Hayfa Khalfaoui launches the first smart farm in Jendouba
After graduating in computer engineer and working several years as a software developer and IT manager, Hayfa Khalfaoui decided to take an unusual turn in her career. While working for a dairy company client she discovered a passion for cattle breeding. The seed of her entrepreneurial project was sown and in 2017, the 28-year-old decided to launch Tunisia’s first smart dairy farm.
“Thanks to my IT skills, I was able to bring a dose of innovation to the agribusiness sector. My project idea was born from there.”
Hayfa was supported from the beginning by her parents who offered her to establish her farm on the family’s land.
“Based on the simple fact that livestock farming in Tunisia is an activity that struggles to be sustainable, I wanted to use my skills to develop a mobile app that would perform cattle monitoring around the clock. Through this app, I can assess the food or sanitary needs of my cattle, identify heat periods of cows, control their health, from my home and with a few simple clicks.”
Hayfa first trained herself in cattle breeding at the 4C centre of Thibar, in 2018. Combining theory and practice, she learned the techniques of the trade. In April 2018, Hayfa sized the opportunity to apply to a contest for young entrepreneurs organized by the non-profit organization enpact and GIZ and in partnership with the project Mashrou3i.
“I was surprised to qualify for the finale that held in Bizerte, and I was chosen among the winners winning a mentoring program. Through this competition, I also entered in contact with the experts from Mashrou3i.”
Hayfa was selected to join the program in 2018 to benefit from a year of support and technical assistance in the creation of her company.
“Mashrou3i provided me with workshops in marketing, finance and branding. I also received technical assistance from a cattle breeding expert to develop specific content for my Smart Farm app. More recently I have taken part in HP LIFE business coaching to develop the Business Model Canvas, which has helped me to strategically manage my business.”
Mashrou3i also supported her through deep dive business coaching that enabled her to re-evaluate her financing plan.
“I was stuck for a year because I was waiting for some grants. Nothing was clear, and access to information is challenging in our region. During the training provided by Mashrou3i, the expert in finance helped me to better understand the current state of the grants offered and guided me to unlock my situation.”
Today, with her farm Lait Espoir, Hayfa is at the head of an 8-heifers cattle farm that she has built for an investment of 110,000 dinars, 80,000 of which were for cows only. With the unconditional support of her parents, she is currently preparing the extension of her farm which will include the acquisition of 10 new cows, the building of the paddock providing covered and isolated cubicles for the well-being of the cows.
Hayfa was recently invited to the UN Leaders Summit to speak out about the challenges Tunisian entrepreneurs faced during the COVID-19 crisis, and how thanks to the digital transformation she is seeing a better future for the ecosystem.
“COVID-19 has sped up digital transformation and proven the need for digital solutions. My advice to young people would be to follow your passion, tap into these digital opportunities, draw on support from projects like Mashrou3i to build your skills, and never give up learning.”
To date, 50 dairy farms have adopted her mobile app to monitor the well-being of their animals. This increases profits and lightens the farmers’ workload. A second app allows creameries and milk factories to trace their products. Ms. Khalfaoui was preparing to expand in early 2022 from 7 to 11 employees, 5 of them women. She aims to market her apps elsewhere in Africa.