Apollo Agriculture helps Kenyan smallholder farmers boost their yields 

Apollo

KENYA

Kenya /Apollo

Targeted financing through 
innovative technology

Innovation is key to increasing global food production. In Kenya, fintech startup Apollo Agriculture has proven just how true that is.  

Difficult to finance
Until recently, smallholder farmers were a difficult group to finance. The farmers live in remote, inaccessible areas, so manual approaches to serving this demographic are expensive and unprofitable, particularly given the small loan sizes that farmers seek. Moreover, farmers have little in the way of financial records, which makes financing more risky for standard banks. Despite wide consensus about what these farmers need to dramatically increase their production (high-quality inputs, advice, and insurance), the vast majority still can’t access these tools.

Apollo’s Approach 
Apollo Agriculture is working to overcome these challenges. Their innovation is twofold: first, they build credit profiles for unbanked smallholders using machine learning models that process large volumes of customer data, including satellite data of customers fields. Second, they have built automated operations that are designed to meet farmers’ unique needs in a more efficient, and cost-effective way. For instance, over the course of the season, Apollo customers receive guidance on farming techniques through highly engaging automated “IVR” phone calls. This IVR platform is one example of how Apollo’s digital approach allows them to communicate and engage with customers throughout the customer lifecycle in an informative and interactive way, regardless of literacy levels and remote locations.

Apollo’s goal is to enable the transition from subsistence to commercial farming.
The difference that Apollo has made for me is that during the training I have learned to apply the right amount of fertilizer to improve the spacing and to topdress the crops,” says Apollo customer and farmer Augustine Kimeto. “When I compare the new crops, my maize now has two to three cobs a stem as compared to one cob before.”

Lend-to-learn
Apollo received a loan from Rabo Foundation in 2017, their first year of lending. According to co-founder and CEO, Eli Pollak, that loan was essential. “You need data to build a credit model as a start-up company, but we didn’t have any yet. So in 2017, we provided credit to all of the farmers who applied for it. That might have been unorthodox, but it was a way for us to ensure that our model is not trained against a biased data set. Rabo Foundation understood that and offered us a ‘lend to learn’ loan. Once we had collected the data we needed, Rabo Foundation offered us a working capital credit line to scale up. Now we’re growing fast, because Rabo Foundation stepped in at exactly the right moment.” In 2018, Apollo scaled their lending 5x, providing smallholder farmers in Kenya with financing and support. An assessment conducted with Apollo customers shares that: 9 out of 10 farmers surveyed experienced major increases in their yields in 2018, and 85 percent saw their standard of living improve. Eli adds, “Eventually, we aim for the farmers to become eligible for commercial financing.”

Through the use of new technology and data, small-scale maize (and also sorghum, potato, and bean) farmers have gained access to agricultural inputs on credit, and significantly improved their yields and incomes.

“Thanks to greater focus on innovation in the chain and the farmers’ operations, Rabo Foundation can have an even greater impact. More and more people around the world have access to mobile phones and Internet. Satellite data and the capacity to analyze data also provide better insight into both the risks and the needs of smallholder farmers. Those kinds of developments offer all sorts of new opportunities. Apollo is a good example of how that can contribute to reaching more smallholder farmers. By combining innovation, technology and data, Apollo makes it easier for smallholder farmers to access financing, advice and insurance. In the past, that group has been difficult to finance.”


Martine Jansen, 
Senior Innovation Manager Rabo Foundation



Martine Jansen, Senior Innovatie Manager Rabo Foundation

Note
Apollo has received funding from several financiers, including Rabo Foundation. With the support of Rabo Foundation (since January 2018), this funding has enabled disbursement of over 4,000 of Apollo’s loans. Establishing a more detailed understanding of the effect of Apollo’s services on the production and income levels of farmers is something that both Rabo Foundation and Apollo consider to be crucial. While conclusive measurement of this impact would require a randomized controlled trial, which is highly resource intensive, Apollo works to corroborate the impact and effect of their product at several levels. This includes the collection of crop cut data from Apollo and non-Apollo farmers, external research, and impact assessments. Most recently, they completed a Lean Data assessment among Apollo customers, which found that the majority of their customers are experiencing increases in yields and improvements to their quality of life. Apollo plans to continue to assess this work over the coming years.

