eProd | Management Solutions for Agribusinesses
21 Nov 2022

Digital solutions for agricultural value chains in Kenya: the role of private-sector actors

UNEP Report Article

We are honoured to be featured in the UNEP report, Digital solutions for agricultural value chains in Kenya: the role of private-sector actors, as one of the key actors providing ICT services in Kenya. The study published in December 2021 compared about 20 Kenyan ICT solutions.

It is widely understood that the use of ICT in agriculture is a significant factor that can disrupt and transform the industry to make it more climate-smart and contribute to feeding the world in the coming decades. FAO emphasized at an early stage of digitalization that likely 70% of the production improvement required to meet the growing global demand is going to come from technology. This is now being confirmed.

Kenya’s economy depends heavily on agriculture, which also offers significant potential for export opportunities, income generation, and employment. As mentioned in UNEP’s report, numerous ICT SMEs and start-ups have emerged in the country in response to the business opportunities offered by digitalization. eProd is one of the ICT SMEs mentioned in the report. So, what makes eProd a unique platform to enable the private sector to source from smallholder agriculture:

  • Send localized weather forecasts to farmers through SMS
    Small-scale farmers have limited access to reliable weather forecasts, making it difficult for them to plan farming activities. To fill this void, eProd integrated different forecasting models that generate accurate, GPS-based weather forecasts that can be sent via SMS to the farmers.
  • Offline Functionality
    Africa’s rural areas are still largely unconnected to the network. Where data networks do exist, they are intermittent and occasionally too expensive to maintain continuous data. The mobile application from eProd was created with offline usability in mind. The mobile platform has been optimized for 2G networks to ensure quick uploads and downloads. Agribusiness extension agents can gather data from farmers on-site with ease and sync it to the eProd servers later once they have access to a stronger signal or network. The system also runs entirely in the cloud, enabling agribusiness to connect data from rural areas to international markets, which is essential for produce traceability.
  • Full traceable produce for the export market
    Our clients place a high value on produce quality. Traceability allows for the tracking of produce back to individual farmers. The integration of quality parameters is product specific and can trigger multiple actions, bonuses, or price reductions at the same time, as well as completely reject produce in the case of adulteration.
  • Financial inclusion and management
    eProd provides flexible payment methods, including mobile payments, and facilitates market transactions. It also improves access to finance for the farmers. Recently, eProd partnered with LendXS as eProd users can provide credible credit scoring data. This partnership will enable Agri SMEs clients to assist their smallholder farmers in obtaining the financing they require to expand and grow their businesses.
  • Capacity building
    eProd is dedicated to increasing agribusiness farmers’ productivity by managing and tracking training to support certification.
  • Affordability
    eProd is committed to providing a product that is reasonably priced in relation to market margins. eProd provides software licensing packages that are affordable and priced based on the number of farmers with whom an agribusiness intends to work.

Through eProd’s innovation and digitalization, agribusinesses use data to strengthen farmer networks, improve internal efficiencies, and mitigate climate change risks. “It is our mission to help agribusinesses develop long-term and sustainable partnerships with farmers through an affordable and robust supply chain management system that makes the complex simple”, says Almut van Casteren, Chief Revenue Officer and eProd Solutions’ co-founder.

Read more about UNEP’s report on Digital solutions for agricultural value chains in Kenya here.

04 Nov 2022

Don’t Miss the Green Business Webinar Series

Green Business Webinar

French

Rejoignez-nous pour le premier webinaire de la série Green Business sur la conservation, l’agriculture et la technologie, organisé par USAID le 10 novembre 2022 de 13h00 à 15h00 GMT/14h00 à 16h00 CAT/ 16h00 à 18h00 EAT.

Lors de ce webinaire, des intervenants de l’USAID, de Catholic Relief Services, de Buhler et d’Acorn, ainsi que des développeurs de projets de compensation carbone, partageront des exemples de la manière dont la technologie est utilisée en RDC et dans d’autres régions d’Afrique pour soutenir le développement agricole durable.

Le webinaire couvrira les domaines suivants :

  • Aperçu des cycles d’innovations technologiques dans l’agriculture et des nouvelles opportunités résultant des développements les plus récents.
  • Sauter des étapes dans des zones avec des infrastructures non traditionnelles (utiliser la technologie pour surmonter le manque de routes et de câbles).
  • Introduction d’une meilleure gouvernance et d’approches résistantes au climat grâce à la technologie (suivi de l’empreinte carbone).
  • Stratégies agroforestières à haute valeur ajoutée pour soutenir les stratégies agroforestières de conservation avec l’agro-entreprise.

