South African AgriTech Startup Khula has closed a seed round to the value of R20 million led by JSE-listed chemicals giant AECI. The company said on Wednesday that the funds will be used to expand to the rest of the African continent.
The AgriTech startup provides small-scale and commercial size farmers with software and a marketplace to grow their business.
Khula has been in an intensive pilot over the last three years, working with farmers of all sizes across South Africa.
AECI has acquired a minority interest in Khula, as they believe that the platform will enable greater access to the growing emerging farmer customer base that is becoming increasingly more important in the social, economic and political context of South Africa and the rest of the world.
“AECI is exactly the kind of investor we were looking for at this early stage. We wanted a long term partner that would execute with us. A partner with a great reputation in the industry and with an incredible distribution network, a partner whose long term success was tied to a business model like ours. And AECI fits that description perfectly for us,” said Karidas Tshintsholo, Co-Founder & CEO of Khula.
“AECI’s footprint in Africa and in other parts of the world puts us in a good position to scale our business & make global partnerships, we already have significant interest across the SADC region for a solution like ours”.
The AgriTech startup has built a digital ecosystem of three platforms aimed at making the agricultural value chain more efficient.
The Khula Inputs App (recently released) allows farmers to access approved agricultural inputs & services from leading suppliers (local & international).
The Khula Fresh Produce Marketplace (in final stages of pilot) allows farmers to sell produce directly to formal market bulk buyers (local & international).
The Khula Funder Dashboard connects institutional investors with farmers who meet their funding mandates. Khula believes in a long-term ecosystem approach to solving problems in agriculture, as it believes that the industry is very interconnected.
Khula has seen great success during its pilot, with more than 3000 farmer sign-ups and working with leading industry partners.
The startup has been self-funded by it’s founders Tshintsholo, Matthew Piper & Jackson Dyora for most of its pilot.
Khula also collected some accolades during this time: winning the MTN Business App of the year in South Africa (2018/19), chosen as one of the top 10 Social Enterprises in the world in the Chivas Regal Global Venture Competition, recognised by Africarena as the top tech startup in the Joburg ecosystem and more recently making it into the Google for Startups Accelerator class 6 & winning the African leg of the KPMG Global Tech Innovator competition.
Quintin Cross, managing director of AECI Plant Health, said the marketplace is changing and Khula has been identified as a strategic partner in the development of a digital trading marketplace for emerging farmers which includes the sale of produce and the purchase of inputs.
“Khula has very attractive fundamentals, a sizeable addressable market, App development capabilities, key agri-business networks and a management team that wishes to work with AECI as their preferred agri-input and technical advisory partner,” he said.
“This is an exciting opportunity for AECI to digitally reposition itself in the agri- input market space, while leveraging our product, technical and distribution capabilities. It aligns well with our corporate social responsibility and community outreach and supports the 2030 Sustainable Development goals of Zero Hunger, Responsible Consumption and Production and Job Creation for a better world.”