Apollo

KENYA

Kenya /Apollo

Targeted financing through 
innovative technology

Innovation is key to increasing global food production. In Kenya, fintech startup Apollo Agriculture has proven just how true that is.  

Alex Muli begon als mangoboer met grote ambities. ‘Ik wilde méér mango’s verkopen, ook in het buitenland. Maar mijn aanbod was te klein voor serieuze marktkansen. Om meer volume bij elkaar te krijgen, moest

Difficult to finance
Until recently, smallholder farmers were a difficult group to finance. The farmers live in remote, inaccessible areas, so manual approaches to serving this demographic are expensive and unprofitable, particularly given the small loan sizes that farmers seek. Moreover, farmers have little in the way of financial records, which makes financing more risky for standard banks. Despite wide consensus about what these farmers need to dramatically increase their production (high-quality inputs, advice, and insurance), the vast majority still can’t access these tools.

Apollo’s Approach 
Apollo Agriculture is working to overcome these challenges. Their innovation is twofold: first, they build credit profiles for unbanked smallholders using machine learning models that process large volumes of customer data, including satellite data of customers fields. Second, they have built automated operations that are designed to meet farmers’ unique needs in a more efficient, and cost-effective way. For instance, over the course of the season, Apollo customers receive guidance on farming techniques through highly engaging automated “IVR” phone calls. This IVR platform is one example of how Apollo’s digital approach allows them to communicate and engage with customers throughout the customer lifecycle in an informative and interactive way, regardless of literacy levels and remote locations.

Apollo’s goal is to enable the transition from subsistence to commercial farming.
The difference that Apollo has made for me is that during the training I have learned to apply the right amount of fertilizer to improve the spacing and to topdress the crops,” says Apollo customer and farmer Augustine Kimeto. “When I compare the new crops, my maize now has two to three cobs a stem as compared to one cob before.”

Lend-to-learn
Apollo received a loan from Rabo Foundation in 2017, their first year of lending. According to co-founder and CEO, Eli Pollak, that loan was essential. “You need data to build a credit model as a start-up company, but we didn’t have any yet. So in 2017, we provided credit to all of the farmers who applied for it. That might have been unorthodox, but it was a way for us to ensure that our model is not trained against a biased data set. Rabo Foundation understood that and offered us a ‘lend to learn’ loan. Once we had collected the data we needed, Rabo Foundation offered us a working capital credit line to scale up. Now we’re growing fast, because Rabo Foundation stepped in at exactly the right moment.” In 2018, Apollo scaled their lending 5x, providing smallholder farmers in Kenya with financing and support. An assessment conducted with Apollo customers shares that: 9 out of 10 farmers surveyed experienced major increases in their yields in 2018, and 85 percent saw their standard of living improve. Eli adds, “Eventually, we aim for the farmers to become eligible for commercial financing.”

Doelgerichter financieren
dankzij data

Financiële  zekerheid
door mango’s 

“Thanks to greater focus on innovation in the chain and the farmers’ operations, Rabo Foundation can have an even greater impact. More and more people around the world have access to mobile phones and Internet. Satellite data and the capacity to analyze data also provide better insight into both the risks and the needs of smallholder farmers. Those kinds of developments offer all sorts of new opportunities. Apollo is a good example of how that can contribute to reaching more smallholder farmers. By combining innovation, technology and data, Apollo makes it easier for smallholder farmers to access financing, advice and insurance. In the past, that group has been difficult to finance.”


Martine Jansen, 
Senior Innovation Manager Rabo Foundation



Martine Jansen, Senior Innovatie Manager Rabo Foundation