BY TOM JACKSON
Tanzanian agri-tech startup East Africa Fruits hopes to with more than 10,000 farmers and 15,000 businesses, and expand into new verticals, after raising US$3.1m Series A funding last month.
Founded by social entrepreneur Elia Timotheo in 2013, East Africa Fruits addresses food distribution challenges to improve efficiencies in the farm-to-market sector via a B2B e-commerce platform.
The company trades and markets fresh fruits, vegetables and rice for supply to hotels, restaurants and cafes, supermarkets and shops, local vendors and export customers.
“For smallholder farmers who need access to markets at good prices and consumers of fresh produce who need affordable high-quality produce, we are a fresh produce distribution company that aggregates fresh produce from farmers, processes then distributes to customers,” Timotheo told Disrupt Africa.
Last month East Africa Fruits secured US$3.1 million in Series A equity and debt capital to grow its operations. Already supplying produce to close to 2,300 retailers in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar alone, and sourcing produce from more than 2,000 farmers, Timotheo said the company planned on significantly increasing these numbers using the investment.
“Ninety-seven per cent of our sales are to the local market specifically Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar, the remaining three per cent as exports,” he said.
“Our plans are to work with more than 10,000 farmers and 15,000 businesses in Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and neighbouring regions.”
In order to achieve this, East Africa Fruits will invest in its technology.
“This will enable us to streamline all our operations and impact, and create a bridge between farmers and small businesses to all sorts of financial inclusion, such as micro-loans, insurances, and extension services,” Timotheo said.
Product diversification is another goal. With more than 15,000 customers, East Africa Fruits sees a growth path for other perishable and non-perishable food items.
“Through our robust distribution channels, we will be able to penetrate other items which are being traded on a daily basis,” said Timotheo.
Timotheo launched the company after experiencing existing market inefficiencies when small scale farmers try to sell their produce. He realised that, for produce to get to the market, it passes through the hands of more than three middlemen, leaving the farmer with less than 22 per cent of the final wholesale price. He set out to fix these inefficiencies in the supply chain.
“This has to do with lack of reliable supply of high-quality produce in the market. Retailers need to hustle very early in the morning rush to the overcrowded public markets controlled by middlemen to get produce, which is of bad quality, causing them to lose at least 10 per cent of whatever they buy. Farmers on the other hand do not have secure markets and sell their produce at unfair prices to middlemen,” said Timotheo.
East Africa Fruits solves all these problems, and the startup is now focused on ensuring its impact reaches more farmers and more retailers over the coming years.