Vous pouvez participer au webinaire en ligne ou en personne à Kinshasa, en suivant les instructions ci-dessous :

  • En ligne : Veuillez utiliser ce lien pour vous inscrire. Vous recevrez des instructions sur la façon de rejoindre le webinaire une fois que vous vous serez inscrit.
  • En personne : Pour participer en personne, veuillez-vous inscrire en utilisant ce lien. (N’oubliez pas que le nombre de places est limité et que les places seront attribuées aux 20 premières personnes inscrites).

N’hésitez pas à partager l’invitation avec vos collègues.

English

Join us for the first of the Green Business Webinar Series on Conservation, Agriculture, and Technology hosted by USAID on 10th November 2022 from 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM GMT/2:00 PM – 4:00 PM CAT/ 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM EAT.

In the webinar, speakers from USAID, Catholic Relief Services, Buhler, and Acorn, as well as project developers for carbon offsets, will share examples of how technology is being used in the DRC and other parts of Africa to support sustainable agricultural development.

The webinar will cover the following areas:

  • Overview of cycles of technological innovations in agriculture and new opportunities as a result of the most recent developments.
  • Leapfrogging in areas with non-traditional infrastructure (using tech to overcome lack of roads and wires).
  • Introducing improved governance and climate resilient approaches through technology (carbon footprint tracking).
  • High-value agroforestry strategies to support conservation agri-forestry strategies with agro-enterprise.

You can attend the webinar online or in person in Kinshasa, by following the instructions below:

  • Online: Please use this link to register. You will receive instructions on how to join the webinar once you have registered.
  • In-person: To attend in person, please register using this link. (Please keep in mind that space is limited, and places will be assigned to the first 20 people who register.)

Please feel free to share the invitation with your colleagues.

18 Oct 2022

Let’s change the future of food together: Strike Two!

Jan joins StrikeTwo

Our CEO, Jan Willem van Casteren has joined the 6th edition of Strike Two Summit and this year’s themes include consumer trust, farm income, and supply chain management. Jan Willem will be one of this year’s 6 track owners committed to solving our food system’s challenges.

Jan Willem’s challenge focuses on how to make smallholder farmers bankable via the eProd system. By becoming a track owner, eProd gains the potential to position itself as a frontrunner in the technology-powered future of food. Please join us if you are interested in scaling and interoperability of ICT systems, smallholder agriculture, supply chain management, access to finance, credit scoring, risk mitigation, capacity building, compliance, etc.

As a participant of StrikeTwo, you can join our track and contribute to the development of scalable ICT solutions to make small-scale farmers in developing countries bankable. It’s a free event but the attendees are carefully selected as spots are limited and for serious participants only. During the events, you’ll gain a deep understanding of how technology can positively impact the food system and you’re able to meet and connect with like-minded people. Not only do you join the tracks and collaborate on an innovation roadmap, you contribute to its execution as eProd will use the outcomes for developing its scaling strategy. Strike Two’s strategic and technical advisory committee members support both the track owners and participants.

The three-day summit will take place on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of November 2022 from 17:00 pm– 20:00 pm EAT, followed by a shark tank pitch on the 7th of December 2022. We invite you to participate.

More information on the StrikeTwo Summit may be found at: www.striketwosummit.com/join

12 Sep 2022

eProd partners with LendXS to provide credible credit scoring data

eProd Partners with LendXS
We are pleased to announce eProd’s partnership with LendXS, the digital credit services platform of Financial Access. Through this collaboration, LendXS can integrate its credit processing and credit risk scoring solution into our supply chain management system. This integration will enable agribusinesses, aggregators, and food processors to better respond to market demands and address the management challenges they face when procuring from numerous small-scale suppliers.

By incorporating credible credit scoring data into our supply chain management system, our Agri SMEs clients will be able to assist their smallholder farmers in obtaining the financing they require to expand and grow their businesses. This collaboration integrates the LendXS and eProd services so agribusinesses can more efficiently manage their transaction data gathered by eProd and use these data to support the mobilization of finance at a reduced risk via LendXS.

According to our CEO, Jan Willem van Casteren, the market is ready for better-integrated credit scorecards that may enable agribusinesses to develop relationships and supply value to smallholder farmers: “Agribusinesses frequently act as financiers for their farmers by providing inputs or working capital. The sooner these companies can focus on their core operations and link farmers directly to financial institutions, the sooner they will be able to focus on quality produce as they link into larger, even worldwide markets.”

