A Kenyan Agritech startup, Apollo Agriculture, has raised $40 million in a Series B funding round led by Softbank Vision Fund 2 in an equity round.
This latest round included participation from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Yara Growth Ventures, Endeavour Catalyst, CDC, and existing investors including Anthemis Exponential Ventures, Flourish Ventures, Leaps by Bayer, SBI, Breyer Capital, and TO Ventures Food.
The agritech startupplans to use the investment plans to double the number of farmers it is serving by the end of 2022 and to introduce other products that deliver more value per acre of land.
Apollo was founded in 2016 by Eli Polla, Benjamin Njenga, and Earl St Sauver and it uses agronomic machine learning, remote sensing, and mobile phones to give a customized bundle of loans, high-quality farm inputs, and guidance to farmers in emerging markets, starting in Kenya.
The company uses satellite data, soil data, farmer behaviour data, and crop yield models to assess farmer credit risk and adapt each package to a farmer’s location. Insurance is one of its offerings, which is provided through its partners, including Pula, a Kenyan insurtech.
Apollo Agriculture’s CEO Eli Pollak, who co-founded the company with Benjamin Njenga and Earl St Sauver, claimed that they are continuing to invest in fast growth, supporting additional farmers, assisting them in expanding their acreage, and really pushing the business forward.
“We are also continuing to develop products that deliver more value per acre. That could be new crops that enable customers to earn more money,” said Pollak, who co-founded Apollo with Benjamin Njenga and Earl St Sauver.
Apollo started off by working with maize farmers but helping them diversify to other high-yielding crops has been its area of focus.
“We began with maize. Maize is not perfect, but it has a profound advantage, which is that nearly every farmer plants it across East Africa. This gives us a place where we can earn farmer’s trust and we can deliver value immediately,” he said.
The agriculture sector contributes 26% of Kenya’s gross domestic product, employs over 40% of the country’s population and accounts for 65% of its export earnings. It is this importance to the country’s economic livelihood that makes the sector a key area of focus for innovators. Other agritechs that are already creating ripples in the market include Twiga, the B2B supply-chain firm, and iProcure, a farm input procurement and last-mile distribution service platform.