Kenya-based agritech company Apollo AgricultureHelping farmers access high-quality agricultural inputs, financing and markets, plans to double the number of farmers it serves by the end of 2022, and launch other products with higher value per acre. This comes after raising a $40 million Series B in an equity round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2.
Apollo uses farm satellite imagery data and artificial intelligence to assess farmers’ creditworthiness. It plans to use the new funding to improve its technology and provide farmers with more products and services. Launched in 2016, the startup works with a network of agents that recruit farmers and retailers to its platform.
Apollo Agriculture Co-Founder and CEO, Eli Pollacktelling TechCrunch of their priorities, “We’re going to continue to invest in rapid growth; serving more farmers, helping them grow their acreage and really accelerating the business. So it’s both continued expansion in Kenya, but also Expansion into new markets.”
The agtech company is looking for growth opportunities in East and West Africa.
Apollo started out working with corn growers, but helping them diversify into other high-yielding crops has been an area of focus.
“We started with corn. Corn is not perfect, but it has a profound advantage that it is grown by almost every farmer in East Africa. It gives us a place where we can earn the trust of farmers and we can create value right away,” He said.
“We believe that the path from subsistence farming to farming as a business means working with that farmer and using our machine learning models to identify farmers who are most likely to get a more profitable crop.”
By the end of last year, Apollo had worked with 100,000 farmers and plans to double its coverage by the end of this year. It has a nationwide network of “more than a thousand” retailers and 5,000 agents.
Agents bring farmers to Apollo, while retailers use the startup’s “checkout app” to process point-of-sale, inventory, purchase wholesale orders, and access trade credit.
since closing $6 million in Series A funding in 2020, Pollack said, Apollo has grown 10-fold thanks to product financing. The agtech company has also secured more than $16 million in debt financing over the years for follow-on loans.
Apollo’s products include insurance – provided by its partners, including Kenya-based insurtech company Pula.
“Our business is to strengthen agricultural systems, and if you think about climate change, we bundle insurance with every credit we sell to protect borrowers,” Pollack said.
Its latest funding round includes 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.
“In the face of continued macroeconomic and geopolitical turmoil, feeding the world is one of the most important challenges facing society,” said Alexia Yannopoulos, Investment Director and Advisor at SoftBank Investments. “Apollo’s platform provides a one-stop solution to help smallholder farmers in emerging regions improve their Crop and livestock production. Embedding valuable financial services such as credit, insurance and advice into supply chains is critical to supporting more efficient and sustainable global food chains.”
Pollak and Earl previously worked for climate companies in the US, where they helped farmers use data to make production decisions. To make an even bigger impact, they launched Apollo to help farmers outside the U.S. more than double their production and switch from subsistence to commercial farming.
Agricultural sector contributes 26% As a share of Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP), it employs more than 40% of the country’s population and accounts for 65% of its export earnings. It is this importance to the nation’s economic livelihood that makes the industry a key area of focus for innovators. Other agtech companies that have already made waves in the market include B2B supply chain company Twiga and farm input sourcing and last-mile delivery service platform iProcure.