KENYA – Lentera, a Kenyan Agri-tech startup, is raising a US$560,000 funding round to build out crop-specific versions of its climate smart solutions for African farmers.

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, we launched our precision agriculture services, that offer farm software, weather sensors, drone and satellite imaging as well as automated advisory services on market conditions,” Moses Kimani, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Lentera.

The startup is 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 are currently raising US$560,000 that will see us develop crop-specific models that will integrate data from our ground sensors, drone and satellite imaging, and to automate data collection and processing. We want to expand our algorithm to include data from key food crops and commercial crops across East Africa,” said Kimani.

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. In October it will launch a subscription model for its app, with Kimani hoping to be cashflow positive by the end of the year.

Active in Kenya and Uganda for now, Lentera wants to expand into the wider East Africa region, and to some West Africa countries, by mid-2020.