Nigerian agri-tech startup Releaf secures seed funding
Releaf, a Nigerian agri-tech startup that develops proprietary hardware and software solutions, said Wednesday it has raised $2.7 million in seed funding.
Samurai Incubate Africa, Future Africa and Consonance Investment Managers led the round. Stephen Pagliuca, chairman of Bain Capital, and Twitch co-founder Justin Kan participated in the round.
The startup seeks to make African farmers and food factories more efficient and profitable. It said that the seed funding will help it develop industrial food processing technology in Nigeria’s smallholder-driven oil palm sector.
Releaf also secured $1.5 million in grants from The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment and USAID. The grant will enable Releaf to provide working capital and other value-added services for smallholders and small-scale processors.
According to the company, Nigeria’s oil palm industry is dominated by smallholder farmers, who account for 80% of local market share. However, production rates are low as many still rely on ineffective processes for de-shelling, including the use of rocks and inappropriate hardware.
As a result, food factories are unable to buy these raw materials and operate significantly under capacity. Releaf acts as a bridge between smallholder farmers and food manufacturing companies with its proprietary patent-pending machinery, Kraken.
“We believe the firm’s thesis on decentralizing food processing would have a strong match with Africa’s economic development landscape for the next few decades,” said Rena Yoneyama, managing partner at Samurai Incubate Africa.
Ikenna Nzewi, CEO and co-founder of Releaf, said that this round of funding will enable the company to develop and prove its technology with smallholder farmers in the oil palm sector.
Nzewi said Nigerians spend about 60% of their income on food and Africa’s population is set to increase by 100,000 people a day over the next three decades. This opens up “an incredible opportunity to feed more people, reduce consumer costs, and supply the fastest-growing food market” in the world, he added.