our experience on farming. We decided to start farming as a source of extra income but were faced by a myriad of challenges stemming from erratic rains, pests, high start-up costs and lack of technical skill. Our challenges then made it clear that we needed to solve these problems not only affecting us but over 6. 5 million smallholder farmers in kenya. Our solution is what is now our start-up innovation-"smart mobile farming" which we have been refining.

Team

Taita Ngetich is our Co-Founder and Head of Operations and Engineering. Taita is responsible for running the day to days activites of the company such as ensuring that all materials are sourced from the right supplier and delivered to clients sites on time for construction to commence. I am the head of Finance and Business Development and his role is to ensure our products remain competitive while keeping our company profitable at all times. I have been keen in building out strategic partnerships with leading agricultural companies in Kenya. Alice handles our corporate strategy and tracks our projects to ensure we have an impact on the lives of farmers in Kenya. Damaris maintains the communication and consumer relations department by ensuring professional and responsive customer care is given to our clients. John, Ken, Chepkwony, Jimmy, Ann, Godfrey and Turgut are technicians responsible for constructing our greenhouses and drip irrigation kits while providing agronomic support through the season. Our team has grown with us and has seen successful implementation of projects from planning to harvesting.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Social Media- Facebook

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Co-Founder

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Patricipants of the GIST Tech-I training(July 2015)
Global Entrepreneurship Summner School, Munich (September 2015)
Ye! Boost Camp, Netherlands- Child and Youth Finance (October 2015)
Royal School of Engineering training, Accra Ghana (November 2015)
China HI-Tec Fair, Shenzhen (November 2015)

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Kellye is our business advisor in terms of business development and scalling up of startups. She has over 15 years working in the Agricultural sector and helping agritech startups scale up especially in the USA.
Dr. Gachigi is a mechanical engineering professor who advises us on our technology and how to pivot it to the Kenyan farmer.
Prof. Chucky from Stanford University has been advising us on how to use our data for the sensors and leverage it to solve other farming problems in the country. Chuck had also been instrumental in helping us incorporate technology in all our business processes from client acquisition to product selling.