Releaf, an Africa-focused agritech company, announced on Monday the raising of an oversubscribed Pre-Series A round of funding. The funding will be used to support the launch of two new technologies; Kraken II and SITE.
The new funding is led by Tokyo-based venture capital firm Samurai Incubate Africa, which reinvests in Releaf after leading its $2.7 million seed round in 2021. Consonance’s investment managers Stephen Pagliuca ( Chairman of Bain Capital) and Jeff Ubben (Board Member of World Wildlife Fund and Founder of Inclusive Capital Partners) participated in the latest round.
Uzoma Ayogu, CTO and co-founder of Releaf, describes SITE and Kraken II as the next steps in agritech’s plan to fundamentally transform the efficiency of agricultural supply chains in Africa.
“For food supply chains to be profitable, we need to maximize extraction yields with leading processing technology and minimize costs by moving processing capacity closer to farmers,” Ayogu said. “Before Releaf, stakeholders had to choose between one or the other: the big factories had great technology but were far away, leaving most farmers with rudimentary technology to process their crops. Now we can maximize both.”
Launched in 2021, Releaf has used its supply chain technology to process more than 10 million kilograms of palm nuts and has increased its monthly revenue 7 times year-over-year. The company has also secured more than $100 million in supply contracts from major consumer goods manufacturers, including Presco, PZ Cussons and more. The company’s valuation has tripled since its seed round a year ago.
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The company said it developed SITE in collaboration with David Lobell, a Stanford University professor and MacArthur “Genius” fellow and director of the Center for Food Safety and the Environment. Lobell’s team led the refinement of the age identification process for oil palms in Nigeria. This provided critical performance data for the first layer of SITE. The app leverages cutting-edge geospatial mapping tools to determine how much oil palm is planted in an area and its annual yields, along with Releaf’s proprietary data on soil type, rainfall, farmer productivity, and third-party data. from organizations such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) to offer a dynamic overview of agricultural activity.
“I have enjoyed working with Releaf and using our tree height algorithm to correlate age with oil palm height to help farmers better understand their future yields and make better data-driven decisions about sustainable replanting. There is a huge opportunity to unlock Africa’s unique agricultural potential by leveraging remote sensing solutions, and I believe this partnership will be a catalyst,” said David Lobell.
Releaf plans to deploy the dataset to train reinforcement learning models in SITE that identify the most optimal positioning of supply chain infrastructure for manufacturers of consumer goods, creating an effective link to Africa’s decentralized agricultural system.
Releaf describes the Kraken II as a portable and inexpensive version of Releaf’s Kraken, West Africa’s most advanced palm nut sheller. It is just as efficient as its static predecessor and costs half as much. It can achieve 3x higher profitability because it can be transported to high-density growing areas, eliminating more than 80 percent of margin-eroding logistics costs. Combining the portability of Kraken II and the location and route planning capabilities of SITE allows Releaf to focus on the best opportunities in Nigeria’s oil palm belt rather than just sourcing crops within 100 kilometers of a site stationary processing like existing food processors.
“Releaf’s success with their pilot Kraken validates their thesis, and we are excited to continue supporting their ambitious vision to create efficient supply chains within the African agricultural market,” Rena Yoneyama, Managing Partner of Samurai Incubate Africa. “They have added key members to their management team and continue to impress us with their rapid business growth and technology development.”