“The LendXS and eProd partnership will promote more effective agriculture value chain management, help to stabilize markets, and integrate more farmers in the supply chain,” says Muthoni Karimi, Chief Operations Officer of LendXS. “There is a significant movement toward agribusiness supply chain actors and SMEs assisting smallholder farmers by either providing inputs to the farmers or purchasing directly from them. This reliance is worsened by increased strain on food supply induced by climate change and rising food demand from an expanding global population.”

This partnership is also featured on the LendXS website.

24 May 2022

eProd introduces: Accountability- Contract Farming

Contract Farming

Many companies need assurance that farmers will sell their produce to them. At the same time, farmers need market certainty. Contract farming offers one of the solutions to these challenges.

Yet, companies often lack a tool to manage contracting of farmers cost-effectively.

“Contract farming is about managing embedded services, not only about signing a contract. Whether you offer farmers inputs, access to finance or services, you need appropriate tools to manage these transactions”, says Jan Willem van Casteren, lead trainer of Africa Grains Online, and CEO eProd Solutions. Africa Grains Online started as an initiative of Buhler, African Milling School, and eProd Solutions to assist millers and grains traders during the pandemic. During eight modules offered by the eProd Solution’s team, the free of charge course focuses on all aspects of Contract Farming and assists the millers and traders in preparing a full Contract Farming business plan in eight weeks’ time.

With eProd it is now easy to manage contract farming. Check out our demonstration movie here. For more information or a live demo, please reach out to info@eprod-solutions.com.

23 Mar 2022

GIZ-Funded CORIS Project Increases West Africa Rice Production

Mr Ahamidé Samson of Jinukuja (rice trading company) uses eProd supply chain management software Photo: Mr. Ahamidé Samson of Jinukuja (rice trading company) uses eProd to monitor activities in rice fields.

Since the 1970s, demand for rice in Africa has tripled. Rice is increasingly replacing other staple foods such as maize, cassava, and sorghum. Despite various initiatives in the rice sector, productivity remains low throughout the African continent, especially in West African countries, and covers only 60% of demand.  Covid-19 has only increased the instability of rice production in the region. The GIZ-funded, COVID-19 Response Rice Seed Project (CORIS) brings AfricaRice and eProd Solutions together to ensure the introduction of improved rice varieties continues even during the pandemic.  

The Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in export restrictions, border closures, and travel restrictions, has jeopardized the already weakened rice sector in West Africa. To address this situation, a transnational working group of map4Rice’s Green Innovation Centers designed the COVID-19 Response Rice Seed Project (CORIS) with an objective to improve food security in West Africa and establish an independent, high-quality rice seed system to address other challenges such as climate change and yield instability.   

Africa Rice, a member of the Map4Rice working group and a research center of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), is responsible for the coordination and implementation of Project CORIS. CORIS entered its operational phase in October 2020 through the production of pre-basic seed, basic seed, and certified seed.  To date, CORIS has supported the production of 27,000 tons of high-quality, certified seed in five West African countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, and Nigeria. 

Last year, the supply chain management platform eProd was introduced to 40 rice traders in the same countries. Together with AfricaRice, the rice traders assisted in bulking improved rice varieties and introducing quality seed to tens of thousands of rice farmers. eProd’s software solution provides rice traders with traceability tools to track the various generations of seed production through to commercial production. In addition, the eProd platform offers the traders a one-stop solution to manage all supply chain activities including farmer contracts, field inspection, communication, training, and other options.     

In addition to AfricaRice, eProd, and the 40 rice trading companies involved in the project, CORIS brings together partners from national research centers, international rice development and promotion platforms including INRAB (Benin), GIZ (Benin, Mali, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso), and INERA (Burkina Faso). Other partners include the Burkina Faso Ministry of Agriculture, MOVE Nigeria, commercial partner PRO GRAIN, and others from agriculture insurance and banking.   

On March 26-31, 2022, CORIS partners will meet in Bouaké, Ivory Coast, to review ongoing activities in the project countries, draw lessons learned, and establish perspectives for future activities to further strengthen the rice sector in West Africa.  

Please reach out to us at info@eprod-solutions.com if you would like to learn more. 

16 Mar 2022

eProd Solutions Welcomes New COO, Positions for Growth

Scott Lout, eProd's COO
Scott Lout, eProd Solution’s Chief Operating Officer

NAIROBI, Kenya – eProd Solutions, Ltd., provider of innovative supply chain management solutions for agribusiness, last month welcomed Scott Lout to its team as the new Chief Operating Officer (COO). Mr. Lout joins eProd with 25 years of experience in managerial and leadership roles across private and international relief and development sectors, where he has worked extensively in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Sri Lanka and the United States.

