Charles Oyamo , a third-year Bachelor of Arts in Development Communication student at The University of Nairobi with friends founded Stofresh,an online marketplace to enable farmers get access to cold storage, digital payments, and facilitate marketing.
According to Charles,he grew up seeing farmers in his Kamreri village, Migori face challenges such as lack of cold storage facilities, digital payment solutions as well as markets.
He said,“My grandmother relied on her two-acre farm to grow sweet potatoes and kales which she planted and harvested at the same time as most of her neighbours,”
Thus farmers flooded the market with produce and inevitably prices were lower as the products were sold to middlemen.
The idea behind Stofresh came up during a conversation between Charles Oyamo and his other friends, all students at University of Nairobi .Kairu Karega,Jecinta Sydney Mwangi ,Iyvie Hellen Mboya and Benaiah Wepundi joined to move Stofresh from an idea into a startup working with over 30 farmers.
The team observed that a lot of trade in the agriculture sector is informal and cash based, thus farmers lack a way to track their sales which would enable them access financing.
Initially the idea was to build a marketplace that would give farmers access to cold storage facilities and extend the shelf life of their fresh produce.
But the company has since included value-add services such as digital payments, food distributors and retailers, and enabled farmers to purchase farming inputs in installments
According to Oyamo, by digitising payments, they are derisking investments into the agriculture space for financial service providers as farmers and traders can now make transactions seamlessly and track their spending.
Today the platform has invested nearly Sh1 million in the enterprise through support from the Swiss Embassy, German Development Agency (GiZ) as well as personal savings.
Farmers are already making transactions on the platform and they are also building a save-to-but feature that allows farmers get quality inputs at affordable payment terms.
Since its launch 3 months ago,37 farmers have already enrolled even as a public pilot has been planned in the fourth quarter of this year.
“For our private beta, we are working with farmers from Kitale and scouting for Kisii, and Meru counties.”
Although farmers on the platform are not being charged,the platform charges commission from traders who buy produce from farmers through the platform.
Mr Oyamo says, “Since our primary business is facilitating this trade, we are keeping our price as low as possible and making money on trade volumes.”
The company is currently working with Safal Groups’ Bouchard International and the firm is also in supplier conversations with two food distribution start-ups.
The company plans to expand across Kenya within the next 12 months and venture into the Southern parts of Tanzania and the Eastern parts of DRC.”