The African tech ecosystem has shown impressive growth in the last decade, and many investors want to have a seed in this thriving ecosystem. Last year, Disrupt Africa revealed that 564 tech startups raised over $2 billion in 2021. It’s exciting to see that the record is on its way to being broken in 2022. As of March 1, 110 startups have raised over $1 billion, which is more than half (52.3 per cent) of the 2021 total.
It is interesting to note that mission-driven agritech startups are also a part of this growth despite the investment risks associated with the space. We earlier reported how African agri-tech startups fared in 2021, showing how the funding season favoured the agritech ecosystem better than what it accrued in 2020 and 2019. Last year, the African agri-tech space received a total funding of $95,101,000, accounting for 4.4 per cent of total funding for African tech startups, a 58.5 per cent increase from $59,990,000 (8.6 per cent of total) in 2020. That, in turn, is a leap from 23.7 per cent of $48,499,000 recorded in 2019. These indices are evidence that the agritech space is flourishing.
We bring you a list of some agritech funding rounds in the first half of 2022. Six of the agritech companies on this list have raised $113.9 million, while the seventh is undisclosed. This is a laudable feat as there are still six months to the end of the year, and the potential is limitless. We do not claim to have identified every single agritech startup that got funding within the time in review, but the list contains significant funding that caught the attention of the media.
Thrive Agric – $56.4 million
Thrive Agric was founded in 2017 by Uka Eje and Ayodeji Arikawa. The startup leverages technology to empower smallholder farmers across Africa by linking them to finance, data-driven best practices, and access to local & global markets for their commodities; towards ensuring food security for all. The startup’s Agricultural Operating System (AOS) runs entirely off-line, sends USSD SMS to farmers, and creates Android apps that field agents can use to collect farm data and identify creditworthy farmers.
In March, it secured $56.4 million in debt funding from commercial banks and institutional investors. From a small town in Kaduna state, Nigeria, with less than 500 smallholder farmers, Thrive Agric has grown to over 200,000 farmer base. With the new investment, the company hopes to expand its farmers’ base into new African markets, including Ghana, Zambia, and Kenya.
Apollo Agriculture – $40 million
Co-founded by Benjamin Njenga, Eli Pollak and Earl St Sauver in 2016, Apollo Agriculture is a technology company based in Nairobi, Kenya, that helps small-scale farmers maximize their profits. Apollo bundles everything a farmer needs: financing, farm inputs, advice, insurance, and market access, when possible. In March, the startup secured $40 million in Series B funding.
It has plans to use the funding to refine its technology and deliver more products and services to farmers. With satellite imagery data of farms and AI, Apollo rates farmers’ creditworthiness. By the end of last year, Apollo had worked with 100,000 farmers, and it has plans to double the reach by the end of this year. It has a network of “over a thousand” retailers and 5,000 agents across the country. The agents onboard farmers to the Apollo platform while retailers use the startup’s “checkout app” to handle point of sale, inventory, source wholesale orders and access to trade credit.
Farmerline – $12.9 million
Founded in 2013 by Alloysius Attah, and Emmanuel Owusu Addai, Farmer line is a marketplace that combines digital tools, logistics, field agents, and farm resources. It is also engaged in agribusiness partnerships to support African farmers with access to high-quality fertilizer and seeds, education on climate-smart farming practices, and connections to international markets. In April 2022, the Ghanaian agritech startup got $12.9 million (($6.4 million equity and $6.5 million debt) pre-Series A funding to strengthen its infrastructure and supply chain for agribusinesses through the deployment of AI technology and local infrastructure.
The startup’s Mergdata, a proprietary AI technology platform for supply chain intelligence, digitizes the farmers they serve and generates the data the agritech needs to predict the demand for farm supplies. Farmer Line dubbed the “Amazon for African farmers” launched working with 400 farmers in its home market of Ghana. Their digital marketplace now supports more than 75,000 farmers. Farmerline has partnerships with more than 3,000 buyers, agribusinesses, food manufacturers, governments, and non-governmental organizations that have collectively bolstered over one million farmers in 26 countries.
Nile – $5.1 million
Nile was founded by Louis de Kock, Eugene Roodt and Rick Kleinhans in 2020. The startup connects fresh produce buyers and sellers by providing a platform for direct and secure transactions. Nile’s digital solutions aim to solve issues inherent to food trading, including price discovery, quality verification, payments and traceability.
Already operating in 35 cities and towns in South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Namibia, Nile is looking to expand beyond the Southern Africa region and into Eastern and Western Africa with the fundraising. Nile’s services are used by farmers of all sizes, from small-scale farmers to large commercial farmers, with buyers ranging from large South African-listed companies to small family-owned retailers and wholesalers.
It has processed the trading of 30 million kg of fruits and vegetables on its platform with buyers from 5 countries and 35 towns and cities in South Africa.
Victory Farms – $5 million
Victory Farms was founded in 2014 by Joseph Rehmann and Steve Moran. Victory Farms and its innovative technologies bring together the best aquaculture practices from around the globe to tackle the challenges of rapidly declining wild fish catch and undernourishment.
In May, the Kenyan-based aquaculture company raised $5 million in equity funding. This funding is to help the startup expand its operations into Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The startup’s mission is to build a commercial tilapia farm that can feed 2 billion Africans with affordable, accessible, and healthy protein over the next two decades.
The company is on track to produce around 8,000 tonnes of fish this year and works with 15,000 market trading women who source from its 55 branches countrywide to supply to their consumers. Victory Farms is now edging towards precision fish farming through an automated drone system that can predict the future performance of fish.
Hello Tractor – $4.5 million
To help mechanize the continent and provide farmers with essentials such as tractors at a low cost, Jehiel Oliver founded Hello Tractor in 2014. Through a tractor sharing application, the startup connects tractor owners and smallholder farmers that need tractors.
In early May, Hello Tractor secured $1 million to provide loans for tractor purchases in Nigeria. In the same month, it received an additional $3.5 million in funding for its tractor financing project in Africa to speed up the pace of agricultural development on the continent.
The startup has an innovative credit framework called the PAYG model, which helps tractor dealers have a diversified income stream and make idle machines available to smallholder farmers. Aside from helping existing tractor owners expand their business, PAYG introduces an unconventional way for new players (tractor owners) to come into the market and change how tractor ownership is conceived. Hello Tractor is presently operational in Kenya and Nigeria.
Fresh Source – undisclosed
The Egyptian startup raised an undisclosed seven-figure seed round in February. Launched in 2019 by siblings Farah and Omar Emara, FreshSource is a B2B agri-supply chain platform that leverages technology to change the way fresh goods are sourced and sold. The startup partners with farmers and supplies businesses such as restaurants, hotels and online retailers with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Freshsource presently serves customers across 11 Egyptian cities. It hopes to expand to all of Egypt’s governorates by the end of 2023. By 2024, the startup has hopes for a global expansion plan.