“It is exhilarating to be a part of the agriculture and agribusiness boom in Africa, where technology is playing a bigger role to link farmers with global markets,” said Mr. Lout. “This is a big year of expansion for eProd, and our team is ready.”

Prior to joining eProd, Mr. Lout was the Africa Region Director for Food for the Hungry (FH) for four years where he was responsible for eight countries in eastern and southern Africa. Before serving with FH, Mr. Lout spent 15 years with World Vision International in several key leadership roles including the Country Director roles for World Vision DRC and Lesotho, as well as Operations Director role in Sri Lanka. Mr. Lout began his international relief and development career in Mali. Prior to that, he spent seven years in editing and sales roles with US publishing firm, Cooper Marketing Solutions.

eProd has recently updated its structure as it positions for growth and Series A investors expected by end of this year. Co-Founders Mr. Jan Willem Van Casteren and Mrs. Almut Van Casteren continue in their respective roles as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). Other key positions, including Chief Technology Officer and Chief Financial Officer are also under recruitment.

“eProd helps agribusiness scale their operations. Similarly, we are finding ourselves in the exciting position to scale our own operations. For seven years, our team has experienced tremendous growth, and eProd is making strategic investments to prepare us for expansion. Adding Scott to our team positions us for our next wave of growth as we secure investors for Series A financing,” said Mr. Van Casteren. “Scott’s experience managing large-scale teams and his experience in strategy and risk management will only improve eProd’s product offering and service to our clients.”

About eProd

eProd Solutions provides such a solution to address supply chain management needs and challenges for agribusinesses, thus better linking small-scale farmers to agribusinesses. eProd’s software offers digitalization of key business functionalities that leads to efficiency, quality control and improved coordination of farmer and field activities. The software is robust, designed to help a small enterprise that might source from only a few hundred farmers to scale into a large agribusiness that might source from hundreds of thousands of farmers. Regardless of the agribusiness farmer extension size, eProd is designed to manage different value chains simultaneously. This includes a solution that operates off-grid – in areas where data networks for internet are weak or non-existent, as in the case where many rural farmers operate.

10 Mar 2022

A software system, not a software!

eProd's Interview with GIZ

What is the story behind eProd?

In 2004, Jan Willem and Almut van Casteren founded the inclusive business Equator Kenya Ltd. They needed a software to manage the data of the large number of smallholder farmers who were selling African Bird’s Eye chilis and paprika for the Oleoresin market to their company. To be allowed to export the products to overseas markets, full traceability was required. They decided to develop the necessary software themselves by contracting developers, a procedure which finally resulted in an innovative software product that was fully adopted to the needs of Equator Kenya Ltd. Today, the software manages the data of 8,000 smallholders contracted by the company. They are organized in 350 groups, receive loans, input, and training, and supply their produce to the company.

 

How does eProd work?

Seeing the benefit of the software for their business, Jan Willem and Almut van Casteren decided to commercialize it. In 2014, eProd was piloted successfully for various sectors and business models. Today, it offers functionalities for contracting, traceability, communication, mobile payments as well as access to loans. Moreover, eProd offers various specific solutions such as yield forecasting models, credit rating, soil testing, reporting, analytics, and quality-based payments for milk collection (including sensor technology for quality control). eProd collects information about fields, farmers, cooperatives, traders, as well as NGOs and allows all kinds of hierarchical combinations. For donors and NGOs, eProd offers a monitoring dashboard where data can be analyzed and charted.

eProd is an off-the-shelf product, which can be deployed by configurations (rather than requiring customizations) and be fully operational for the client within five days. It offers numerous application programming interfaces which allow its flexible configuration, integration, and extension for various purposes and value chains. The software is available in a cloud version and a desktop/LAN solution that can function perfectly offline for areas with very poor internet. The mobile app is developed for Android, also functions offline and synchronizes with the central database when the internet is available. The cloud version allows global access via the World Wide Web.

 

What is the business model behind eProd?

