Karidas Tshintsholo (23) hails from the township of Ekangala (north-east of Pretoria). His entrepreneurial journey started at an early age, sparked by the need to help his mother provide for the family.

He and his business partner, Matthew Piper (24), have created an app that promises to break down the barriers which have kept hundreds of thousands of black South African farmers out of the agricultural industry.

It’s based on a simple concept: the main reason most emerging black farmers don’t get a chance to supply the country’s big supermarket chains is the lack of enough farmland to fulfil the massive orders these chains typically require. Enter Khula, an app that allows farmers around the country to combine their resources, contributing whatever amount of produce they can to fulfil an order larger than they’d be able to supply on their own. They don’t even have to meet each other or anyone at the supermarket chains they’re supplying: it’s a digital co-operative.

“Khula is essentially a supply chain solution,” says Tshintsholo. “It’s not just an app – it’s an ecosystem which links everyone from the farmer to the logistics, to the warehouse and to the client.”

So now the country’s biggest supermarkets can support the development of emerging farmers without the hassle of identifying and vetting all of them.

READ MORE: Meet the app directly connecting farmers to consumers

Tshintsholo’s no stranger to entrepreneurship, having gone through the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation fellowship for entrepreneurs from the age of 19 and started a financial literacy magazine during his first year of study at the University of Cape Town, where he was pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in actuarial science.

However, the Khula app proved to be so viable that he left his studies in his second year to focus on growing the business. The project’s since evolved into a major national campaign, backed by Old Mutual.

Tshintsholo and Piper have been working on Khula since 2015 and have invested over R300 000 of their own money into the initiative. There are now 175 active farmers on the platform, with whom they trade daily in a pilot programme they’ve run over the past year. The pair are now seeking seed funding in order to scale Khula around the country.

As part of their prize winnings, the pair will be flown to the USA for an all-expenses-paid trip to Silicon Valley in San Francisco.