Across sub-Saharan Africa, one of the major challenges farmers face is post-harvest losses due to inadequate infrastructure like storage facilities. In addition, many farmers do not have adequate capital to do commercial farming.
Alloysius Attah and Emmanuel Owusu Addai are too familiar with these challenges among Ghanaian farmers and Africa as a whole. This led them to start Farmerline in 2013, an agtech startup that provides technologies designed to increase farmers’ access to high-quality production inputs and education on the best farming practices, according to TechCrunch.
The startup works with small retail shops or agribusinesses to ensure farmers get access to high-quality supplies. It also uses these shop owners as the first point of knowledge for the farmers, and thanks to these retail shops, Farmerline is able to share educational materials and also bring together farmers for training.
What’s more, the small retail shop owners use Farmerline’s artificial intelligence platform Mergdata to digitize the farmers they serve and also predict their needs. Through Mergdata, the startup is also able to tell the performances of the retail shops it works and develop a credit scoring program that guides the extension of business expansion loans, the founders told TechCrunch.
“We are tapping into that network of agribusiness, and in a way, we are tapping into a network of trust — the relationship that these shop owners have with farmers to help us expand,” said Attah.
The startup has increased its direct reach to 79,000 farmers from 8,000 in 2019. Attah and Addai will expand their operation to cover more Ghanaian farmers and even expand to the neighboring Ivory Coast, thanks to a $12.9 million pre-Series A funding.
The funding round was led by Acumen Resilient Agriculture Fund (ARAF) and FMO, the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank, with participation from Greater Impact Foundation, according to TechCrunch. Debt lenders included DEG, Rabobank, Ceniarth, Rippleworks, Mulago Foundation, Whole Planet Foundation, the Netri Foundation and Kiva.
Attah and Addai also plan to use the money to build infrastructure like warehouses and distribution networks so as to facilitate the distribution of farm inputs like fertilizers and seeds to rural areas.
“We think of ourselves as the Amazon of farmers… a digital and physical infrastructure powering a marketplace that allows the movement of goods and services to and from rural areas,” said Attah.
“We plan to use the funding to strengthen our infrastructure, that is warehouses and distribution channels. Having a network of partners that can help us quickly move inputs like fertilizer and seeds to rural areas, and farm produce from rural areas, is important and part of what we do. We don’t intend to bring all of the logistics and storage in-house, but we want to be more efficient and that means working with the right partners,” he said.