There are less that 2 weeks to go to enter the 13th annual Meffys. The MEF Minute has been catching up with some of last year’s winners to find out what they’ve been up to in the last 12 months.
This week, we speak to Kenny Ewan, CEO & Founder of WeFarm, a project to connect some 250,000 small-scale farmers with each other and get access to invaluable crowd-sourced knowledge sharing using mobile tech.
What did you win the Meffy for?
WeFarm won the Meffy Innovation Award for Technology.
Why do you think the judges picked your entry?
I think the judges picked us because we are using SMS in a totally unique and innovative way, and with a social mission at the heart of our business model.
The WeFarm platform enables farmers to receive crowdsourced information from farming peers around the world – without needing an internet connection! I think this shows that even in the age of machine learning and AI, which we are increasing using at WeFarm, that SMS is still a relevant technology and open to innovation.
What has your company been up to since winning last year?
We have had a big year! We’ve scaled quickly to now have more than 72,000 farmers using our service who have already shared more than 11 million interactions through the platform, and all without any access to the internet.
We were also named one of the global winners of The Venture after competing in the final in New York in July. This secured $200,000 in funding, which combined with closing our seed funding round will help scale WeFarm to the next level .
What are your plans for the year ahead?
Our goal is to reach 1 million farmers in the next 12 months, and use the data generated by this to create incredible insight into the ‘disconnected half’ of the world’s population – for example by live tracking disease across countries where no one has any existing data.
In order to support this growth our team will be doubling in size and we are planning lots of marketing in the regions we are expanding in.
Apart from your own, which mobile company, sector or region is most exciting to you right now and why?
To me, East Africa is still the home of the most exciting developments in mobile.
There are new startups every day, solving very complex problems with mobile solutions. Take Farm.ink that connects buyers to sellers through a chatbot, or M-Kopa, where people can buy solar panels through affordable mobile instalments.
East Africa is the real home of innovation in my eyes.
CEO & Founder
Which mobile industry figure do you most admire or think is making game changing impact on the industry
I really admire the work Luis Von Ahn has done around education with Duolingo. He’s helped millions of people learn a second language in a way that is quick and easy.
By gamifying the experience Von Ahn has made it fun to learn a language, something that is often seen as difficult and boring. The system is also very smart at reinforcing the things you get wrong, so you truly do learn effectively.
I think if he succeeds in developing a chatbot that you can practice a language with (and receive tips from!) that would be truly game changing.