Safaricom's US$1 Million Spark Fund Has Invested In Agricultural Lending And Analytics Startup FarmDrive

FarmDrive a data analytics startup that connects small-scale farmers to financial services, has become the latest investment for Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund.

The service allows farmers to track their revenues and expenses, and as well as apply for loans through a mobile app.

FarmDrive was co-founded in 2014 by Rita Kimani and Peris Bosire, both Computer Science graduates from The University of Nairobi, and was inspired by the co-founders’ experiences growing up in smallholder farming communities. So far, 3,000 farmers have registered with FarmDrive and over KES 13 million (US$130,000) in loans disbursed.

The $1 million Spark Venture Fund was launched by Safaricom in 2015 with the aim of supporting the development and growth of high potential mobile tech startups in Kenya through a combination of investment, business development support and technical assistance.

“In an era when market uncertainty is creating new challenges for the agricultural sector, mobile-based technology solutions like FarmDrive can empower farmers with the critical access to finance and to help expand their access to other essential services. Bob Collymore, Safaricom CEO

The startups that the fund invests in get access to Safaricom’s unique capabilities, assets and market positioning, which they can then use to grow their market presence.

FarmDrive uses mobile technology to assign credit scores to farmers and other agricultural smallholders, giving them access to potential lenders through a combination of machine learning, data analytics, and user-friendly SMS systems. The app currently has 3,000 farmers in 16 counties in Kenya on its books, and has partnered with Musoni, a microfinance institution, to deliver access to credit for the farmers.

This is the fifth such deal for Spark Fund, with a sixth investment to close out the first funding round reportedly in the works. So far the fund has deployed about four-fifths of its US$1 million kitty on the first four deals, which saw it invest in Eneza Education, mSurvey, Sendy, and M-Ledger.

The investment from Spark Fund will be used to further develop and promote FarmDrive's credit scoring technology in order to attract more users to the app.

The details and terms of the deal were not reported.

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