KENYA – Lantera a Kenyan agri-tech startup has obtained a loan facility of an undisclosed amount from Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) to enable it to meet its early targets as it prepares to raise seed funding.
Lentera started as a soil health and crop nutrition company, formulating and manufacturing a range of organic fertilisers.
But after serving thousands of farmers across the country, it realised that in addition to high quality inputs, farmers also needed advice on subjects such as what crops to plant, when to plant them, when to irrigate, and when to scout for pests and diseases.
In response to this, they launched their precision agriculture services, that offer farm software, weather sensors, drone and satellite imaging as well as automated advisory services on market conditions.
According to Moses Kimani, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Lentera “The KCIC early-stage financing has come at an important time for Lentera.”
“It will enable us to expand the offering of our precision agriculture solution and to develop crop-specific growth models with the corresponding agronomy package. This will deepen our impact with farmers and enable us meet our revenue milestones before our seed round.”
Last month the bootstrapped startup was on the fundraising trail, seeking a US$560,000 funding round to build out crop-specific versions of its climate smart solutions.
Lentera is currently piloting two main services. Its farm mapping platform uses a drone to provide farmers with a baseline of their crops’ health, pointing out areas of concern such as irrigation and nutrition problems, and providing pest and disease scouting data.
“Thereafter, we collect satellite data of the farm every five days to monitor progress. We also install ground weather stations for selected farms. Our algorithm highlights problems with the growth in crops and provides insights on areas that need chemical soil analysis,” said Kimani.
Lentera also provides soil health advisory and inputs, based on the information provided by the crop health maps.
“We provide farmers with advice and supply them with organic inputs that rectify problems with soil acidity as well as poor nutrition levels,” Kimani said.
Lentera already has a track record of building a user base, having sold inputs to more than 4,000 farmers.
Its new Agri-tech solutions are still in the pilot stage with four active customers, but Kimani says he has been pleasantly surprised by the interest in precision agriculture solutions.
The startup charges for its drone and satellite imaging services, and also makes money from sales of its climate smart inputs.
Active in Kenya and Uganda for now, Lentera wants to expand into the wider East Africa region and to West Africa by mid-2020.
KCIC is an initiative supported by the World Bank’s infoDev that provides incubation, capacity-building services and financing to Kenyan ventures that are developing innovative solutions in energy, water and agribusiness to address climate change challenges.