Farm in a box: smart | dairy

Intern Luc Baardman visited smart | dairy, a promising start-up in Bukura, Kakamega County. Read his interview with co-founder Peter Paul Coppes below.

When talking about innovation, you immediately think of difficult electronic circuits, software or high-tech hardware. Meet Peter Paul Coppes, co-founder of smart | dairy. He would tell you different: without re-inventing the wheel, with existing and proven methods, we are increasing the productivity of small-scale dairy farmers by delivering the farmers the necessary technology, funding and markets.

Peter Paul wouldn’t like to call them farmers. “they are franchisees”, Coppes said. We are building a network of smart farms to increase Kenyan milk production one farm at the time. The concept has proved to be successful. The idea sprung to his mind when he was in India. There he saw how simple cow barns can be constructed. He thought, that could be done everywhere, and started smart | dairy. His company can deliver pre-fab farms that are operative within four months. Next to that, Peter promises a guaranteed sale of milk to the farmers he works with, as long as the quality is as high as our Dutch standards are..

According to Coppes, this high quality milk is the milk that dairy manufacturing plants are looking for. Where the quality of milk in emerging markets often leaves room for improvement, the milk produced by a smart | dairy franchisee can be traced down right to the cow that gave it.

Because of the fact that 80 percent of the milk in emerging markets is being produced by small-scaled farming activities, we are going to work with farms with a maximum of 25 cows, producing a maximum of 500 L of milk per day. There is a market for that milk, and so profits can be made for the franchisees. Their investment can be returned to them in five to seven years; creating a concept that financial institutions embrace. But profit is not the most important to Coppes.

“We want to see a thriving dairy-industry in Kenya, create job opportunities for many. Providing one franchisees the tools to produce 500L of milk daily, you impact over 5000 people in the whole dairy chain and provide them work. Multiply that by the number of farms we will support and you have your impact.”

The franchisees will also work together to create a strong system. In the packet, we will provide them an app that links franchisees, and works as a troubleshooting forum so that franchisees can help each other overcome problems.

The concept is simple, yet difficult to realize without smart | dairy’s help. Coppes: When teaching franchisees management skills combined with the right barn structure, dairy production increases. Combine that with monitoring cow behaviour and milk quality and you will see a produce like never before. From cow barn design to feeding schemes, the franchisee will learn how to optimize milk production.

Franchisees on their turn are expected to pay it forward. Coppes: “I tell them to  every now and then stop at local farmers to see where they can be useful to the farmers, and maybe even recommend them to become a franchisee”. When each franchisee converts a couple of farmers on their behalf, the sky is the limit.

The future of smart | dairy is promising. Not only farmers are ready for a transition, the product gets better and better. The whole package they now sale can be elaborated with smart monitoring sensors, cow-wearables, and a further integration within the whole-chain. Improve the inclusion of a franchisee into this chain means stimulating the franchisee to produce more. In the end, Coppes says, the franchisees have to be driven by their own ambitions. We just help them with that.