Innovation Village earlier this year reported that two Africans startups namely Ghana’s Farmerline and South Africa’s Libryo were shortlisted to attend the Kickstart Accelerator. The program, an initiative of digital Switzerland and operated by Impact Hub Zurich, is one of Europe’s largest zero equity, multi-corporate accelerators with the aim of putting the Swiss innovation and ecosystem on the global innovation map.

Fast forward to today, the Kickstart Accelerator has come and gone. However, the sterling and impressionable performance of these two African startups linger.

While Libryo, will relish the remarkable gains, experience and rewards of participating; Farmerline-which came second in the food vertical (FinTech,  Smart Cities, Robotics & Intelligent Systems, EdTech and Healthcare)-has gotten a lifetime opportunity for expansion, investment, networking and mentorship.

Innovation Village caught up with Lindsey Allen, Partnership and Client Development Lead at Farmerline who spoke on behalf of Alloysius Attah, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Farmerline and Malcolm Gray, one of the co-founders of Libryo.

In part one of this two part-interview, Lindsey Allen talks about Farmerline, their experience at Kickstart Accelerator and much more. Excerpts.

Can you briefly introduce yourself?

My name is Lindsey Allen and I’m Partnership and Client Development Lead for Farmerline, a social enterprise based in Ghana that connects smallholder farmers to information, high-quality resources, and supply chains through innovative mobile technology. Personally, I facilitate and manage key partnerships, helping to steer growth both externally and internally. I grow our pipeline of high-value partnerships while also working collaboratively with the rest of the Farmerline team to ensure we reach our growth strategy.  

Can you tell us about Farmerline and how it works?

Farmerline develops mobile technology solutions to transform farmers into successful entrepreneurs. We do this through two lines of operation: business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-farmer (B2F). On the B2B side, we have a proprietary software platform that offers decentralized supply chain transparency and sustainability solutions to food companies. On the B2F side, we work to offer a bundle of services to farmers, allowing them to access information in their local languages and mobile finance programs. Our solutions have reached over 200,000 farmers across 11 African countries.

Farmerline develops mobile technology solutions to transform farmers into successful entrepreneurs. We do this through two lines of operation: business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-farmer (B2F). Our solutions have reached over 200,000 farmers across 11 African countries.

How will you describe the acceptance of Farmerline by Ghanaians?

Perhaps as the only non-Ghanaian on the team, I can speak most objectively about this : ). Ghanaians have truly embraced Farmerline as both a social enterprise and a leader in African-led technology start-ups supporting continent-wide development. Ghanaians recognize that over half of the labour force is involved in agriculture, and we need sustainable solutions that help smallholder farmers increase their yield and income to keep feeding the world. At a higher level, with West African governments expressing a commitment to combatting deforestation and child labour, our solution helps foster multiple bridges between the agricultural private sector, local governments, and the farmers on-the-ground.

How did you feel when Farmerline was selected as one of the African startups to represent Africa in the Kickstart Accelerator?

It’s extremely difficult for African-led start-ups to gain access to investment and connections in the start-up space. Seeking out programs and fellowships like Kickstart has been fundamental to our growth and increasing representation of African voices. Being selected to participate in the Kickstart Accelerator was another big step in demonstrating the capacity, traction, and leadership of African-led tech start-ups.

Being selected to participate in the Kickstart Accelerator was another big step in demonstrating the capacity, traction, and leadership of African-led tech start-ups.

Before you left for the Kickstart Accelerator, did you ever thought your startup will emerge one of the winners?

Our goals first and foremost were to gain footing in the Swiss food industry, expand our B2B market, and meet well-aligned investors. We are thankful for the program and our mentor for helping us gain traction on all of these fronts, and the fact that made us one of the winners in our vertical was an added bonus. More importantly, we are humbled to have been chosen among many other innovative, fast-growing startups that are working hard to solve a wide range of challenges that the food industry is facing.

Can you share your experience (s) at the Kickstart Accelerator? How did you feel about being named the second-best startup in the Food Vertical? 

Participating in the Kickstart Accelerator helped us expand our market reach and build relationships with the Swiss food industry. Working with the major food and chocolate companies in Switzerland is crucial to achieving our mission of making supply chains more sustainable, transparent, and efficient. Our Kickstart mentor, Nadine Stoyanov, was an extremely dedicated resource and we’re very grateful for the guidance she has provided over the past few months. Her mentorship has been key to facilitating several new partnerships and understanding how to engage the Swiss market. The Kickstart program, along with her mentorship, helped us navigate this new cultural context and better market the value of Farmerline’s solutions. Being recognized for the traction we gained during the program has been very beneficial, especially as we prepare to open our third office in Zurich during the coming year. The recognition has already opened new doors for us and gotten the attention of new potential partners.

With the help of our partners, clients and investors, we are striving to reach 1 million farmers by 2020. In the next five years, Farmerline will have transformed millions of smallholder farmers into successful entrepreneurs and will have built the supply chain of tomorrow.

How do you think this win will impact Farmerline? Where do see Farmerline in the next 5 years?

Since the majority of the farmers we work with are cocoa farmers, we’re looking forward to learning from the chocolate industry in Switzerland to better understand how technology can be used to solve their challenges and address their consumers’ demands for more sustainability. We know well that when we prioritise this on this side of the supply chain, we can work with farmers to make sure they benefit at the other end of the supply chain. With the help of our partners, clients and investors, we are striving to reach 1 million farmers by 2020. In the next five years, Farmerline will have transformed millions of smallholder farmers into successful entrepreneurs and will have built the supply chain of tomorrow.

Click here for part one of this interview.