Since March 2015, eProd is commercially available through the Kenyan-based company eProd Solutions Ltd. The Kenyan company has subsidiary companies in Tanzania and in Uganda as well as an agency network across Africa. The software is used by 75 clients in 12 developing countries and reaches over 250,000 smallholders, active in over 20 different value chains, including dairy, apiculture, fishpond farming, grains, pulses, oil crops, nuts, coffee, and horticulture. Moreover, it would be a small step to make the software usable for other livestock value chains. It is available in nine different languages and more can easily be added. According to Jan Willem Van Casteren, the success of eProd lies in the fact that it was designed as an integral part of a contract farming scheme, and over the years, the needs of all parties were considered and incorporated into the software. The software not only is flexible and configurable, but it also offers programming interfaces for its integration with other systems, such as financial accountability software or ERP for the food processing industry. eProd is successfully working fully commercial but offers various pricing models to make the software affordable for different client groups. An interesting model is a lifetime license where the annual subscription fee is tripled for the first year, while for all following years only 20% of the usual annual fee has to be paid. This model is particularly interesting for donor-financed launches of the software. eProd is also working on a Freemium model, where basic services are offered for free while additional functionalities have to be paid. eProd is scaling the approach through strategic partnerships with development organizations, private partners, and the financial sector. The company is an Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund grantee and collaborates with various development organizations (e.g., DAI, RTI, GIZ) and commercial technical partners (e.g., Where, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Wageningen University and Research Center).

 

Take-away message

“Quality-based payments will be the future in many value chains”, Mr. Van Casteren believes. He highlights the quality-based milk payment system of eProd, which allows fair and transparent automated price adjustments through integrations with sensor technology. “eProd is ideal to promote a market systems development approach. The quality issues are recorded and appear on the payment overview or in an SMS message from the buyer to the producer”, he says. “The system which eProd developed is based on near-infrared spectroscopy and requires only 2–3 seconds to complete its measurements. The sensor is a mobile battery-powered device which seamlessly integrates with the eProd environment”.

 

The interview is featured on the GIZ report about Digitalizing the African Livestock Sector, read the report here.

22 Feb 2022

Buhler and eProd join forces to offer a virtual training program to African millers

Buhler Online Training Program

KENYA – Nearly seven years after opening the first-grain milling training center in the Middle East and Africa region, Buhler has partnered with eProd Solution Limited and DEG to launch a virtual training program.

This comprehensive online course will be streamed from the African Milling School in Nairobi, Kenya, offering sustainable training in basic milling technology and supply chain management.

DEG, the private sector arm of the German government-owned KFW group, is the financial partner of the project and will contribute 50% of the total costs of the project, the other 50% is being privately contributed.

According to the Swiss multinational plant equipment manufacturer, DEG’s participation is within the framework of develoPPP, a funding program for sustainable company initiatives of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

“For us, it is extremely vital to contribute towards vocational training projects as they help to strengthen the private sector and economic growth in Kenya and the East African region.

“We hope that based on our well-established relationship with Bühler Group we will cooperate further, e.g., in financially assisting future expansions,” says Antje Steiner, Director Regional Office East Africa KfW DEG.

Meanwhile, eProd will play a leading role in initiating the 14-module course program as it will deliver eight modules and Bühler will deliver the remaining six modules.

Other than offering training sessions, the program will avail tests and certify participants upon completion of the program.

The first 35 trainees will be from the Cereal Millers Association in Nairobi, Kenya will kick-off of the pilot course in March 2022.

“This project offers us a unique opportunity to craft a customized and highly efficient solution to bring to the millers to enable them to increase the quality of produce and reduce processing losses to strengthen the agri-food supply chain in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Matthias Grabe, Managing Director, Bühler East Africa.

Training program to offer sustainable solutions

The program envisaged to eventually train 250 millers, will be of benefit to the budding millers entering the market.

Buhler has highlighted that the milling industry landscape in Sub-Sahara Africa has changed a lot in recent years with many new, relatively small millers.

“They work with minimum investments and low-end technology equipment from cheap suppliers. These millers typically tend not to invest in staff training, resulting in unsafe working circumstances, lack of maintenance, and unsafe food products,” highlights Buhler.

Offering sustainable solutions, the course will offer training in procurement of the right raw materials, tailored production advice, traceability in the supply chain, among others.

“If companies want to address these quality concerns it is important to start with the supply chain and apply a holistic approach. It starts with knowing the farmers, providing them with the right seed varieties and tailored production advice, traceability in the supply chain. This can be achieved in an economic way with supply chain digitalization,” said Jan Willem van Casteren, CEO of eProd Solutions Ltd.

Successful completion of the program will enable the setting up of specific measurables in undertaking an optimum milling operation in terms of quantification, i.e., energy reduction and CO² emissions.

Read more of the publication by Food Business Africa

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