eProd | Management Solutions for Agribusinesses
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.