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Agritech start-up Karpolax seeks action in Kenya, Tanzania

By , Africa editor
Uganda , 20 Jun 2023
Karpolax founders Samuel Muyita and Sandra Namboozo in the middle with Patrice Motsepe (r) together with Milken Institute officials.
Karpolax founders Samuel Muyita and Sandra Namboozo in the middle with Patrice Motsepe (r) together with Milken Institute officials.

Ugandan start-up Karpolax is expanding, bringing its green nanotechnology solutions for fruit shelf-life extension to new markets.

Karpolax – recently named one of the winners of the Milken-Motsepe agritech competition – has set its sights on Kenya and Tanzania in an expansion drive.

The company says the two countries are prime targets, because they have vibrant agricultural sectors with significant fruit production.

Founded in 2020, by Samuel Muyita and Sandra Namboozo, Karpolax has successfully created fruit shelf-life extension sachets using green nanotechnology. 

These sachets, when placed alongside fruits during storage and transportation, release organic compounds that mimic the fruit's natural defence mechanisms. 

By delaying senescence and slowing down the ripening process, the sachets significantly extend the shelf-life of fruits, allowing them to reach consumers in a fresher state.

For this creation, Karpolax received $300,000 for second place in the annual Milken-Motsepe agritech competition, hosted by Patrice Motsepe Foundation and the US-based Milken Institute.

In an interview with ITWeb Africa, Karpolax founders share their vision of promoting sustainable agriculture through technology.

“The journey of Karpolax began in 2020 when a group of scientists and entrepreneurs came together, combining our expertise in nanotechnology and agricultural sciences with a shared vision of addressing the issue of fruit waste and promoting sustainable agriculture,” says Namboozo.

She adds: “Throughout our journey, Karpolax has remained dedicated to equitable agriculture and continuous innovation. We strive to address challenges in the food industry, consistently seeking new solutions to improve the sustainability and efficiency of the agricultural value chain.”

Backed with the $300,000 prize money, Karpolax will scale production capabilities, expand manufacturing facilities, and acquire equipment for green nanotechnology processes.

Muyita tells ITWeb Africa: “We understand the importance of continuous innovation. We will also invest significantly in research and development to refine our existing products, develop novel formulations, and expand our technology to address broader challenges in the agricultural and food industries. This opens the doors to diversifying our product portfolio, allowing us to develop innovative solutions for other aspects of the food Industry.”

During the interview, the duo detailed growth plans, saying Karpolax intends to expand into Kenya and Tanzania by the first quarter of 2024.

Why these two countries? Muyita says there are several reasons. He explains: “Kenya and Tanzania have vibrant agricultural sectors with significant fruit production. Both countries have diverse climates and fertile lands, making them ideal for cultivating a number of fruits. By introducing our technology in these markets, we will contribute by reducing post-harvest losses and enhancing the value of their agricultural produce.

“There is a growing demand for sustainable and innovative solutions in agriculture and food industries in Kenya and Tanzania. Consumers and businesses are increasingly conscious of the need to reduce food waste and extend the shelf-life of fresh produce. Entering these markets can address this demand and offer our green nanotechnology products as effective solutions.”

Furthermore, Muyita says Kenya and Tanzania are experiencing significant economic growth, providing a favourable environment for business expansion.

“This growth translates to increased consumer purchasing power and a greater willingness to adopt advanced technologies and solutions. By entering these markets early, we can establish a strong foothold and capitalize on the potential opportunities,” he says.

While Kenya and Tanzania are Karpolax’s immediate focus, Nigeria, South Africa, and India are also on the radar. Karpolax aims to expand into the rest of Africa by 2025.

But the founders are aware there may be challenges faced when executing this expansion plan.

Namboozo tells ITWeb Africa: “Our biggest threat is the slow adaptability of new technologies in Africa. In many regions of Africa, inadequate infrastructure, such as limited access to electricity, reliable Internet connectivity, and transportation networks, can impede the adoption of new technologies. Without the necessary infrastructure, it becomes challenging to integrate and use advanced solutions effectively. Lack of awareness, limited technical skills, and inadequate education and training programs also hinder the understanding and uptake of innovative solutions.”

She continues: “By addressing infrastructure challenges, enhancing awareness and education, improving affordability and accessibility, fostering supportive regulatory environments, and leveraging initiatives focused on technology adoption, we can overcome the slow adaptability of new technologies in Africa. Collaborative efforts involving governments, the private sector, and development partners are essential in driving this change and creating a thriving ecosystem for technological innovation and adoption.”

Nonetheless, Karpolax is aiming to increase sales by 30% year-over-year or achieve a cumulative growth of 150% over the next five years.

“These targets reflect our commitment to expanding our customer base, acquiring new markets, and meeting the increasing demand for our fruit shelf-life extension products. We will also measure the adoption rate of our green nanotechnology solutions by tracking the number of farms, exporters, or market vendors using our products. The goal will be to achieve 30% of market share within the target customer segments in the next 10 years globally,” says Namboozo.

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