“SMEs are one of the key drivers for change in the food system; 64% of all food consumed in Africa is handled by SMEs, and the number of agribusiness SMEs is steadily growing, ” said Emile Schmitz, Managing Director, Bopinc. “By making their business models circular, we hope to create a ripple effect across the wider sector, helping to move food production throughout the region to go from a linear to a circular approach.O-Farms will be the first of its kind for Africa, never before have food-producing SMEs been challenged in this way.”
“We want to build a circular agriculture ecosystem that is sustainable – which means that it needs to be locally-led,” said Allie Burns, Village Capital CEO. “Throughout this project, we will focus on lifting up local leaders who can provide the contextualized support that African entrepreneurs need to grow and scale.”
During the second half of 2021, Bopinc and Village Capital will recruit, vet and select 10 SMEs in both Kenya and Ethiopia for the first cohort of O-Farms that will participate in a series of capacity building events focused on business model development, technical skills, investment readiness and networking with a community of investors and mentors who work in and around the food system. At the end of the program , two cohort companies from each country will be selected by their peers to receive growth funding worth €25.000 each.
“East Africa has enormous potential for sustainable food systems,” said Petra Hans, Head of Portfolio, Agricultural Livelihood, IKEA Foundation. “East Africa’s population is steadily growing and so is the demand for food in the region. The region also has great agricultural potential but, at the same time, there are large inefficiencies in the food system. In certain sectors like horticulture, where losses can rise up to 50%, most of these losses occur in the supply chain which is where we see the greatest potential for circular solutions. A circular economy in agriculture can provide multiple positive impacts such as new jobs, a much more efficient use of natural resources and lower greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector.”
By mid 2023, O-Farms hopes to have worked with more than 40 companies on making profitable new products from food losses and by-products. The learnings developed throughout the project will be shared widely to inspire the transition to circular farming and food systems in East Africa.