One of the biggest and commonest challenges that farmers face is accessing markets for their produce.
This setback among farmers inspired Dr. Joseph Macharia to develop an application that connects farmers with potential buyers.
“First, I was inspired to create the platform because of my history in farming and studying agriculture, and I felt obligated to give back to society,” he says.
“Second, I wanted to use what I had learnt to create a product that farmers could use to solve the problem of market access and information for their agricultural commodities as well as encourage and motivate young aspiring farmers.”
Mr Macharia conceived the idea of Mkulima Young app about six years ago, but the app was developed two years later.
On the platform, farmers list their products, their prices, contact information and location. Buyers can then browse the site for the goods the produce they need.
The entrepreneur reveals that currently, there are more than 45,000 registered users with an average of 1,000 visiting the website daily.
The app is available on Google Play Store, but Mr Macharia encourages users to register via the website.
“The platform is free, but you must register or download the app in order to publish or access the contacts of both buyers and sellers. You need a smartphone, tablet, or computer to register,” adds Macharia.
He says the platform has also inspired him to learn and improve himself.
“As a developer, I’ve benefited greatly. First, the platform interactions inspired me to pursue further studies for my PhD, in order to comprehend some of the issues I observed on the platform,” he says.
“My PhD studies led me to another discipline of entrepreneurship, where I acquired knowledge. Secondly, I’ve benefited from the intangible benefits of giving back to society,” he notes, adding that the recognition and visibility he has received as a result of founding the platform is enormous.
Macharia, who is in his forties, studied Bsc Agricultural Education and Extension at Egerton University, before joining Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) for his Msc, and later the Queensland University of Technology for his PhD, where he focused on the role of digital technologies in entrepreneurship.
In order to ensure that users’ data is safeguarded, the innovator notes that they adhere to the Kenyan Data Protection Act. He says he ensures minimised collection of data, restricts further processing of data and requires data controllers and processors to ensure data quality.
His firm, he adds, maintains security safeguards to protect personal data.
“While we do acknowledge that like any other online platform, trust is an issue, we have provided guidelines on how to transact. In addition to this, we have terms and condition,” notes Macharia.
He says that Mkulima Young is developed mainly for those with smartphones. Covid-19, he says, saw the number of users almost doubling. The entrepreneur has employed two people who manage the platform, while he focuses on marketing.
Mr Macharia reveals that he does tutoring on future entrepreneurship while carrying out research on entrepreneurship in general. He says that Mkulima Young is by a farmer for the farmers and that his future plan is to expand beyond East Africa.