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Reducing food insecurity and transforming the grow-to-grocery cycle in Africa with cloud technology

May 23, 2023
Stephan Schoeman

Business Manager, Google Cloud Africa

Niral Patel

Director, Google Cloud, Africa

Have you ever wondered how the banana you’re eating made it to your Mama Mboga or other food vendor? The food supply chain is complex, to say the least, but many organizations are working to simplify it using the latest technologies.

Twiga Foods makes a significant contribution to the banana supply in Kenya. The company focuses on optimizing the grow-to-grocery cycle for farmers and food retailers alike by using advanced technologies aimed at minimizing waste, maximizing availability, and empowering everyone across the supply chain.

“Our mission is to transform the African food retail market by improving every step of the supply chain with better technologies,” says Victor Mshindi, Site Reliability Engineering Manager at Twiga Foods. “Food security is a significant problem in Africa and worldwide. We are striving to address the problems using digital tools.”

To accomplish its goals, Twiga Foods needed to make its own supply chain practices as efficient and scalable as possible. Let’s take a look at how Google Cloud and partner Incentro supported these efforts.

Partnering to grow a platform from the ground up

Twiga Foods began using Google Cloud when they were still a startup. As Twiga Foods grew, it recognized the need to offload as much maintenance and management as possible to keep its small team of engineers focused on platform development.

“We wanted to scale up fast, and that was not possible before moving to Google Cloud,” says Victor. “Since deploying Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) and working with Incentro as a partner, we have been able to fluidly and efficiently support growth across our business.”

The relationship with Incentro began in 2021 as a way to improve billing and compliance management, but Twiga Foods quickly recognized all of the value the partner offered. For example, Twiga Foods now uses Incentro for engineering support to tackle technical problems within its platform without having to recruit and onboard new staff.

Because Incentro has certified expertise in Google Cloud, Twiga Foods also relies on the partner to guide its provisioning and deployment decisions. In addition, Incentro brings in Google Cloud product engineers whenever necessary.

“Incentro not only knows Google Cloud technologies well but has also worked with many other companies to maximize the value of the technologies,” says Victor. “This has been invaluable to us, as we can benefit from an outsider perspective. It gives us more confidence in our efforts. At the same time, Incentro allows us to collaborate with Google Cloud from a branding perspective and through workshops. This allows us to attract more talent who are interested in our partnership with Google Cloud.”

Scaling to meet regional demands

The move to GKE has been central to Twiga Foods’ success since it supports a microservices architecture that can scale at the click of a button. This is critical given the large shifts in demand that Twiga Foods can experience not only between growing seasons but also based on busier shopping days during the week.

“GKE auto-scales very well, so we can manage our resources optimally. We can instantly adjust our compute to meet peak and off-peak demands. It’s also faster to roll out new features that improve our services,” says Victor. “We always look to balance new feature development with productivity and business reliability. GKE helps us maintain this balance.”

Different departments see demand fluctuate at different times of the day. For example, Twiga Foods’ sales team is most active during the day during its 9 am-to-9 pm ordering window, while supply chain activities are much more active overnight as orders are fulfilled. Twiga Foods relies on auto-scaling capabilities in GKE to handle spikes effortlessly.

The combination of GKE and Incentro’s support helps the Site Reliability Engineering team to maintain their focus on developing tools to support product engineering teams. As farmers’ and food vendors’ livelihoods rely upon the supply chain, Twiga Foods also uses these technologies to maximize reliability and uptime.

“I can sleep at night and stay more focused during the day because I trust GKE’s ability to automatically and optimally handle any workloads,” says Victor. “We end up having more time for software development and increase the impact of our engineering teams. The faster builds and deployments ultimately benefit our customers.”

Revolutionizing the food supply chain across Africa

Twiga Foods uses a range of additional Google Cloud products to support its business, including BigQuery for its data warehouse and Looker Studio for business intelligence. The key advantage of these solutions has been the ability to scale without limit, as the company looks to replicate its success in Kenya and Uganda to other nations in West, Central, and East Africa.

“Twiga Foods aims to transform lives by building products that help farmers, retailers, and consumers,” says Victor. “Our approach to the digital supply chain is to reduce costs, improve availability, and increase food quality. We believe Twiga Foods will be a big success story in Africa, as we work with Google Cloud and Incentro to bring essential food to people faster and cheaper.”

Learn more about how Google Cloud partners can transform your business here.

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