Apollo Agriculture believes it will 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 Series A funding led by Anthemis.
Founded in 2016, Apollo Agriculture provides a cellular primarily based product swimsuit for farmers that features working capital, information evaluation for greater crop yields, and choices to buy key inputs and tools.
“It’s all the things 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 finally, the financing,” Apollo Agriculture CEO Eli Pollak informed TechCrunch on a name.
Apollo’s addressable market contains the various smallholder farmers throughout Kenya’s inhabitants of 53 million. The downside it’s serving to them resolve is an absence of entry to the tech and sources to attain 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 provides 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 accordance with Pollak.
Apollo Agriculture generates revenues on the sale of farm merchandise and incomes margins on financing. “The farm pays a set worth for the package deal, which comes due at harvest…that features all the things and there’s no hidden charges,” mentioned Pollak.
On deploying the $6 million in Series A financing, “It’s actually about persevering with to spend money on development. We really feel like we’ve obtained an ideal product. We’ve obtained nice critiques by clients and wish to simply maintain scaling it,” he mentioned. That means hiring, investing in Apollo’s tech, and rising the startup’s gross sales and advertising efforts.
“Number two is basically strengthening our stability sheet to have the ability to proceed elevating the working capital that we have to lend to clients,” Pollak mentioned.
For the second, growth in Africa past Kenya is within the playing cards however not within the near-term. “That’s completely on the roadmap,” mentioned Pollak. “But like all companies, all the things is a bit in flux proper now. So a few of our plans for speedy growth are on a brief pause as we wait to see issues shake out with with COVID.”
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Apollo Agriculture’s drive to spice up the output and earnings of Africa’s smallholder farmers is born out of the widespread 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 Climate Corporation. “That was how I obtained 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,” mentioned 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 baggage per acre annually,” he informed the viewers at Startup Battlefield in Africa in Lagos in 2018.
“We knew if she’d used fertilizer and hybrid seeds her manufacturing would double, making it simpler to pay my college 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 elevate. The UK primarily based VC agency — which invests principally 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 informed TechCrunch.
Additional buyers in Apollo Agriculture’s Series A spherical included Accion Venture Lab, Leaps by Bayer, and Flourish Ventures.
While agriculture is the main 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 accordance with Disrupt Africa and WeeTracker’s 2019 funding studies.
Some notable agtech ventures which have gained VC embody Nigeria’s Farmcrowdy, Hello Tractor — which has partnered with IBM — and Twiga Foods, 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 prompt collaboration. “Twiga could possibly be an organization that sooner or later we might potential associate with,” he mentioned.
“We’re partnering with farmers to supply tons of top quality crops, and so they might probably be an ideal associate in serving to these farmers entry secure costs for these…yields.”
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