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Value addition & tech: The 24yr old looking to revolutionise Kenya’s beekeeping value chain

At only 24 years old, Stanley Ngeli Somba, proprietor of Ngeli Foods is well on his way to revolutionise the beekeeping value chain in Kenya.

The Strathmore University graduate currently produces half a tonne of multiflora honey every four months. While he previously sold this as regular plain honey, he has begun processing it into lemon and ginger-infused honey as well as using it to make honey-laced granola at Kenya Industrial Research And Development Institute (KIRDI) in South C, Nairobi. 

“I have more than 100 hives of my own in both Kaiti and Mbooni Constituencies of Makueni County. Additionally, we work with 13 bee farmers based in the two areas,” Stanley informed.

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Conceived in 2021 as a way of sustaining himself while in uni and providing his family with farm fresh honey he quickly realised that the demand for the liquid gold was far greater than anticipated. He has since grown the business into a limited company to meet this demand.

His company incorporates both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing channels.

“We sell to both retailers and reach consumers directly through social media channels, especially Instagram and Facebook,” he said. 

Data-driven automated bee farming

The Bachelor of Business IT graduate who specialised in data analytics is also looking to introduce data-led automated beekeeping in Kenya. 

“This involves the use of an airpod holder-sized sensor located on your beehive that will send real-time information on the condition of your hive. This data will be received by our curated web application analysed and inform us on the condition of your bee colony,” explained Ngeli.

The main data sets used will be the weight of the hive, as well as its temperature and density.

Farmers usually harvest 8-10 kilograms of honey. Through the sensor, a farmer will be informed when their hive attains this exact weight. Hive density also alerts the farmer when to harvest or conduct various management practices required for a vibrant colony. Above or below-average temperatures usually denote overpopulation and underpopulation of bees. These conditions are usually hard to read with exactitude for beginner or intermediary beekeepers. 

“When read properly this data will help archive precision which gives us a perfect product. We will harvest the honey optimally avoiding early/late harvesting which produces unripe or overripe honey which is consumed by bees. A farmer will also be able to remotely monitor their beehives through their phone.”

Tentatively, the company is looking to sell a sensor for Sh5,000 each and have a Sh50 monthly subscription to its web application. 

This information will also be shared through SMS to reach farmers without regular internet access.

“We pay our farmers Sh500 for a kilogram of honey harvested every four months. With most farmers producing between eight and 13 kilograms for every harvest, with an initial cost of Sh5050, we expect that they will have paid off for the sensor in under one year,” he pointed out.

The web app is under development and the agripreneur is sourcing financing to purchase the sensors in bulk from UK-based Arnia which makes remote hive monitoring systems by September of this year.

Stanley has been the recipient of Entrepreneurs Organization’s 2023 Global Student Entrepreneur Award and Social Impact Award. He was also a top ten finalist at the 2023 Vijana na AgriBiz Competition.

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