Leading the round was Softbank Vision Fund -venture capital firm- with participation from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Yara Growth Ventures, Endeavor Catalyst, CDC, and existing investors including Anthemis Exponential Ventures, Flourish Ventures, Leaps by Bayer, SBI, Breyer Capital and TO Ventures Food.
This investment will be used to expand the reach of Apollo’s products and services; refine its technology; and introduce other products that deliver more value per acre of land.
Apollo Agriculture was co-founded in 2016 by Eli Pollak , Benjamin Njenga and Earl St Sauver. It geared off with maize farming as its first experiment and overtime diversified production focus to include other high-yielding food crops.
Apollo uses the satellite imagery data of farms and remote sensors to determine the creditworthiness of farmers. Apollo uses this satellite model to infer characteristics of individual farms, such as estimated yields, and to assess credit risk.
The startup works with a chain of rural agents who establish the much needed person-to-person contact with farmers and retailers. The datafication of farmland helps farmers make decisions that would make farming in the given land more productive.
The startup offers financial services to farmers as well as opportunities to markets with credit facilities. And sure enough, Apollo’s products are insured by its partners including Pula, a Kenya-based insurtech. The insurance protects farmers from systemic risks such as floods, drought, diseases and pests.
At the close of 2021, Apollo had worked with 100,000 farmers, with plans to double the reach by the end 2022. It has a network of “over a thousand” retailers and 5,000 agents spread across the country.
“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,” says Eli Pollak.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Kenya (FAO), Agriculture constitutes 26 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and another 27 per cent of GDP indirectly through linkages with other sectors. The sector employs more than 40 per cent of the total population and more than 70 per cent of Kenya’s rural people.
Feeding the world is one of the most important challenges facing society, Softbank Investment investment director Alexia Yannopoulos said.
Alexia added that “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.”