Ghana’s digital commodity trading start-up AgroCenta clinches funding for expansion

GHANA – AgroCenta, a Ghanaian digital food distribution platform, has raised US$790,000 in Pre-Series A funding round from Shell Foundation, The Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), AV Ventures, and Rabo Foundation.

Founded in 2016, AgroCenta operates a mobile merchanting platform known as CropChain which provides market information, storage & delivery solutions and financial services to smallholder farmers in Ghana, mainly handling white and yellow maize, rice, soybean, cowpeas, and sorghum.

The funding, according to the agri-tech starup will enable it to further develop its smallholder farmer inclusion programmes and procure crops at transparent and fair market prices to service offtake contracts.

“This is a significant milestone for AgroCenta, having the support of leading institutions, particularly with the COVID-19 backdrop, underlining the strength of AgroCenta and the importance of its mission,” Francis Obirikorang, AgroCenta’s CEO and Co-Founder Michael Ocansey highlighted

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“The demand for agricultural raw materials from offtakers in the brewery, manufacturing and consumer sector is increasing exponentially because of the easing of the COVID-19 restrictions that were put in place by the government of Ghana, hence this capital injection will help to secure purchases at fair and transparent prices from smallholders — a much-needed lifeline for many who are at the proverbial bottom of the pyramid,” they added.

Agriculture and farming are a staple activity for more than half of the population in many West-African countries. Whilst smallholder farmers relentlessly work their plots of land, they often face many challenges when they try to bring and sell their harvest to the market.

Lack of information on fair market prices for different crops often leaves them at the mercy of selling at low prices to middlemen.

In addition, lacking adequate infrastructure, logistics and transportation also limits their access to larger urban markets, where they could obtain much better pricing for their crops.

“This capital injection will help to secure purchases at fair and transparent prices from smallholders, a much-needed lifeline for many who are at the proverbial bottom of the pyramid.”

AgroCenta Founders

Furthermore, the lack of basic data that enables KYC (Know Your Customer) and a limited or non-existent credit history means that smallholders have very limited access to finance.

This prevents them from being able to utilise all of their land for growing crops or forces them to resort to using lower quality inputs — leading to stagnation at the bottom of the pyramid.

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Through AgroCenta’s platform, smallholder farmers can execute transactions with accurate information and provide reliable access to financing, inputs and knowledge on agricultural best practices.

Since its launch, registered farmers on AgroCenta’s app, have rapidly grown from 3,000 to 46,100.

With the platform AgroCenta is reportedly to have increased crop yields of farmers by 40% and increased the average CropChain farmer’s income by 35%. Also, it has managed to reduce food waste by 25%.

Shell Foundation supports Kenya’s Keep IT Coolis

Meanwhile, Shell Foundation one of the financiers of AgroCenta have issued an undisclosed amount of funding to Keep IT Coolis, a Kenyan company proving affordable, reliable and efficient cold chain solutions to the fishing and white meat sector.

The grant funding is part of the Catalysing Agriculture by Scaling Energy Ecosystems (CASEE) partnership between Shell Foundation and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

It is aimed to help Keep IT Coolis, pilot its solutions for intermittent grid and off grid fisherfolk and distributors, expand its reach and support investment in further scaling fish processing and cooler assets for retailers.

“Keep IT Cool meets the CASEE mandate by increasing access to energy through improving cold chain in the agriculture sector” said Fiona Hoffman Harland, CASEE Programme Manager, Shell Foundation. “We are excited to work with the team to scale their decentralised cold chain access in Kenya.”

Managing Director of Keep IT Cool, Francis Nderitu, highlights the projected impact of this milestone saying, “this partnership will help us triple our capacity to support this underserved value chain and further validate our business model.”

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