Releaf, a Nigerian agri-tech start-up that develops proprietary hardware and software solutions for African farmers and food factories, has raised $2.7 million seed funding in a round led by Samurai Incubate Africa, Future Africa and Consonance Investment Managers,with participation from Stephen Pagliuca, chairman of Bain Capital and Justin Kan, co-founder of Twitch.
In addition, Releaf said it secured $1.5 million in grants from the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The seed funding, according to Releaf, will enable the development of industrial food processing technology in Nigeria’s smallholder-driven oil palm sector, while the grant will enable the firm to provide working capital and other value-added services for smallholders and small-scale processors. The grant funding, it added, is expected to support the training, recruitment and retention of more women and youth in Nigeria’s oil palm sector through the creation of both digital and technical jobs.
Commenting on the new funding, Ikenna Nzewi, CEO and co-founder of Releaf, said the company’s mandate is to industrialize Africa’s food processing industry, noting that the round of funding would enable the company to develop and provide technology solutions to smallholder farmers in the oil palm sector.
Nzewi further disclosed that the new funding will enable better productivity and accelerate the eradication of the menial and archaic processes that are prevalent across Nigeria’s oil palm sector and the agriculture sector as a whole.
The CEO also stressed that the funding will enable the company to drive more value and profitability across the oil palm value chain, as well as support direct and ancillary job creation in the farming communities of South and Eastern Nigeria.
“Releaf is committed to harnessing technology to accelerate the economic wealth of rural, agrarian societies throughout the continent. We firmly believe that a robust real economy is the foundation for long-lasting and shared prosperity for Africans and are excited to deepen partnerships with like-minded organisations, governments, and firms,” he stated.
Also speaking, Rena Yoneyama, managing partner at Samurai Incubate Africa, said Releaf’s novel approach to operating within the value chain with proprietary technology set it aside from many other agri-tech startups. Yoneyama expressed confidence that the firm’s thesis on decentralizing food processing would have a strong match with Africa’s economic development landscape for the next few decades.
“Ikenna and Uzo are the perfect founders to disrupt this market in Nigeria and beyond. We are thrilled to back them as they innovate in providing both agro-processing and financial services to rural communities and farmers,” he added.
Iyin Aboyeji, general partner at Future Africa, said his company is delighted in supporting Releaf towards building the future of modern agriculture. According to Aboyeji, Releaf is building the agro-allied industry of the future starting with palm oil which they have developed novel technology to aggregate, deshell and process into critical ingredients glycerine and vegetable oil. He added that over 50 percent of the goods in supermarkets globally contain glycerine, an extract from palm oil, giving Releaf a comparative advantage in its production.
On his part, Nneka Enwonwu, country relationship manager,Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) said the organisation is thrilled to partner with Releaf on their mission to improve efficiency and profitability for farmers and food factories in Africa.
Enwonwu expressed confidence that Releaf will deliver real value for rural communities and create digital/technical jobs for women and youth.
“We are looking forward to their results and success over the coming years and continuing to support their work,” she said.