Farmerline Group – the continent’s Amazon for African farmers – has secured a US$6.4 million Pre-Series A investment and $6.5 million debt to strengthen its supply chain for agribusinesses; reduce the cost of farming; and increase yield for farmers on the continent through the deployment of AI technology and local infrastructure, with support from FMO.
Today, farmers feed one third of the world and will need to increase production by 70% to cater for nine billion people by 2050. Currently, post-harvest losses of food cereals in Sub-Saharan Africa are estimated at $4 billion due to factors such as access to timely agronomic education. Meanwhile, fertilizer use is 14kg per hectare as compared to 120kg for their counterparts globally.
In recent times, Africa’s agribusiness sector has been coined the ‘new oil’ and is predicted to reach US$1 trillion by 2030. But the continent will need eight times more fertilizer and six times more improved seeds to realize its full agricultural potential.
Farmerline’s marketplace combines digital tools, logistics, field agents, farm resources and agribusiness partnerships to support African farmers with access to high-quality fertilizer and seeds; free education on climate-smart farming practices; and connections to international markets. The company’s in-house technology platform Mergdata is also licensed by global food traders and manufacturers who use its customisable tools to improve the lives of farmers around the world.
The US$6.4 million Pre-Series A investment, led by Acumen Resilient Agriculture Fund(ARAF) and FMO, the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank, is Farmerline’s first equity raise since launching with a US$600 grant almost a decade ago. The other investor of the $6.4 million equity round is Greater Impact Foundation. To date, the company has digitized over 1 million farmers through partnerships across 26 countries; employed over 200 people in Ghana; and evolved Mergdata into an AI-powered super platform for supply chain intelligence like crop yield prediction, fertilizer demand forecasting, product traceability, and Agribusiness credit scoring for asset and fertilizer financing.
Lenders of the $6.5 million debt include DEG, Rabobank, Ceniarth, Rippleworks, Mulago Foundation, Whole Planet Foundation, Netri Foundation and Kiva.
When covid hit in 2020, over 16,000 agribusiness firms closed down in Ghana. However, those who did pull through presented themselves as some of the most efficient and sustainable ways to reach Africa’s 33 million smallholder farms. Hence, Farmerline works through agricultural SMEs to ultimately serve more farmers.
‘At the peak of the pandemic, local agricultural SMEs played a vital role in ensuring food security – supporting farmers; supplying agricultural inputs; and distributing to final consumers,’ says Farmerline’s co-founder and chief executive officer, Alloysius Attah. ‘With this new investment, we will scale the AI capabilities within Farmerline’s Mergdata platform to help increase the income of farmers and agribusinesses; supporting them to access farm inputs; supplying them with assets such as tricycles, tractors and threshers; and connecting them to global markets.’
Farmerline will also invest in local infrastructure and logistics to support distribution, and accelerate the industry’s marketplace currently across Ghana with plans to deepen relationships with partners in Ivory Coast.
Co-founder and chief operations officer of Farmerline Emmanuel Owusu Addai said: ‘Farmerline’s goal has always been to create lasting wealth for farmers and their communities. To do that at scale, we’re expanding our operations across regions and are actively on the lookout for the best talent to help build an efficient supply chain that saves money for agribusinesses, reduces the cost of farming and the time it takes for people to get services to rural areas. We must ensure that local agribusinesses grow because when they do, we all succeed.’
Tamer El-Raghy, Managing Director of ARAF, said: ‘We’re honored to co-lead this investment round in Farmerline with FMO and excited to partner with world-class Ghanaian entrepreneurs like Alloysius and Emmanuel. Farmerline’s technology platform helps smallholder farmers adapt to climate change by increasing their income and reducing their income volatility by providing them with access to inputs and markets while helping them adapt sustainable and climate smart practices which perfectly fits ARAF’s investment strategy. This is an invaluable addition to ARAF’s portfolio and we look forward to supporting Farmerline’s local and regional growth.’
Maurice Scheepens, Senior Investment Officer for FMO’s Venture Program, added: ‘We are honoured to be part of Farmerline’s first institutional capital raise together with our partner ARAF. Farmerline is an excellent addition to FMO’s Ventures Program portfolio, which aims to empower local entrepreneurs that leverage disruptive technology for a better world. We are impressed with the platform the local founding entrepreneurs have been able to build and look forward to leveraging FMO’s network and value-add offerings to sustainably support Famerline’s continued growth.’
Alloysius concluded: ‘This investment is a pivotal moment for our industry and a chance for us all to transform the way we work together as a community to benefit the lives of farmers who currently feed one third of the world – and will need to increase production by 70% to feed nine billion people in 2050. A dynamic agribusiness sector is crucial to the success of this.’