Softbank Spearheads Kenya’s Agritech Apollo’s $40 Million Series B Round

After securing $40 million in its Series B funding round, Kenya’s agritech startup Apollo Agriculture wants to increase the number of farmers its platform is serving by at least two times before the year’s end. The funding round was led by SoftBank through its SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The round also had participation from investors including existing backers – TO Ventures Food, Breyer Capital, Leaps by Bayer, Flourish Ventures, Exponential Ventures, Anthemis, and new investors Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Yara Growth Ventures, Endeavor Catalyst and CDC.

Apollo Agriculture is an African focused startup that provides farmers with access to quality farm inputs, credit facilities and markets. The startup employs satellite imagery data of farms and artificial intelligence to determine the creditworthiness of farmers before extending financing.  

Apart from doubling its numbers, the startup wants to introduce more products and services of value for farmers as well as improving its technology. Farmers remain an important part of the startup’s business and are treated as top priority. “We are continuing to invest in growing fast; serving more farmers, helping them grow their acreage and really hitting the acceleration on the business. And so that’ll be both continued expansion across Kenya but also expansion into new markets,” co-founder and CEO Eli Pollak said.

Apollo, which appeared on the scene in 2016, is currently looking to leverage as many opportunities as it can in the African space, especially in West and East 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.” Benjamin Njenga and Earl St Sauver co-founded the startup with Eli Pollak. It started by focusing on maize farmers before widening its focus to other crops with impressive yields and market demand.

“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 farmers’ 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,” the CEO of Apollo said.

As of the end of 2021, the startup had worked with more than 100,000 farmers, has a network of more than 1,000 retailers and 5,000 agents across Kenya.

These agents are responsible for bringing farmers aboard and are huge parts of Apollo’s business. The business tried to provide ‘all-round” products and goes as far as providing insurance for its farmers. “We have designed our business to strengthen farming systems, and if you think about climate change, we bundle insurance with every credit we sell to protect the borrower,” Eli Pollak explained.

“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,” SoftBank Investment investment director, AdvisersAlexia Yannopoulos, commented.

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