“My interest in farming started while I was still at the university pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Entrepreneurship Development. Our University was located in the rural part of Tanzania and the only things you could see when you stepped out of the university were farms. Being an entrepreneur at heart, this sparked an interest and got me curious about how I could add value to the agricultural value chain,” Baraka Jeremiah, Co-Founder & CEO of Kilimo Fresh speaking on how his entrepreneurship journey began.
Baraka refers to himself as a farmer and an entrepreneur. I started out as a farmer immediately after university then I farmed for over four years. My co-founder and I would grow tomatoes, capsicums and watermelons which we would sell to consumers through middlemen. We used this business model for years and realized that we were losing a lot of produce due to lack of proper storage facilities and transport. We also did not have direct access to the market. This led to food wastage; we were losing more than half of what we were producing. We decided to stop farming and conduct some research. It is during this period that I got the opportunity to attend different agriculture boot camps across Africa, from Nigeria, Ghana, to Namibia, Botswana and finally South Africa. During these boot camps, I got knowledge and insights on how I could add value to the agricultural sector.
When I returned to Tanzania in December 2017, I shared the lessons from these boot camps with my cofounder and we agreed to embark on market research. In a bid to understand the market needs, we contacted more than 200 hotels and restaurants, supermarkets and public markets in Dar-es-Salaam. This is when Kilimo Fresh was born. We started with a pilot in March 2018 and we were buying from the farmers and then selling to hotels and restaurants. When we started out, we had only 3 restaurants as clients. We did this for over 8 months and by the end of 2018, we were sure that the market existed and so we decided to formally register the company in January 2019.
Kilimo Fresh Foods Africa is founded on the idea that food can be taken to market with minimal to zero waste. We started out with smallholder farmers from whom we would buy fresh produce and then transport it to Dar-es-Salaam where we had a small warehouse for sorting, packing and consolidation. We would then use the boda boda riders (motorbike riders) on the street to distribute the produce.
The Generation Africa Fellowship Program(GAFP)
Through GAFP , I met John Njane, one of the program’s coaches. During this time, Kilimo Fresh Foods was in the process of expanding to new markets, therefore, John and I agreed to place it as the company’s need. John went ahead to guide me on several business aspects such as organizational structure and a go-to-market strategy for this new market segment. Initially, Kilimo Fresh would sell to B2B customers; we buy fresh produce from the farmers and sell this produce to other businesses; hotels, restaurants, supermarkets etc.
John’s counsel opened my eyes to another sustainable and high-potential market segment; street food and vegetable vendors. Before exploring this new market, we would gain a monthly revenue of between USD 25,000 and USD 30,000. After the market expansion, we realized revenue of up to USD 100,000 every month. So far, Kilimo Fresh has created job opportunities for 25 people and sold only 8% of its equity.
What next for Kilimo Fresh Foods?
Kilimo Fresh is looking to expand further through fundraising. Recently, I represented the company during the Generation Africa peer learning webinar. The speaker, Emem Essien, also an agripreneur, shared with us many insights on fundraising and digital marketing. We are also keen to add at least 6 distribution trucks to our operations in Dar-es-Salaam, and 4 big trucks (20 tonnes) for bulk sourcing from the farms.
Interviewed by Juliet Hinga