Releaf, a tech company that makes it easier for consumer goods manufacturers in Africa to access high-quality ingredients for their factories, has raised $3.3m in an oversubscribed Pre-Series A funding round. The new funding will support the launch of two new technologies: Kraken II – a portable version of its award-winning palm nut de-sheller and SITE – a geospatial mapping application that informs the most profitable positioning of food processing assets.
The round was led by Samurai Incubate Africa, who also led the seed round, with participation from Consonance Investment Managers. Stephen Pagliuca of Bain Capital and Jeff Ubben, founder of Inclusive Capital Partners (World Wildlife Fund board member) also invested.
What is the product offering of SITE?
SITE was developed in collaboration with Stanford University’s Professor David Lobell, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment, whose team led the refinement of the age identification process for oil palm trees in Nigeria. This analysis provided foundational yield data for the first layer of SITE.
The application leverages cutting-edge geospatial mapping tools to determine how much oil palm is planted in an area and their annual yields, alongside Releaf’s proprietary data on soil type, rainfall, farmer productivity and 3rd-party data from organizations like the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) to deliver a dynamic view of farming activity.
Releaf will use this data set to train Reinforcement Learning Models in SITE that identify the most optimal positioning of supply chain infrastructure for consumer goods manufacturers, creating an effective link with Africa’s decentralized farming system. Kraken II is a portable, lower-cost version of Releaf’s Kraken – West Africa’s most advanced palm nut de-sheller.
It is just as efficient as its static predecessor, costs half as much and can attain 3x profitability because it can be transported to high density farming areas, eliminating over 80% of margin-eroding logistics costs. The combination of Kraken II’s portability and SITE’s route planning capabilities enables Releaf to target the best opportunities across Nigeria’s oil palm belt rather than being limited to sourcing crops within 100 kilometers of a fixed processing site.
What does the funding mean for Releaf?
Commenting on the funding, Uzoma Ayogu, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Releaf, said, “SITE and Kraken II are the next steps in our plan to fundamentally transform the efficiency of agricultural supply chains in Africa and we are excited to have partnered with an exceptional cohort of investors and collaborators to roll out these technologies.”
“To make food supply chains profitable, we must maximize extraction yields with leading processing technology and minimize logistics costs by bringing processing capacity closer to farmers. Before Releaf, stakeholders had to choose between one or the other – large factories had great technology but were far away, leaving most farmers with rudimentary technology to process their crops. We’re now able to maximize both,” Uzoma Ayogu said.
Africa will represent 40% of the human population by the end of the 21st century and the fast-moving consumer goods market will emerge as its first relevant industrial sector. Releaf’s tech is designed to accelerate this industrialization while ensuring success for the planet, farmers, food factories, and consumers in one of the greatest economic opportunities.
Since launching in 2021, Releaf has used its supply chain tech to process over 10 million kilograms of palm nuts and grown its monthly revenue 7X year on year. The company has also secured over $100m in supply contracts from consumer goods manufacturers, like Presco, PZ Cussons, and more. The firm’s valuation has tripled since its seed round last year.
Why Releaf is on the right path
Rena Yoneyama, Managing Partner at Samurai Incubate Africa, contributed, “Releaf’s success with its pilot Kraken validates its thesis, and we are excited to continue supporting their ambitious vision to create efficient supply chains within Africa’s agricultural market.”
“They have added key members to their management team and continue to impress us with their rapid commercial growth and technological development. We look forward to more of the same success as the team rolls out Kraken II and SITE,” Rena Yoneyama further added.
Professor David Lobell from Stanford University said, “I enjoyed working with Releaf and using our tree height algorithm to establish the correlation between oil palm age and height to help farmers to get a better understanding future yields and make data-driven decisions on sustainable replanting. There is a great opportunity to unlock Africa’s unique agricultural potential by leveraging remote sensing solutions, and I believe this will be a catalyst.”