In 2016 Mohamed Jimale launched Ari.farm, an agrifood startup with a crowdfunding model whose mission was to allow individuals from all over the world to invest in and own goats and sheep in Somalia. The animals were taken care of by people in Somalia who are experienced in animal handling and farming. The investor would then follow up on their investment via an app.
Ari.farm, with an eye on East Africa, later expanded beyond Somalia - to Kenya - where they opened up a camel farm.
In Somali, the word Ari means livestock and specifically goats and sheep. The startup had therefore named themselves Ari.farm to mean goats and sheep farm focused. However, since they had expanded beyond just goats - to include camels and greenhouses - they thought it wise to rebrand. They finally rebranded in January 2019 to Agrikaab.
“Goats were never our mission but a means to reach our mission which was to create employment for former nomads in Somalia and contribute to the local economy,” the startup wrote in the press release.
However, following the rebrand was the shutting down of its goats and sheep farms in central Mogadishu. “At the end of 2018, we finally decided to close the goats and sheep farm,” wrote Mohamed Jimale, the founder of Agrikaab, in the press release.
At the time of shutting down the farm, Swedish blog BreakIt estimates that Agrikaab had received around SEK 700,000 - an equivalent of US $75,000 - from investors into the farm.
According to Agrikaab, they “informed users who invested in the goats and sheep”. Agrikaab added that they “will take responsibility for the losses and that we will pay them [back]”. However, the startup acknowledges that the process of figuring out the repayment has not been easy. “Unfortunately even that became difficult as we have not been able to get external investment or enough cash flow in the company,” wrote Agrikaab.
There are no details provided byAgrikaab regarding how much is supposed to be paid back to the investors overall.
When contacted by Digest Africa, Jimale declined to delve into the details of the shutdown. “We have moved on from the issue with goats and sheep farm,” Jimale wrote in an email. Adding that “this was one project that failed among our projects and we have communicated with the people who invested in this project about all of these questions.”
The startup’s website states that the shut down wasn’t abrupt: the goats and sheep farm was plagued with challenges from the onset. “When we started Agrikaab (Ari.farm) we started with one goat farm in Mogadishu,” the company pointed out. “Things started well but after a few months, we faced the first problems”.
“In 2017, we decided to move the operation to central Somalia and change focus from breeding to trading. This too became problematic due to market issues and other logistical problems”. Jimale never pointed out which “market issues” and “logistical problems” led to the failure of the project.
The company blames the failure of the project on the harsh conditions under which they operate. “We faced all sorts of problems such as diseases, security, and a shortage of food,” Agrikaan noted.
“In one instance, someone who took hundreds of animals from us never paid us a single dollar back.” The other issue that the company blames for the failure of the goats and sheep farm is the “political problems between Somalia and export markets made the market difficult.”
“We have failed on the goats and sheep project! But we have not failed on our mission or as a company.”
This is not the first time Agrikaab is facing challenges. Two weeks ago, the startup announced on its LinkedIn that they were moving into new and more secure offices after their previous ones had been affected. “Our last office at Maka Al Mukarama Road was destroyed in an explosion in February,” the company wrote.
In February 2019, Agrikaab also shut down their camel farm in Kenya. “We have decided to close our camel farm in Nairobi effective from March 1, due to a couple of issues that we could not resolve,” the startup noted.
Going forward, Jimale says that the startup will now focus on other initiatives. According to the press release, the failure of the goats and sheep farm project will not affect Agrikaab’s other initiatives. “We have never used funds from one farm to invest in another,” noted Agrikaab.
“We have separated the finances of each project. That is why any issues related to goats or sheep farm will not affect other farms.”
The company is now going to focus on camels as well as other projects but in the Somali market. The focus for Agrikaab appears to be a crowdfunding model targeting investment into greenhouses (vegetables), livestock (camel farms targeting dairy) and water (farm ponds). To this end, in March 2019, Agrikaab announced the introduction of fish ponds. While in April 2019, it announced that construction works aimed at expanding the greenhouses in Mogadishu had commenced.