MORE NIGERIAN STARTUPS SECURE SEED FUNDING AND GRANTS

By: Veronica Alfred

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On the 15th of September 2021, Releaf, an Agritech startup, secured $4.2 million in seed funding and grants to industrialize its food processing technology. Releaf was founded in 2017 by Ikenna Nzewi and Uzoma Ayogu to invent and operate industrial food processing technology for African crops.

Releaf’s mission is to reduce post-harvest loss encountered by smallholder farmers.
Releaf started with the Palm Oil sector by providing a technology called Kraken, which helps smallholder farmers crack the palm kernels. The technology helps break and crush palm kernels which are then sold to local vegetable oil manufacturers. According to CEO Ikenna Nzewi, Releaf identifies as pre-processors that work with smallholder farmers and large industrial processors of food commodities. Releaf handles the logistics and adds value to the items so that they are of high quality. These processes aim to reduce the barriers affecting quality food industrialization by increasing the quality of raw materials in circulation.

Releaf has solved the problem of access to high-quality raw materials by becoming a bridge between small farmers and factories who require the materials and adding value to Nigeria’s industrialization. With Kraken, the company can meet its goals as it processes high-quality palm kernels into premium input for food factories with 95% purity.
Releaf raised $2.7 million seed funding in a round led by Samurai Incubate Africa, Future Africa, and Consonance Investment Managers. Stephen Pagliuca, Chairman of Bain Capital, and Justin Kan (Twitch) also participated in the round. In addition to the $2.7 million seed funding, Releaf also secured $1.5 million in grants from The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) and USAID. The company stated:

” The seed funding will enable the development of Nigeria’s industrial food processing technology in the oil palm sector powered by small farmers. Furthermore, the grant will enable Releaf to provide smallholder farmers and small processors with working capital and other value-added services”. In addition, grant funding will support the training, recruitment, and retention of more women and youth in Nigeria Oil Palm sector through the creation of both digital and technical jobs.”

54gene is another Healthcare Start-up that has secured significant funding to aid its innovative efforts. 54gene, currently dubbed as the most innovative startup in Nigeria, raised $25 million in Series B funding to scale up its efforts to address the significant gap in the global genomics market. Cathay AfricInvest Innovation Fund led the Series B round. This round also included Adjuvant Capital, KdT Ventures, Plexo Capital, Endeavor Capital, and Ingressive Capital. The company has stated that,
“ It will utilize the newly-raised capital to expand capabilities in sequencing, target identification, and validation, clinical trials as well as drug discovery for the benefit of both Africans and the global population.”

Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong founded 54gene in 2019. 54gene functions as a health technology platform company involved in building diverse datasets to unlock scientific discoveries, improve diagnostic and treatment outcomes within Africa and the global community. 54gene utilizes drug discovery, molecular diagnostics, and clinical trial programs specifically inclusive of African populations to achieve this.

Since its inception, 54gene has raised a total of $45 million in fund investments to support its innovative efforts, $15 million in Series A, and a $4.5 million seed round in the previous years. Research shows that although Africans have the most genetically diverse DNAs globally, they are the most underrepresented in genomics research, making up less than 3% of the world’s genetics database. 54gene is aiming to bridge this gap by building an African-specific database and lead drug discovery on the continent.

FONTEVeronica Alfred
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