Kenyan agri-tech startup Apollo Agriculture gets debt financing

 Kenyan agri-tech startup Apollo Agriculture gets debt financing

The Agri-Business Capital Fund (ABC Fund), a blended finance impact funding platform, has committed $1 million in debt to Kenyan agriculture technology venture Apollo Agriculture.

Apollo provides a bundle of services to small-scale farmers that includes financing, farming inputs, advice and insurance. Its uses machine learning and satellite data to service customers throughout the entire lifecycle, from acquisition, to credit decisions, and finally, collecting repayments.

“This funding will support our strong continued growth, enabling us to help more small-scale farmers access high quality farming inputs, advice and insurance on credit, significantly increasing their yields and income,” said Eli Pollak, CEO at Apollo Agriculture.

The venture was co-founded in 2015 by Pollak, chief commercial officer Benjamin Njenga and CTO Earl Sauver. It had raised over $10 million across seed, a debt round and Series A funding of around $6 million last year.

The company acquires customers through digital marketing channels and onboards them through more than 1,200 field agents across Kenya. These agents use Apollo’s mobile app and software to onboard farmers, including collecting the GPS boundaries of their fields.

Apollo then uses machine learning models to evaluate customers’ creditworthiness. Once approved, the farmer receives a voucher code via a text message to redeem at one of Apollo’s more than 350 agriculture-dealer distribution partners in Kenya, who use Apollo software to manage last-mile distribution.

The farmer is provided with seeds and fertilizer, instead of cash, and pays back the loan via mobile payments after harvest. The majority of Apollo’s customers grow maize, Africa’s most abundant staple food crop. However, Apollo is building on previously run pilots to launch new crops and products that can enable a shift from subsistence maize farming to more profitable, commercial farming.

The company claims it has nearly tripled its customer base over the last year, despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ABC Fund is managed by Bamboo Capital Partners in partnership with Injaro as investment advisors and with technical assistance led by Agriterra.

“Apollo is an excellent example of a technology-driven business which is making a real difference to improve the lives of marginalised farming communities in Kenya,” said Emanuele Santi, fund manager for the ABC Fund at Bamboo Capital.

Prior to the investment in Apollo, the ABC Fund had provided a total of $12 million in funding to three farmers co-operatives in Côte d’Ivoire, six small-and medium agri-businesses in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, and two financial institutions operating in Ecuador, Kenya and Uganda which on-lend to smallholder farmers.

Last month, it committed a little over $1 million to three agribusiness organizations in West Africa involved in the mango and cereals segment.

Vivek Sinha

The Capital Quest