BY MARTIN MWITA
The $1 million (Sh102.9 million) Safaricom (NSE: SCOM) Spark Venture Fund has announced its sixth and final investment in agri-tech startup iProcure.
iProcure is the largest agricultural inputs supply chain platform in Kenya, linking farmers and farmer cooperatives to manufacturers of agricultural inputs.
Through accrued efficiencies, iProcure offers farmers discounts of between 10 and 20 per cent every time they purchase farming products.
“We started the Spark Fund with the aim of supporting emerging startups that use technology to transform lives. As it joins the outstanding crop of Spark Fund investees, iProcure will be instrumental in harnessing the power of technology to improve Kenya’s agri-business processes,” Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said.
To access iProcure, farmers dial *283# and then select which input they would like to purchase.
The farmer then receives a voucher which allows them to claim the inputs from an iProcure farm depot or collection point. The company currently covers several counties across Kenya mainly in Central and Rift Valley but has plans to scale to Western and Eastern Kenya this year.
The startup seeks to increase agricultural output in Kenya, which has remained comparatively low to other countries due to challenges including access to and use of quality inputs.
“At iProcure we are all about optimizing rural supply chains. We build both the supply chain technology in addition to ‘on-the-ground’ infrastructure to ensure small holder farming communities get the inputs they require on terms that are convenient and affordable,” said Nicole Galletta, Chief Operations Officer, iProcure.
“We share an underlying belief, with Safaricom, that small holder farmers are essential to our nation’s food security, and look forward to playing our part in improving the welfare of farmers across Kenya,”.
iProcure becomes the second agri-tech firm to receive an investment from the Safaricom Spark Fund. In February, the fund announced an investment in FarmDrive which has developed an alternative credit-scoring model based on mobile phones and machine learning, in turn enabling many farmers to have formal access to loans and financing.
Started in 2014, the $1 million Safaricom Spark Venture Fund seeks to make late-seed to early-growth stage investments in startups using mobile technology as an enabler.
The Fund received more than 600 applications to date, out of which it has invested in six startups. In August 2015, Sendy – a marketplace for businesses and individuals to connect with drivers to make deliveries simple and transparent – became the first investee of the fund.
mSurvey, a mobile-first research platform that leverages SMS and mobile messaging technology to simplify access to credible, on-demand data became the second investee of the fund. Other startups backed by the fund include Eneza, a mobile based learning platform that targets students and adults in Kenya and other countries, and Lynk which connects customers with professionals and artisans from fields such as tailoring, carpentry, house helps, waiters, chefs and many others. iProcure becomes the fund’s last investee.