The Nigerian agritech start-up Releaf has raised $3.3 million in an oversubscribed pre-series A funding round. The new funding will support the launch of two new technologies being rolled out by the company making it easier for African consumer goods manufacturers to access high-quality ingredients for their factories.
The technologies set on being introduced by Relief include Kraken II, a portable version of its award-winning palm nut de-sheller, and SITE, a geospatial mapping application that informs the most profitable positioning of food processing assets.
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In a media release, Relief says the funding round was led by Samurai Incubate Africa, who re-invested after leading its seed round with participation from Consonance Investment Managers. Bain Capital chairperson Stephen Pagliuca and Jeff Ubben, board member at World Wildlife Fund and founder of Inclusive Capital Partners, also invested.
SITE was developed in collaboration with Stanford University’s Professor David Lobell, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and director of the Centre on Food Security and the Environment, whose team led the refinement of the age identification process for oil palm trees in Nigeria.
This analysis provided foundational yield data for the first layer of SITE. The application leverages cutting-edge geospatial mapping tools to determine how much oil palm is planted in an area and their annual yields, alongside Releaf’s proprietary data on soil type, rainfall, farmer productivity and third-party data from organizations like the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) to deliver a dynamic view of farming activity.
Releaf will use this dynamic data set to train Reinforcement Learning Models in SITE that identify the most optimal positioning of supply chain infrastructure for consumer goods manufacturers, creating an effective link with Africa’s decentralised farming system.
Kraken II is a portable, lower-cost version of Releaf’s Kraken, West Africa’s most advanced palm nut de-sheller. It is just as efficient as its static predecessor, costs half as much and can attain 3x profitability because it can be transported to high density farming areas, eliminating more than 80% of margin-eroding logistics costs.
The combination of Kraken II’s portability and SITE’s placement and route planning capabilities enables Releaf to target the best opportunities across Nigeria’s oil palm belt rather than being limited to sourcing crops within 100 kilometres of a fixed processing site like existing food processors.
According to Uzoma Ayogu, CTO and co-founder of Releaf, “SITE and Kraken II are the next steps in our plan to fundamentally transform the efficiency of agricultural supply chains in Africa and we are excited to have partnered with an exceptional cohort of investors and collaborators to roll out these technologies.
“To make food supply chains profitable, we must maximise extraction yields with leading processing technology and minimize logistics costs by bringing processing capacity closer to farmers. Before Releaf, stakeholders had to choose between one or the other – large factories had great technology but were far away, leaving most farmers with rudimentary technology to process their crops. We’re now able to maximise both.”
Africa will represent 40% of the human population by the end of the 21st century and the fast-moving consumer goods market will emerge as its first globally relevant industrial sector. Releaf’s technology is designed to accelerate this industrialization while ensuring inclusive success for the planet, farmers, food factories, and consumers in one of the greatest economic opportunities globally.
Since launching in 2021, Releaf has used its supply chain technology to process more than 10 million kilograms of palm nuts and grown its monthly revenue seven times year-on-year. The start-up has also secured more than $100 million in supply contracts from leading consumer goods manufacturers, including Presco, PZ Cussons, and more. The company’s valuation has tripled since its seed round a year ago.
Rena Yoneyama, managing partner at Samurai Incubate Africa, says, “Releaf’s success with its pilot Kraken validates its thesis, and we are excited to continue supporting their ambitious vision to create efficient supply chains within Africa’s agricultural market. They have added key members to their management team and continue to impress us with their rapid commercial growth and technological development. We look forward to more of the same success as the team rolls out Kraken II and SITE.”
Professor David Lobell from Stanford University added that he enjoyed working with Releaf.
“Using our tree height algorithm to establish the correlation between oil palm age and height will help farmers to get a better understanding of their future yields and make better data-driven decisions on sustainable replanting. There is a great opportunity to unlock Africa’s unique agricultural potential by leveraging remote sensing solutions, and I believe this partnership will be a catalyst.”
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