Between 2011 and 2014, engineer and Stanford grad Eli Pollak labored in agricultural expertise within the U.S. for an organization known as the Local weather Company. The enterprise the place he was one of many early staff (which in 2013 was acquired by Monsanto for over $1 billion) labored on offering personalized suggestions to extend manufacturing of huge scale industrial farmers. What caught Pollak’s eye throughout his tenure on the firm, nevertheless, was that some nations have been planting far more seeds, however producing dramatically much less agricultural merchandise than the U.S.
This prompted Pollak to staff up with Local weather Company colleague Earl St Sauver, and Benjamin Ngenga (who himself grew up on a farm) to start out Apollo Agriculture, a Kenyan ag-tech firm which makes use of machine studying and automatic operations expertise to assist small-scale farmers entry all the pieces they should maximize their profitability.
In late Might, Apollo Agriculture raised $6 million in a Collection A spherical. The spherical was led by Anthemis Exponential Ventures, with participation from Leaps by Bayer, Flourish Ventures (a enterprise of The Omidyar Group), Sage Hill Capital, To Ventures Meals, Breyer Labs, and current traders Accion Enterprise Lab and Newid Capital, amongst others.
“Small scale farmers throughout Africa haven’t got elementary agricultural instruments and financing that they should improve their profitability,” Pollak, who serves as the corporate’s CEO, says. “So the challenge is less ‘how do we help farmers increase their production’, and much more ‘how do we help them access the tools’ which we already know would drastically increase their production.”
Each Pollak and St Sauver, who works as Apollo’s CTO, have been featured on the 30 Beneath 30 Social Entrepreneurs record in 2018.
Apollo Agriculture offers an optimized bundle for farmers that features recommendation, insurance coverage, farming merchandise, and financing. Prospects apply for the loan, after which they obtain a cellphone name from somebody at Apollo. From there, the corporate sends one of many 650 discipline contractors who go to the farm, confirm the farmer’s id and stroll the GPS boundaries of their discipline. That information then sinks again to Apollo’s system the place we’re in a position to confirm it for information high quality functions.
Apollo then makes a credit score determination, and if the farmer is accepted for the loan based mostly on their machine studying fashions, they obtain a voucher code which the farmer can redeem in one of many 250 agriculture retailers in Kenya.
Apollo doesn’t present farmers with cash, however reasonably offers the farmers with seeds and fertilizers, which the farmers pay again through cell cost after the harvest.
The 2 methods wherein the corporate generates income are the sale of agricultural merchandise within the bundle, in addition to the microfinancing. The ag-tech enterprise presently has 40,000 farmers, of which 25,000 have joined in 2020.
One of many principal issues in regards to the agricultural enterprise and for farmers, per Pollak, is that they want a holistic answer.
“If you’re farming and I tell you ‘here’s the perfect seed and fertilizer’ but then it doesn’t rain, you still have a bad year. Or if I tell you ‘hey here’s the seed and fertilizer and you get great rain, but you plant it wrong you still get a bad production,” Pollak says. “We tried to solve many, if not all challenges that a farmer faces, so they can realize the significant increase in production.”
The Nairobi-based firm presently hires over 100 folks, and with the $6 million Collection A spherical, the full funding has grown to $7.6 million.