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Q&A with Riches Attai, CEO of Winich Farms

By David Armaah

Founder Profile

Riches Attai, the visionary Co-Founder and CEO of Winich Farms, spearheads the company’s overarching strategy and vision. Armed with an academic background in Economics and Statistics from the University of Benin, Riches initially ventured into entrepreneurship with the launch of Attai’s Beans. 

Riches garnered accolades for his innovative endeavours through the Orange Corners Program—a collaboration between the Kingdom of Netherlands and Fate Foundation. Recognised as one of the Top 20 Young Entrepreneurs and nominated for the SME100 AFRICA 25 Under 25 Awards, he stands out for his remarkable contributions to Agriculture and Technology. Further acknowledgements from Business Day and the Meet the Farmers Conference in Dubai underscore Riches Attai’s impactful journey as an African trailblazer in Agriculture and Technology.

This Q&A session dives into his startup Winich Farms and how they are helping improve efficiency in the agriculture supply chain.  

Q: How did the Winich Farms idea come to be? 

A: We identified three major challenges faced in the value chain. The first is the long chain of middlemen between the farmers and the informal processors and retailers. Smallholder farmers are largely marginalised and tend to not get adequate value for the goods they cultivate. Informal processors and retailers can’t access inventory when they need it and at good prices as the long chain of middlemen causes hoarding and marginalisation in the value chain. 

The second challenge identified was the high cost of funding at traditional banks and micro-lending institutions in rural environments, farmers do not have easy access to financially inclusive services like credit and insurance to increase productivity. 

Lastly, with the launching of middlemen, tracking and traceability became a challenge as there was no visibility into how food products move through each layer of the value chain. 

Winich Farms was set up to solve these three problems

Q: How does the platform work?

A: Our guiding star is supply chain efficiencies. So anything that makes the supply chain more efficient.

What is the platform like? I will explain from the supply and demand side, as our solution is both supply and demand-driven. On the supply side, when smallholder farmers are ready to sell their produce, they can contact an agent centre that we have set up in farming communities, they are readily available for the farmers any day, and anytime. 

So whenever a farmer wants to sell his produce all he needs to do is locate the closest agent centre. This can easily be done by identifying where the agent centre is or through a USSD channel. They then take their produce to the centre and it is captured by the agents, uploaded on our mobile platform, and within a short period, a truck driver is allocated to pick up the produce and deliver it directly to the off-taker. In these few steps we have improved the standard of living of the smallholder farmer with better pricing as he now sells directly to the off-taker. The agent and the truck driver earn commissions as well. Jobs are created! 

On the demand side, we’ve built a mobile app for the off-takers. It’s like an inventory manager app where they can organise, order, and plan their inventory. There are two major features that we currently have on the mobile app. One is the order-and-go feature. The second is the plant inventory feature.

Now, what’s even more interesting, on the demand side, we have used machine learning to help understand how off-takers make orders. So every 90 days, whether you use the plant inventory or the order-and-go feature, the system begins to understand order patterns and make suggestions. This further helps us organise the informal sector more effectively and efficiently. On the supply side, we have an algorithm using both quantitative and qualitative data sets that help us understand the farmers and create a credit score and credit rating, which is then leveraged by third-party financiers to provide farmers credit as they transact. That’s how the platform typically works.

Q: What current challenges are you facing within the sector?

A: The first would be logistics. In Africa, infrastructure challenges cannot be overemphasised especially because the environments to which we are transporting are in underserved communities. So moving products from a rural community to a processor or retailer in an urban settlement can be daunting because of bad roads and poor infrastructure. 

The second challenge is with payments. Typically in Africa, a large portion of farmers are underbanked or unbanked. This results in a large portion of transactions being cash-based. Now, with the volume of transactions largely rising it creates friction in the system. Creating a solution that solves payments and ensures that transactions are less cash-based and more digital will be prudent.

Q: How does Winich Farms envision reshaping the supply chain landscape, and how does the company plan to stay ahead of the curve?

A: What is very important, and where the world is moving towards, is a focus on traceability. People want to know where their consumable foods are coming from. That is something that we (Winich) find very interesting and are building. If you order a product through Winich as a company, processor, or retailer, we can tell you:
i) Which farmer cultivated that product
ii) Which agent aggregated the product
iii) Where the product was stored
iv) How long it was stored in that aggregation centre
v) When the product was picked up by a truck driver
vi) How long the driver travelled
vii) Finally, what retailer off-took that product

This pattern of clear visibility on how the product moves up each layer of the value chain is a very important thing that we have built and are still building. In the coming months, we aim to move into the export market showing in real-time how the product moves through each layer of the value chain until it finally reaches the consumer. That’s how we’re leveraging technology in terms of traceability. We’re also leveraging technology by finding ways to ensure that the farmers who put in the work get the most benefits. On top of the credit rating that we have created, what’s also beautiful is the debit cards. Now with the debit cards, we can further strengthen the algorithm, with more data in terms of how the farmers earn their income, but also how they spend. With this, we are improving credit scoring and credit rating to enable farmers to get access to credit and insurance products from partners.

Look out for more information on Winich Farms in our upcoming memo.

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