FMO and Rabobank Foundation finance farming start-up

15th August 2018 Jack Aldane

Tech start-up Apollo Agriculture will receive US$500,000 from Dutch development bank FMO and the Rabobank Foundation to give Kenyan farmers access to credit and risk services.

The company will use the financing to develop its products and to expand its reach to other geographical locations. Apollo uses a high-tech, low-touch model comprising low-level automation and high-level personal interaction for features including mobile money, machine learning and satellite data. It has already received a US$250,000 convertible grant from FMO’s MASSIF Fund as well as a US$250,000 loan from the Rabobank Foundation.

Eli Pollak, CEO of Apollo Agriculture, said the latest financing would “allow [the company] to expand [its] lending reach and will greatly accelerate our rate of learning. The more loans we extend and the more data we gather, the more effective our credit model becomes at predicting default. Joint support from FMO and Rabobank Foundation is a tremendous asset in this effort, and we are thrilled to have found such an aligned partnership with two organisations at the forefront of agricultural development finance.”

Eli Pollak, founder and CEO of Apollo Agriculture

Speaking on behalf of FMO, Jeroen Harteveld, MASSIF’s fund manager, said the start-up’s goal of providing access to finance for entrepreneurs in low-income countries complements that of FMO, which focuses on finance for fintech companies that have inclusive business models.

“We are helping a young company support small farmers to improve their livelihoods and optimise their produce,” Harteveld commented.

Albert Boogaard, head of innovation at Rabobank Foundation, said that by diversifying its services, Apollo had provided a way for farmers to significantly reduce both their risks and the operational costs of lending while achieving scale.

“Building analytical models on, amongst others, remote sensing helps to reach previously unbanked farmers,” he concluded.

Apollo’s first product was designed to provide maize farmers in Kenya with a seed and fertiliser, along with farming advice and a credit service. The firm is staffed by software engineers, data scientists and operators with experience in organisations including The Climate Corporation, Google and One Acre Fund.

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