Remember Gearbox, the hackerspace created last year at the iHub in Nairobi to add access to hardware and skills to prolific software development programs and coworking space? Word in from Kenya is that its just opened its doors as a full on business acceleration program, the first of its kind for hardware focussed tech startups in Africa.

And there’s a whopping R1.3m ($100 000) on the table for the best two firms in its inaugural cohort.

The accelerator program is being backed by Village Capital, an investment organisation that looks for entrepreneurs who are solving problems in the developing world. It’s chosen to focus the theme of the first program around agriculture.

According to the World Bank, agriculture accounts for 32% of the African continent’s annual GDP and as many as 62% of the African population is employed in the agricultural sector.

It would make sense then that Kenya’s most important hacker space, Gearbox, and Village Central would team up to address the very real problem of energy delivery, energy consumption and energy creation in the sector.

A total of 12 startups which focus on addressing these very issues for small-holding farmers and agricultural businesses as a whole will be selected by a panel to take part in a project, that will see two participants walk away with a cool $50 000 in investment capital. The project will also see collaborations with The Lemelsson Foundation, The Doen Foundation, SGII and VC4Africa.

Those selected to take part will be invited to three four day sessions over three months in which their creations will be critiqued by industry experts, potential customers and their peers.

Ventures and inventions that address affordability of energy generation through hardware, reducing energy consumption and energy efficiency technologies in the agricultural sectors are just some of the applications the panel will be looking out for during the selection process.

Applications for participation are open now and will close on 7th September. Village Capital will accept entries from around the world but keep in mind that should your venture or invention be selected for the program you will need to be able to travel to Nairobi, Kenya.

What really caught our attention is that the winners of the big money prizes won’t be selected by the investors or mentors on the program. Apparently it will awarded by the startups themselves in a peer-voting system.

[Image – Gearbox]