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Meet Cassandra Mtine-Makumbi, Zambian Tech Entrepreneur Building Products For Farming Sector In Africa

Cassandra Mtine-Makumbi is a co-founder and CEO of Zambia-based AgriPredict, a platform built to give the farming sector instant information regarding crop disease, weather patterns and market access.

It is a platform that helps farmers access a variety of information either via a smartphone app or a USSD code-based service.

The agripredict mobile application was built with features which users to diagnose crop diseases by taking photos of diseased plants with their smartphone and comparing images to a database of thousands of other images of crops. The company later added features such as weather reports and an early warning system for external threats such as pests.

In October last year, Agripredict began to roll out a marketplace for buyers and sellers and will soon be giving farmers access to agricultural guides and resources.

Cassandra Mtine-Makumbi,the co-founder and CEO of Agricapredictmentioned that what inspired her to establish the company is that majority of agriculture in Zambia and across Africa are small-scale.

During the 2016-2017 farming season, the country was invaded by the deadly pest, fall armyworm, which affected hundreds of thousands of hectares of maize fields in all provinces, negatively impacting people’s yield and income.

This made her feel the need for a management tool that farmers could use.She saw how these farmers faced a number of challenges and weren’t getting adequate solutions.

So, from previous initial research’s, she identified diseases, pests and weather as some of their biggest obstacles in the farming sector.

The goal is always to maintain a free version of the product for farmers (although, may at some point offer a paid, premium service). The value is in the data generated: geolocational data, crop health, yield predictions and market trends.

“Data is a huge gap across the region and we are confident about data as a revenue generator. There is a demand across the private and public sectors; we have received interest from NGOs and microfinance institutions interested in paying for access to data.” Cassandra said in an interview with howwemadeitinafrica.

She further emphasized the anticipated interest from research organisations, investors, agricultural suppliers and support service providers.

Cassandra mentioned that, “The more people we add, the better the data becomes. Already, Agriprect have over 50,000 farmers on our platform, out of an estimated 1.5 million across Zambia. There are millions more across the wider region in Africa who equally need the service, whom we will be looking to reach.”

As Cassandra mentioned the challenges faced while building the company, she noted that, team building is always one of the big challenges; finding the technical skills in the local market in particular, because tech is still a relatively nascent industry and there isn’t a huge and established talent base within the country.

Cassandra believes, whatever time or money it can take,you just have to double it. “It’s not a smooth journey and things always take longer than you anticipate. A strong vision is important because, at some point, interest alone is not enough to keep you going.” She further stated.

Cassandra’s advise to young entrepreneurs was that, mentorship networks are important, so Young entrepreneurs should have a mentor and plug into groups of like-minded people. On days when you want to give up, realising other people are in the same boat can keep you going.

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