AgroCenta, an agritech startup addressing food access and stock flow for smallholder farmers in Ghana announces it has successfully raised $790,000 Series A funding from Shell Foundation – a UK Charity, and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Other participants include AV Ventures and Rabo Foundation.
The 2018 Seedstars Summit grand prize winning company, uses an all-encompassing ecosystem approach, by blending cutting edge digital innovation with traditional on the ground operations to transform the lives of smallholder farmers in Ghana. The agritech startup also provides support along the value chain.
Agriculture and farming are a staple activity for more than half of the population in many West African countries. Smallholder farmers are usually faced with many difficulties when trying to bring and sell their harvest on the market, after having relentlessly worked their plots of land. The troubling lack of information on fair market pricing for their different crops often leaves them at the mercy of selling at low prices to middlemen and this is what Agrocenta is determined to change.
Again, the lack of adequate infrastructure, logistics and transportation tend to limit the farmers’ access to larger urban markets, where they could obtain much better pricing for their produce.
Furthermore, these smallholders farmers do lack basic data enabling KYC (Know Your Customer) and a limited or non-existent credit history, which means they have very limited access to finance.
Unfortunately, this prevents many from being able to use all of their land for growing crops or forces them to resort to using lower quality inputs thereby leading to stagnation at the bottom of the pyramid.
How AgroCenta is changing the game for smallholder farmers
With their platform called CropChain, smallholder farmers can now transact business with accurate information and since its launch, the average CropChain farmer’s income has increased to around 35%.
With a reliable access to proper financing, inputs and knowledge on agricultural best practices, the farmers, as Agrocenta believes, are well positioned to contribute to sustainable food security in the long run and the agritech startup has managed to reduce food waste by 25%.
Also, through its community engagement, the company is working to increase gender equality and land ownership by women in a sector where 50% of smallholder farmers are women.
Agriculture accounts for almost 17% of the GDP (gross domestic product) of Ghana and through their outreach and services, AgroCenta says, it has progressively increased crop yields of farmers by 40%, contributing to Ghana’s economy at large.
Agrocenta was launched by Francis Obirikorang, AgroCenta’s CEO and Co-Founder Michael Ocansey in 2016 after they moved on from an earlier business, Swappaholics.
Commenting on the importance of this latest round of investment, Francis Obirikorang and Michael Ocansey both agreed that,
“This is a significant milestone for AgroCenta, having the support of leading institutions, particularly with the COVID-19 backdrop, underlining the strength of AgroCenta and the importance of its mission.
They stressed that, the demand for agricultural raw materials from offtakers in the brewery, manufacturing and consumer sectors, is increasing exponentially because of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions that were initially in place in Ghana.
It therefore means, this capital injection will be helping secure purchases at fair and transparent prices from smallholders. It is this they believe, is a much needed lifeline for smallholder farmers in Ghana who are at the proverbial bottom of the pyramid.
OKO: Insurtech Startup Raises US$1.2M to bring Innovative Insurance to Smallholder Farmers Across Africa
Insurtech start-up, OKO, that provides inclusive agricultural insurance to secure farmers’ income across Africa, has closed a seed investment of $1.2 million. The round was led by Newfund and ResiliAnce. Mercy Corps Venture, Techstars, ImpactAssets and RaSa also participated in the round.
The startup which currently operates in Mali and Uganda uses satellite data and mobile payments to create automated insurance products for farmers whose fields are affected adversely by weather events — primarily droughts and floods. With the new funding, OKO aims to strengthen its presence in Mali and Uganda and expand its offerings to more African markets, starting with Ivory Coast.
According to the founder of OKO, Simon Schwall, in a press statement said,
Simon also said they were using technology to solve this issue and secure the income of those farmers.
The company already has approximately 7,000 paying customers in Mali and compensated more than 1,000 farmers last year, who were affected by floods. OKO’s customers typically grow maize, cotton, sesame or millet. It also works with agro-industries to help them with their sustainability goals and secure their relationships with suppliers. Successful pilots were completed with ABInBev and Touton in Uganda.
This convinced Augustin Sayer, partner at Newfund, to support OKO:
“We believe recent advancement in iOT and data availability will lead to the rise of parametric insurance in Africa for the benefit of the local populations. Simon and his team have built solid bases in Mali from which OKO can now expand in new countries and offer new insurance products.”
OKO takes pride in being the most inclusive crop insurance available. All farmers need to connect to OKO is a phone (no smartphone required): they can dial a short code to obtain more information and pay through mobile money services. To achieve this level of accessibility, the company partners with mobile operators.
OKO, for Aisha Touré, the CEO of Orange Money in Mali, has taken full benefit of the Orange Money platform to provide a service that is both innovative and inclusive.
Daniel Block from Mercy Corps Ventures added,
“While other micro-insurance for farmers exist, we were impressed by OKO’s ability to partner with a pan-African operator like Orange and establish a direct consumer link, which allows for an exciting opportunity to drive deeper user engagement and expand to a suite of insurance products for rural farmers in the future.”
The service offered by OKO is supported by regulators and has won both the Fintech Showcase Award by the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, representing financial regulators of emerging countries, and the SME award from ITU, the telecommunication governing body.
When asked about the next challenges for OKO, Simon Schwall’s answer is clear:
“We need to find more partners who can bring our product to farmers, be it NGOs, agro-industrial players, mobile operators or governmental programmes. We proved that our solution is working and answers a strong need. Now we need to scale”
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