(Ecofin Agency) - Nigerian agritech startup Releaf announced this week that it has closed a $2.7 million round of funding. The resources will help address logistics and processing yield issues. The startup received an additional $1.5 million in funding from the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) and USAID.
Founded by Ikenna Nzewi and Uzoma Ayogu, the start-up has designed software that connects to more than 2,000 smallholder farmers. The technology receives farmers' supply requests via USSD technology, a protocol that triggers a service by sending a message.
According to Ikenna, this round of funding allows Releaf to develop and test its technology with smallholder oil palm farmers. “We took a much more broad approach to what the solution would be, but we wanted to decide on a specific crop to work in. And we found that opportunity in the oil palm sector,” said Ikenna Nzewi.
“Nigeria has about 60% more demand for vegetable oil than it does supply. And it cannot be met due to supply shortfall with imports because the government banned the importation of vegetable oil. So there is a need to take these smallholders who are driving 80% of production and make them more efficient so that we can have a better balance of supply and demand for vegetable oil,” he added.
Releaf’s fund mobilization was supported by pan-African venture capital firms such as Samurai Incubate Africa, Future Africa and Consonance Investment Managers, and investors such as Stephen Pagliuca (chairman of Bain Capital) and Justin Kan (co-founder of Twitch).