Releaf, a Nigerian agriculture technology startup that develops proprietary hardware and software solutions to advance the industrialization of food processing in Africa, has raised $4.2 million in seed capital and grants to scale its technological solution for the Nigerian oil palm sector.
Releaf was created in 2017 and participated in the Y Combinator accelerator program in Silicon Valley the same year, but it didn’t begin operating in the oil palm industry until 2019 and just deployed its patented technology in January of this year.
The startup’s innovative gear improves the availability and quality of raw materials for food manufacturers, while its sourcing software connects them with over 2,000 smallholder farmers. Releaf also works smoothly with its network of smallholder farmers, who have delivered over 10 million kilograms of high-quality palm kernel nuts to food manufacturers, using digital technologies like USSD and open banking.
Relief has raised US$2.7 million in seed finance from Samurai Incubate Africa, Future Africa, and Consonance Investment Managers, with involvement from Stephen Pagliuca, chairman of Bain Capital, and Justin Kan, founder of Twitch. The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) and USAID have also given the startup US$1.5 million in grants.
“Our mission is to industrialize the food processing industry in Africa. This round of funding will allow us to further develop and test our technology with smallholder oil palm producers. Given that Nigerians spend roughly 60% of their income on food, and Africa’s population is expected to grow by 100,000 people per day over the next three decades, we have a unique opportunity to feed more people, lower consumer costs, and supply the world’s fastest-growing food market,” said Ikenna Nzewi, Releaf’s CEO and co-founder.
Glycerine – an extract generated from palm oil – is found in more than 50% of supermarket goods worldwide, according to Iyin Aboyeji, the general partner at Future Africa.
Palm oil is a cash crop that is passed down from generation to generation.
“The Releaf team is creating the future agro-allied business from the ground up, starting with palm oil, for which they have invented revolutionary technology to aggregate, deshell, and process into essential ingredients like vegetable oil and glycerine. Future Africa is ecstatic to support Releaf in their efforts to shape the future of modern agriculture,” says Aboyeji.
The grant will enable Releaf to provide working capital and other value-added services to smallholders and small-scale processors in Nigeria’s smallholder-driven oil palm sector, while the seed funding will enable the development of industrial food processing technology in Nigeria’s smallholder-driven oil palm sector.
Through the establishment of both digital and technical jobs, the grant funds will help the training, recruitment, and retention of more women and youth in the Nigerian oil palm sector.