Digicow Africa LTD, formerly known as FarmingTech Solutions, has emerged as a trailblazer in revolutionising the agricultural sector through cutting-edge digital solutions. Leading from the front with their mobile-based technologies that not only support the agricultural ecosystem, DigiCCow also redefines the landscape of digital extension services and data-driven decision-making. Founder and Managing Director Peninah Wanja takes us on a DigiCow Africa LTD ‘tour.’
Can you provide an overview of Digicow Africa LTD? Digicow Africa (formerly known as FarmingTech Solutions) is a 2016 Kenyan company. We develop mobile-based technologies that support the agricultural sector by enabling digital extension services and data-driven decision-making within the entire agricultural ecosystem. In 2019, DigiCow was named the most innovative agritech in Kenya at a World Bank challenge and formed part of the One Million Farmer Platform. We are currently working with over 230,000 farmers.
What inspired the creation of DigiCow? Growing up in a small village where we practised small-scale farming, I observed my mother care for our only cow. After graduating from Egerton University, I was employed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock as a Village Extension Officer while working at a small dairy farm. Working with small-scale farmers and my experience growing up with and practising small-scale farming enabled me to identify farming challenges. I saw how a digital platform would resolve these challenges even as the farms were self-sustaining.
Could you explain in more detail how the digital AI system works, especially the process involving farmers, vets, and digital records for cows? Ndume App Is an offshoot of the main Digicow app used by animal health providers to digitise health and artificial insemination records on behalf of a farmer. Through the Ndume app, we provide an electronic record management platform that can be accessed by all decision-makers in the livestock value chain. The app enables the veterinary provider to digitise diagnosis, treatment, deworming, breeding, vaccination, and AI records.
Farmers can access digitised records automatically through Digicow which then predicts key dates and events for the animals such as when the cow will calve down to when pregnancy confirmation should be done. The app then sends in-app and SMS reminder notifications on all important dates to farmers, including those without smart phones. Ndume then enables stakeholders to make informed and real-time decisions hence mitigating risks associated with animal diseases and breeding.
Digicow Africa LTD has been recognised as the most innovative agritech in Kenya. Can you share more about the company’s achievements and any notable awards or recognitions? We have won multiple awards.
- Best Agritech Company 2023: Digital 100 Awards 2023
- Most Innovative AgTech: Agricultural 100 Awards 2022
- AYuTe Africa Challenge: Heifer International – Winner, East Africa 2022
- Making More Health Together: Boehringer Ingelheim 2022
- Most Innovative AgTech Mobile App of the Year: Mobile App Summit & Awards 2021
- Disruptive Agricultural Technology: World Bank 2019
- Best AgTech Platform in Kenya: Digital Awards 2019
- Best Digital Agricultural Platform: Digital Inclusion Awards 2018
Digicow Africa LTD was established in 2016 as FarmingTech Solutions. How has the company evolved over the years, and what prompted the rebranding to Digicow Africa LTD? We have grown from a database of 10 farmers to 230,000 farmers. We have also grown our revenue 4X. We have impacted and worked with 600+ youth extension officers and 1,800 animal health practitioners. What prompted the rebranding to DigiCow was this. The DigiCow app was our flagship project. The users fell in love with the name for its brevity and precision. It delivered deeper meaning to what our existence portrayed which is digitizing the dairy cow and by extension, the dairy farmer.
With over 200,000 farmers currently using your services, what impact has Digicow had on farmers’ lives and the agricultural ecosystem? Two reports have been written about DigiCow’s work. Decibel, a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, did a blind survey, and established we were highly effective in changing farmer behaviour and impacting productivity and revenue. 66 per cent of the farmers we work with reported positive changes in how they care for animal health. 57 per cent reported increased milk production and almost all the farmers who reported increased milk production also reported an increase in revenue. CGAP reported in 2023 which showed DigiCow is highly gender transformative.
Can you highlight some of the key partnerships and collaborations that Digicow Africa LTD has established with other organizations, both in the public and private sectors? We have worked with organisations such as the World Bank, Mercy Corps AgriFin, Heifer International, Boehringer Ingelheim, CKL Africa Ltd, Unga Farm Care, Biodeal and 20 county governments among others.
The Tegea IVR system is described as scalable, reaching as little as 10 farmers and as many as 1 million. How do you balance the scalability of solutions with sustainability of effectiveness? Fully digital solutions make it easier to duplicate. We don’t need physical regional offices, and this reduces the financial constraints that come with scaling. We work with the animal health practitioners through Ndume who register and digitise farmers’ records, and with Dairy Farmer Assistants (DFAs) who train the farmers digitally through DigiCow’s group training model. Farmers can also self-register.
What challenges have you encountered in implementing digital solutions in the agricultural sector, and how have you addressed them? There is the problem of low network connectivity. We experienced financial constraints in the initial years as well. The low adoption of record keeping by farmers was thankfully resolved through Ndume as used by animal health practitioners.
What are your plans and innovations that you envision will further impact and empower farmers? We are intensifying our operations across Kenya and aspiring to digitise 500,00 farmers by the end of 2024. We also plan to keep innovating to ensure that no farmer is left out. We do have plans to scale across other African countries. That is why we have Africa in our company name.