Cross-sector innovation presents solutions to combat Kenya’s long-standing False Codling Moth challenge

False Codling Moth (FCM), also known as Thaumatotibia leucotreta is currently causing havoc in various chilli farms in Kenya, eating into the farmers’ profits [1]. It has also emerged as a major constraint to the production of horticultural crops in the country and is currently the leading cause of interceptions of Capsicum and cut flowers exported to the European Union [2]. This has a huge knock-on effect on the country’s economy as it is highly dependent on the agricultural sector.

In an effort to remedy the FCM challenge faced by thousands of Kenyan farmers the Innovation Exchange (iX) challenge competition, delivered by Innovate UK KTN Global Alliance Africa supported Flamingo Horticulture International, which grows chillies within the several regions in Kenya, to identify innovative approaches in pest control for the detection and screening of FCM. The iX approach promotes cross-sectoral innovation transfer, matching real industry challenges from large businesses to companies or academic institutions that can provide novel, market-ready solutions to challenges such as FCM.

With their solution for early detection of FCM through the use of technology, co-founders of Petiole APP and Pro, Maryna Kuzmenko and Andrii Seleznov were announced as the winner of the Flamingo Horticulture challenge. The team empowers agronomists and plant scientists to use precision agriculture techniques and get accurate plant traits measurements with a smartphone, no matter their skill set or experience. They streamline the plant phenotyping process and give farmers a set of tools for their crop monitoring. Petiole will be working with Flamingo to pilot and refine the solution at the Kapiti Greens Farm.

Kuzmenko says: “The main task of the application is to help with the identification, and early detection of FCM to minimise the number of FCM in the UK and prevent it from coming into the country. About 36 African countries including Kenya, have a presence of FCM, and our involvement with Flamingo Horticulture provided us with a platform to create value for Kenyan farmers, such as the Kapiti Chilli Farm.”

Sekeznov adds: “The experience introduced by the project allowed us to spend time with Kapiti Farm, which is a small farm located in Kitengela and introduce the use of technology into their farms in order to mitigate FCM in their farms as well as how they can use the data to run their day-to-day operations as research also tells us that companies that inject big data and analytics into their operations can outperform their peers by 5% in productivity and 6% in profitability.”

“The response from the Kenyan farmers was positive, as they saw the value that the technology had on their farms and profits. We on the other hand, as another small business were fortunate to work with other small businesses in Africa, and this was made possible by the iX challenge that enforced cross-sector collaboration,” Kuzmenko says.

By winning the challenge, the Petiole team will now receive up to £25,000 in milestone-based seed funding, along with training and mentorship, to help develop their solution.

Sheilah BirgenCommenting on the significance of this Innovation Exchange Challenge, Global Alliance Africa’s Country Lead for Kenya, Sheilah Birgen, concludes: “We have seen the impact of collaborations when trying to build small businesses. Through the Innovation Exchange initiative, we support innovation transfer by matching industry or societal challenges to innovative companies from across a diverse range of sectors. The opportunity to partner with Flamingo Horticulture International, Kapiti Greens and Petiole, is a step in the right direction towards creating sustainable economies that uplift the lives of ordinary people.”

To learn more about Global Alliance Africa’s Innovation Exchange Challenges, go to