Kenya-based agritech Apollo raises $40m in round led by Softbank, joined by Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, CDC – TechCrunch

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Agritech based in Kenya Apollo Agriculture, which helps farmers access high-quality agricultural inputs, finance and markets, plans to double the number of farmers it serves by the end of 2022 and introduce other products that offer more value per acre of land. This is after raising $40 million in Series B funding in the Softbank-led Vision Fund 2 round.

Apollo uses farm satellite imagery data and AI to assess farmer creditworthiness. It plans to use the new funding to improve its technology and offer more products and services to farmers. Launched in 2016, the startup works with a network of agents, who recruit farmers and retailers to its platform.

Co-founder and CEO of Apollo Agriculture, Eli Pollack, while talking about their focus areas, told TechCrunch, “We continue to invest in rapid growth; serve more farmers, help them grow their acreage and really accelerate the business. And so it will be both a continued expansion across Kenya, but also an expansion into new markets.

Agritech is looking for growth opportunities in East and West Africa.

“We also continue to develop products that offer more value per acre. It could be new crops that allow customers to make more money,” said Pollak, who co-founded Apollo with Benjamin Njenga and Count of Saint-Sauveur.

Apollo began by working with corn growers, but his goal was to help them diversify into other high-yielding crops.

“We started with maize. Maize is not perfect, but it has a profound advantage that almost all farmers plant in East Africa. It gives us a place where we can gain the trust of farmers and we can deliver value immediately,” he said.

“We believe that moving from subsistence farming to farming as a business means partnering with that farmer and using our machine learning models to identify farmers with the best prospects of moving to more crops. profitable.”

By the end of last year, Apollo had worked with 100,000 farmers, with plans to double the reach by the end of this year. It has a network of “over a thousand” retailers and 5,000 agents spread across the country.

Agents onboard farmers to the Apollo while retailers use the startup’s “payment app” to manage point of sale, inventory, bulk orders and access to trade credit.

Since closing a $6 million Series A in 2020, Pollak said Apollo has grown 10x, accelerated by funding the product. Agritech has also received more than $16 million in debt financing over the years for subsequent loans.

Apollo started out working with corn growers, but is now helping them diversify into other high-yielding crops. Picture credits: Zafaran Photography

Apollo’s products include insurance, which is offered by its partners, including Pula, the Kenya-based insurtech.

“We designed our business to strengthen farming systems, and if you think about climate change, we bundle insurance with every loan we sell to protect the borrower,” Pollak said.

Its latest funding round included participation from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Yara Growth Ventures, Endeavor Catalyst, CDC and existing investors including Anthemis Exponential Ventures, Flourish Ventures, Leaps by Bayer, SBI, Breyer Capital and TO Ventures Food.

SoftBank Investment Chief Investment Officer AdvisersAlexia Yannopoulos said, “In the face of sustained macroeconomic and geopolitical volatility, feeding the world is one of the most significant challenges facing society. Apollo’s platform offers a one-stop-shop solution to help smallholder farmers in emerging regions improve crop and livestock yields. Integrating valuable financial services like credit, insurance and advice into the supply chain is essential to supporting a more efficient and sustainable global food chain.

Pollak and Earl previously worked at The Climate Corporation in the United States, where they helped farmers use data to make production decisions. Wanting to create a bigger impact, they launched Apollo to help farmers outside the United States more than double their production and transition from subsistence to commercial farming.

The agricultural sector contributes 26% of Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP), employs over 40% of the country’s population and accounts for 65% of its export earnings. It is this importance to the economic sustenance of the country that makes the sector a key area of ​​focus for innovators. Other agritechs already creating ripples in the market include Twiga, the B2B supply chain company and iProcure, a last-mile agri-input sourcing and distribution services platform.

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