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Agritech startup – Apollo Agriculture – raises $40 million; to provide loan support to African farmers

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Agriculture is one of the most important sectors in the world. Many economies of the world depend on the proceeds from agriculture to build their economy.

Africa is not left behind. It is estimated that Africa has some of the largest reserves of arable land on the planet. However, productivity is not achieved so much, due to the use of archaic and tedious farm tools.

To solve the problem of farm tools and machineries, farmers need access to loan facilities, but this has not been easy for African farmers to access.

To make access to loan facilities easier for farmers, startups like Apollo Agriculture is making moves to solve this problem. To facilitate the creation of a solution to loan access, Kenyan-based agritech start-up, Apollo Agriculture, has completed its Series B funding round, raising $40m from a number of investors.

The startup, which was founded in 2016, helps farmers access loan facilities by using artificial intelligence and satellite photography to access their credit worthiness.

The series B funding round was led by Softbank Vision Funds 2, with further participations from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Yara Growth Ventures, Endeavor Catalyst, CDC, and current investors Anthemis Exponential Ventures, Flourish Ventures, Leaps by Bayer, SBI, Breyer Capital, and TO Ventures Food.

Apollo co-founders:

Apollo Agriculture was founded by Eli Pollak, Benjamin Njenga and Earl St Sauver. Eli Pollak, who also doubles as the CEO, noted that the startup plans to use the new funding to refine its technology and deliver more products and services to farmers.

The CEO added Apollo Agriculture would provide more support for farmers by helping them expand their land, and productivity. The startup is also looking to expand out of Kenya into other emerging markets in both East and West Africa.

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,” Pollak said.

Speaking on the initial intention of Apollo Agriculture, Pollak said the startup started operations by helping maize farmers diversify into other agricultural products.

We began with maize. Maize is not perfect, but it has a profound advantage, which is that nearly every farmer plants across East Africa. This gives us a place where we can earn farmer’s trust and we can deliver value immediately. We believe that the pathway from subsistence farming to farming as a business means partnering with that farmer and using our machine learning models to identify the farmers with the best prospects of graduating to higher-profitability crops,” Pollak explained.

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Apollo Agriculture said it ended 2021 working with about 100,000 farmers, and plans to double the number by the end of 2022. The startup also noted that it has a web of agents spread across the continent.

Aside granting loans to farmers, Apollo Agriculture also provide insurance cover to its partner farmers, through Pula – and insurtech company also based in Kenya.

Speaking on the investment round, SoftBank Investment Director, AdvisersAlexia Yannopoulos, said:

In the face of sustained macroeconomic and geopolitical volatility, feeding the world is one of the most important challenges facing society. Apollo’s platform offers a one stop shop solution to help small-scale farmers in emerging regions to improve crop and livestock outputs. Embedding valuable financial services like credit, insurance and advice into the supply chain is critical in supporting a more efficient and sustainable global food chain.”

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When I'm not reading about tech, I'm writing about it, or thinking about the next weird food combinations to try. I do all these with my headphones plugged in, and a sticky note on my computer with the words: "The galaxy needs saving, Star Lord."
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