Apollo Agriculture believes it might probably attain income by serving to Kenya’s smallholder farmers maximize theirs.

That’s the mission of the Nairobi primarily based startup that raised $6 million in Sequence A funding led by Anthemis.

Based in 2016, Apollo Agriculture affords a cellular primarily based product go well with for farmers that features working capital, information evaluation for larger crop yields, and choices to buy key inputs and tools.

“It’s every little thing a farmer must succeed. It’s the seeds and fertilizer they should plant, the recommendation they should handle that product over the course of the season. The insurance coverage they should defend themselves in case of a nasty yr…after which in the end, the financing,” Apollo Agriculture CEO Eli Pollak instructed TechCrunch on a name.

Apollo’s addressable market contains the numerous smallholder farmers throughout Kenya’s inhabitants of 53 million. The issue it’s serving to them remedy is an absence of entry to the tech and sources to realize higher outcomes on their plots.

The startup has engineered its personal app, platform and outreach program to attach with Kenya’s farmers. Apollo makes use of M-Pesa cellular cash, machine studying and satellite tv for pc information to information the credit score and merchandise it affords them.

The firm — which was a TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa 2018 finalist — has served over 40,000 farmers since inception, with 25,000 of these paying relationships coming in 2020, in line with Pollak.

Apollo Agriculture co-founders Benjamin Njenga and Eli Pollack

Apollo Agriculture generates revenues on the sale of farm merchandise and incomes margins on financing. “The farm pays a hard and fast worth for the bundle, which comes due at harvest…that features every little thing and there’s no hidden charges,” stated Pollak.

On deploying the $6 million in Sequence A financing, “It’s actually about persevering with to spend money on progress. We really feel like we’ve received a terrific product. We’ve received nice opinions by clients and wish to simply preserve scaling it,” he stated. Which means hiring, investing in Apollo’s tech, and rising the startup’s gross sales and advertising and marketing efforts.

“Quantity two is admittedly strengthening our steadiness sheet to have the ability to proceed elevating the working capital that we have to lend to clients,” Pollak stated.

For the second, enlargement in Africa past Kenya is within the playing cards however not within the near-term. “That’s completely on the roadmap,” stated Pollak. “However like all companies, every little thing is a bit in flux proper now. So a few of our plans for instant enlargement are on a brief pause as we wait to see issues shake out with with COVID.”

Apollo Agriculture’s drive to spice up the output and earnings of Africa’s smallholder farmers is born out of the frequent pursuits of its co-founders.

Pollak is an American who who studied engineering at Stanford University and went to work in agronomy within the U.S. with The Local weather Company. “That was how I received enthusiastic about Apollo. I’d have a look at different markets and say “wow, they’re farming 20% extra acres of maize, or corn throughout Africa however farmers are producing dramatically lower than U.S. farmers,” stated Pollak.

Pollak’s colleague, Benjamin Njenga, discovered inspiration in his expertise in his upbringing. “I grew up on a farm in a Kenyan village. My mom, a smallholder farmer, used to plant with low high quality seeds and no fertilizer and harvested solely 5 luggage per acre every year,” he instructed the viewers at Startup Battlefield in Africa in Lagos in 2018.

Picture Credit: Apollo Agriculture

“We knew if she’d used fertilizer and hybrid seeds her manufacturing would double, making it simpler to pay my faculty charges.” Njenga went on to clarify that she couldn’t entry the credit score to purchase these instruments, which prompted the motivation for Apollo Agriculture.

Anthemis Exponential Ventures’ Vica Manos confirmed its lead on Apollo’s newest increase. The UK primarily based VC agency — which invests largely within the Europe and the U.S. — has additionally backed South African fintech firm Jumo and can proceed to think about investments in African startups, Manos instructed TechCrunch.

Extra buyers in Apollo Agriculture’s Sequence A spherical included Accion Venture Lab, Leaps by Bayer, and Flourish Ventures.

Whereas agriculture is the leading employer in Africa, it hasn’t attracted the identical consideration from enterprise corporations or founders as fintech, logistics, or e-commerce. The continent’s agtech startups lagged these sectors in funding, in line with Disrupt Africa and WeeTracker’s 2019 funding experiences.

Some notable agtech ventures which have gained VC embody Nigeria’s Farmcrowdy, Hey Tractor — which has partnered with IBM — and Twiga Meals, a Goldman backed B2B agriculture provide chain startup primarily based in Nairobi.

On whether or not Apollo Agriculture sees Twiga as a competitor, CEO Eli Pollak instructed collaboration. “Twiga may very well be an organization that sooner or later we might potential associate with,” he stated.

“We’re partnering with farmers to provide heaps of top of the range crops, and so they might doubtlessly be a terrific associate in serving to these farmers entry secure costs for these…yields.”



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