Heifer Nigeria is thrilled to announce the winners of the AYuTe (Africa, Youth and Technology) Nigeria Challenge 2023. After an intensive journey spanning 5 months that included business incubation, mentorship, and a final pitching session with a panel of experts, Heifer Nigeria is delighted to present the top 3 winners of the AYuTe Nigeria Challenge 2023. These exceptional agritech innovators have demonstrated outstanding innovation, impact potential, and a commitment to empowering smallholder farmers through technology-driven solutions.

The AYuTe Nigeria Challenge is an enterprise development program initiated by Heifer International to identify, nurture, and support innovative, relevant and technology-driven agric-centric enterprises to grow, scale and thrive. The challenge serves as a springboard for identifying outstanding young agritech innovators, as well as assisting in the formation of strong partnerships. As a result, the competition will increase visibility for growth and improve smallholder farmers’ productivity.

National competitions build on the regional competition, AYuTe Africa Challenge which awards up to US$1.5 million each year to leading agritech innovators across Africa.

In Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda, national competitions award up to $20,000 in each country.

Prior to the grand finale of its second season, the 2023 AYuTe Nigeria Challenge, implemented by Wennovation Hub, was officially launched in July 2023 and within a 2-week period, more than 400 entries were received from agritech innovators across Nigeria. The competition subsequently went through numerous stages, including three stages of extensive screening of applications wherein multidisciplinary professionals in enterprise development, business strategy, information technology and agriculture screened the entries to select the top 20 finalists emerging from a larger pool of 80 shortlisted startups who made it past the first stage of the screening process. The top 20 finalists were further pruned down to the final 10, from which 5 finalists made it to the grand final stage.

The grand finale, themed “The Role of Youth and Technology in Addressing Nigeria’s Food Security Challenges”, was held at the Fraser Hotel, Abuja, FCT where the top three winners of the 2023 AYuTe Nigeria Challenge emerged to be awarded a total cash prize of Twenty Thousand US Dollars ($20,000).

The judging panel for the competition included prominent experts in the agricultural industry, such as Titi Ojo, Lead Consultant at Agro Chains Consult Services, Winston Ekpotu, Executive Director at Island Agro-Industries Development Company, and Femi Oluwagbemi, Lead, Business Development at LoftyInc Group. The final day of the AYuTe Nigeria Challenge 2023 also witnessed the presence of the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Abubakar Kyari who was represented by  Dr. Deola Lordbanjou, Director, Extension Services of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

In his remarks, Dr Lordbanjou stated that “our ministry is passionate about empowering youth and creating employment opportunities in agriculture. We commend Heifer Nigeria for its dedicated efforts in bridging this gap through the AYuTe Africa Challenge Nigeria. We remained committed to work with these startups to further build their capacity.”

Celebrating the Top 3 Winners and Their Innovations

First Place Winner – Extension Africa [$10,000]

This scalable private extension service provider uses its proprietary innovative technologies to provide sustainable access to smallholder farmers.

Founder: Tajudeen Yahaya

Second Place Winner – Rural Farmers Hub [$6,000]

Developed a software (CAPTURE) that converts soil and crop data into powerful insights for smallholder farmers resulting in improved crop productivity and increased income for farmers.

Founder: Elochukwu Azubuike

Third Place Winner – Bridge Merchant Entreprises [$4,000]

A decentralized agricultural system that connects smallholder farmers worldwide. It empowers local youths to onboard farmers using technology, providing them with a real-time marketplace, training, extension services, and access to silo storages.

Founder: Chinwendu Nweke

In addition to the prize money, the winning innovator and the first runner-up will both be invited to apply for a six-month Massachusetts Institute of Technology Solve Virtual Innovator Support Program sponsored by Heifer International. In 2022, Heifer International and MIT Solve collaborated to design and launch a comprehensive support program exclusively for innovators in the Heifer International network. The six-month support program, which begins November 2023 will further grow innovators’ capacity for impact. 

Major Considerations in Choosing the Winners

The selection of the top 3 winners was a challenging task for the panel of experts. Several key considerations influenced their decision, including:

Innovation and Impact: The winners’ solutions demonstrated innovative use of technology and had the potential to make a significant positive impact on the lives of smallholder farmers in Nigeria.

Scalability and Sustainability: The selected innovations exhibited the potential for scalability, long-term viability, and integration within the agricultural ecosystem.

Market Viability: The winners’ solutions showcased a clear understanding of market dynamics and addressed existing gaps and opportunities in the agriculture sector.

These three winning solutions exemplify the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, offering novel approaches to address critical challenges in African agriculture, including productivity enhancement, market access, climate resilience, and financial inclusion for smallholder farmers.

About Heifer International  

Since 1944, Heifer International has worked with more than 40 million people around the world to end hunger and poverty in a sustainable way. Working with rural communities across Africa for 47 years, Heifer International supports farmers and local food producers to strengthen local economies and build secure livelihoods that provide a living income. For information, visit https://www.heifer.org

About Wennovation Hub

Wennovation Hub is a pioneering venture development company that specializes in nurturing nascent startups and teams operating within burgeoning industries. We provide them with invaluable access to incubation, acceleration, investment prospects, and mentorship to foster the growth of robust and prosperous startups.

“We are excited to announce the launch of the second edition of AYuTe Africa Challenge Nigeria,” says Rufus Idris, Country Director of Heifer Nigeria. “This challenge provides a platform to attract more young, talented entrepreneurs to agriculture, empowering them to unleash their potential and contribute to solving the numerous challenges facing our agricultural sector. We believe that their innovative tech solutions is needed today more than ever, as the country is in dire need of sustainable solution to the rising food inflation and food insecurity,” added Idris.

The 2023 AYuTe Africa Challenge Nigeria will span three months, during which eligible agritech startups will receive mentorship, business support and optimization, guidance, and market support with the Top 3 finalists receiving up to $20,000 in grants. By promoting entrepreneurship and technology adoption in the agriculture sector, the challenge aims to empower startups and advance sustainable rural development in Nigeria. 

Heifer’s AYuTe Africa Challenge Nigeria 2023 is being implemented by Wennovation Hub, a business development company that supports startups and teams across emerging sectors. Wennovation Hub will provide bespoke business and entrepreneurship support and access to expert mentors and industry leaders who will provide valuable guidance to help participating startups refine their business models, enhance their products or services, and scale their operations effectively.To qualify for AYuTe Africa Challenge Nigeria, startups must be registered and operating in Nigeria, be focused on leveraging technology to address challenges that affect smallholder farmers and drive innovation in the agriculture sector. The agritech is also expected to have a minimum viable product (MVP) or a working prototype that demonstrates the potential for impact. More information about the AYuTe Africa Challenge Nigeria, including the application portal and eligibility criteria can be found on www.ayute.africa/nigeria

Get the best African tech newsletters in your inbox