South Africa’s Agritech startup Khula! expands offering with launch of new app after closing US$1.3m funding

SOUTH AFRICA -After closing an R20-million ($1.3m) seed funding round led by AECI and ESquared Investments, award-winning agritech startup Khula! has announced the launch of their new app.

The investment was made in June of last year, but Khula chose to keep the round quiet in order to coincide with the launch of their Khula! Inputs App.

Founded in 2016 by Karidas Tshintsholo (CEO), Matthew Piper (CPO), and Jackson Dyora, Khula provides small-scale and commercial size farmers with software and a marketplace to grow their business.

According to reports by Disrupt, Khula!, which has been in an intensive pilot stage over the last 3 years, has built an ecosystem of three platforms aimed at making the agricultural value chain more efficient.

The Khula! Fresh Produce Marketplace, which is in the final stages of pilot, allows farmers to sell produce directly to formal market bulk buyers, while the Khula! Funder Dashboard connects institutional investors with farmers who meet their funding mandates.

The just-released Khula! Inputs App, allows farmers to access approved agricultural inputs and services from leading suppliers.

Africa’s agritech sector grew 44% year-on-year between 2016 and 2019

Farmers Review Africa

By allowing farmers to engage and negotiate prices with suppliers, the platform aims to reduce the access middlemen have that has led to the exploitation of farmers.    

“The reason we’ve gone with this ecosystem approach is that it’s more of a sticky business model.  So we want to allow farmers to use our ecosystem to buy the products they need and get the services they need,” Tshintsholo said.

Khula! has seen reasonable traction since launching. The company has signed up more than 3,000 farmers, and over 100 suppliers now work with the company.

This year, the startup was accepted into the Google for Startups Accelerator Class 6 alongside 14 other African companies.

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In addition to the financial firepower Khula! receives from its lead investor, AECI, it will also get access to AECI’s wide distribution network to scale its inputs app.

With 132 depots across the country, Khula! says it can deliver products in every province, in every major agriculture region.

Tshintsholo says AECI is the kind of investor Khula hopes to have as it progresses: a long-term partner interested in execution and not quarterly updates.

“We did not want an investor at the table who was only going to ask us how we’d performed in a specific quarter. We wanted a long-term partner that would execute with us.

“A partner with a great reputation in the industry and an incredible distribution network, a partner whose long-term success was tied to a business model like ours. And AECI fits that description perfectly for us,” he stated.

Africa is home to 60% of the world’s arable land. The agritech sector grew 44% year-on-year between 2016 and 2019, and the continent has the highest number of agritech services in the developing world, reaching more than 33 million smallholder farmers, according to a report from Farmers Review Africa.

Research also shows agritech in Africa is projected to reach a value of US$1 trillion by 2030.

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