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  • Jabulile Sonya Ngwenya

Pioneering Moroccan FoodTech Startup, Terraa, is a Bright Light Within Africa’s Food Security Landscape

Updated: Jun 13

PIC CAPTION: Youssef Benkirane, co-founder and CEO at Terraa, a Moroccan-based agri-foodtech startup that is transforming Morocco's fresh produce supply chain. Terraa recently won the AfricArena VivaTech Track Award at Viva Technology in Paris, France. Image: Supplied / Terraa

In the midst of Morocco’s inefficient food systems, caused by its fragmentation and the intervention of multiple intermediaries, which is affecting its agricultural economy (15% GDP and 40% active population), there is hope for change in the future as the country looks to its agri-food tech industry for innovative solutions to protect and improve its food supply chain. One of these rising stars on the startup scene in Morocco’s fast growing startup tech ecosystem is Terraa, a pioneering, cutting-edge agri-food tech startup revolutionizing the country’s fresh produce supply chain.

This young startup (founded in 2023) which is already making waves in Africa’s agri-foodtech sector, won the AfricArena VivaTech Track Award on the AfricTech Stage at Viva Technology, Europe’s largest tech and startup event in Paris. AfricArena’s Jabulile Sonya Ngwenya chatted with Youssef Benkirane, Terraa co-founder and CEO to find out more about what makes Terraa stand out in an oversaturated global food tech market that is poised to reach $475.43 billion by 2033. 

Benkirane, who is passionate about solving real problems, tells AfricArena that the disorganisation of the food supply chain and the presence of multiple intermediaries, coupled with drought and unsustainable farming practices, pose a growing threat to food security in Morocco and across Africa. This situation leads to the desertification of many agricultural areas and increased sales prices, heavily impacting consumers' purchasing power and a high level of waste. In this challenging climate, Terraa, an innovative tech-enabled food supply chain platform, was born to ensure Moroccans have access to fresh, affordable produce and that farmers can generate a sustainable income, while minimising the food waste throughout the chain. 

Recalling the climate that gave rise to Terraa, Benkirane explains that he first became aware of the problem six years ago, and that in 2022, he was alarmed to see the issue not only persisting but worsening, particularly with the spike in fruit and vegetable prices during Ramadan due to drought and middlemen speculation. At that moment, he and his co-founder and COO, Benoit De Vigne, realized the urgent need to address this problem. They founded Terraa, a food startup that sources fresh produce directly from farmers and delivers it within hours to consumers through its network of stores. Terraa provides farmers with a higher income and a steady demand for their goods while guaranteeing customers the best fresh produce at the lowest prices, all within a unique shopping experience.

“We were inspired to bring the best quality fresh produce to customers at an affordable cost because consumers were struggling with high food inflation, poor hygiene and low quality produce due to intermediaries' speculation and the impact of drought.” On the other hand, Benkirane mentions, “we also wanted to uplift farmers by ensuring they receive higher incomes and have a stable demand for their goods, as they currently suffer from low earnings, price risks, and information asymmetry.”

Benkirane points out that they wanted to find a solution to the “numerous intermediaries who speculate along the food value chain and earn most of the value, while the farmers who take the risk receive only a small portion.” 

This price gorging, Benkirane says, was an imbalanced injustice within the fresh produce supply chain that could be solved with disruptive technologies and an efficient chain. 

Benkirane explains that Terraa's biggest challenges in the agri-food sector include “supporting farmers in their agricultural plans to reduce food waste, as well as building an efficient and fast supply chain that transports products to consumers within hours while maintaining freshness.” Additionally, there is the need to create an efficient nationwide organisation to manage a network of thousands of stores. According to Benkirane, this challenge will be addressed with “a sound and lean approach to expanding our network of boutiques across the country in the next few years.”

Terraa, he says, is focused on shaking up Morocco’s fragmented fresh produce supply chain which is dominated by intermediaries that engage in excessive pricing through ensuring that Terraa’s services contribute to the creation of a consistent, competitively priced market. 

A regulated fresh produce market, Benkirane notes, with the help of innovative agri-food tech solutions will help farmers significantly cut back on post harvest losses that at times reach 40%. Benkirane notes that post harvest losses impact on land use, freshwater use and increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Ensuring a sustainable food supply chain is in place goes a long way in reducing the negative environmental impact and helps nations preserve and manage their resources well. 

What makes Terraa so successful within the Moroccan market, Benkirane says, is its two-fold strategy that ensures customer fulfilment in delivering high quality fresh fruit and vegetables to consumers at a 15% lower than market price and helping farmers receive a 10-15% higher income, and ensure steady demand with minimal waste. 

Benkirane and his co-founder bootstrapped Terraa before securing investments from leading European, American, and African investors.

Benkirane advises that anyone looking to follow in Terraa's footsteps needs a healthy dose of perseverance and optimism, along with a passion for solving the problem at hand. He also emphasizes the importance of focusing on building a model with healthy unit economics before scaling up.

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