Growth capital to advance supply chain technology company’s efforts to industrialize food processing in Africa
VIENNA, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Plesion Capital, a social impact venture capital firm focused on partnering with mission-based entrepreneurs and companies to combat poverty around the world, today announced a $250,000 investment in Releaf, a Nigerian agritech company. Releaf’s proprietary technology, which combines hardware and software solutions, is helping to scale Africa’s agricultural sector in a way that makes it more rewarding for farmers, food factories and consumers. Plesion’s investment follows Releaf’s recently closed $3.3 million pre-Series A round, which was oversubscribed.
Led by Co-founder and CEO Ikenna Nzewi and Co-founder and CTO Uzoma Ayogu, Releaf’s mission is to build climate adaptive supply chains to support Africa’s growing population, which is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050. Releaf’s supply chain technology helps Fast Moving Consumer Goods Companies (FMCGs) in Africa get high quality inputs cheaper. It accomplishes this by localizing food processing technology in farming clusters to increase quality and reduce logistic costs. Releaf also finances, sources and processes crops at scale, enabling farmers to focus on farming and factories to focus on processing. The company’s novel approach helps smallholder farmers reap more value from their crops, reduces inefficiencies in the supply chain, and results in lower prices for consumers.
Releaf is currently focused on revolutionizing Nigeria’s multi-billion-dollar oil palm industry, which has more than 4 million smallholder farmers who suffer from inefficient processing systems. Through their proprietary data solutions, they’re able to help provide resources to farms to boost supply. Farmers who are connected to Releaf’s sourcing and logistics application tool (SALT) are able to provide updates about their palm nut inventory and confirm the price and volume of palm nuts available for sale. SALT also provides farmers with training on land preparation, spacing, and planting, as well as support in sustainable land management to improve their resilience to climate change.
Releaf’s proprietary de-shelling hardware, Kraken, helps these farmers produce high-quality oil much faster and more efficient than traditional methods such as using rocks to crack palm nuts. Kraken provides more extraction efficiency, with 27-30% more yield of higher quality oil. As a result, Releaf is able to produce premium oil palm products with 95% purity, which is higher than the 88% industry standard.
“Industrializing food processing throughout Africa is a major opportunity that will create significant economic and societal benefits for all parties involved, especially farmers who often struggle to make a fair living off their land,” said Ben Finlay, Plesion Capital’s Founder and Managing Partner. “Kenna and Uzo have created exceptional technology solutions that are helping to address this pressing need by acting as a bridge between farmers and factories. We look forward to supporting Releaf’s efforts to grow its operations and eventually expand into other crops.”
Plesion Capital is currently focused on African-based investment opportunities that have the potential to address major societal challenges across the continent. Its focus areas include food insecurity, clean water access and improving infrastructure, both financial and physical. In January, the firm announced its inaugural investment in Uganda-based XENO Corporation, a fintech platform that helps millions in Africa to plan, save and invest for their financial goals whether they have internet access or not. Over time, Plesion Capital intends to expand into other markets globally.
About Plesion Capital
Plesion Capital is a social impact venture capital firm focused on partnering with mission-based entrepreneurs and companies to combat poverty around the world. Plesion Capital’s strategy is predicated on making pre-seed and seed investments in promising startups whose products and services are positively influencing the lives of people by helping to reduce extreme poverty and creating new opportunities for economic growth. Plesion Capital was founded in July of 2022 by Ben Finlay and is deploying capital from its first fund. For more information, please visit: www.plesioncapital.com.
Releaf is a technology company that makes it easier for FMCG manufacturers in Africa to access high quality ingredients for their factories. Starting with Nigeria’s oil palm sector, Releaf is bringing processing capacity closer to farmers in a way that aligns with Africa’s traditionally decentralized farming industry. Releaf has developed and patented Kraken – West Africa’s most advanced palm nut de-sheller – by themselves from scratch, and uses geospatial technology to place them in the most profitable locations relative to suppliers and consumers. Releaf has also developed Site, a geospatial mapping web application that will make it easier for consumer goods manufacturers to place their factories in the most profitable locations relative to suppliers and customers.
Since launching its first prototype of Kraken in January 2021, Releaf has processed more than 10,000 tons of palm nuts and grown its monthly revenue an average of 25%. The company has also secured more than $75 million in bookings and become a favored supplier for some of the leading FMCG manufacturers on the continent, including Presco, PZ Cussons and more. For more information, please visit www.releaf.africa.
Matthew Chudoba and Kerri Harper