Smallholder network Wefarm has raised $11 million in a “Series A-plus” funding round led by UK-based Octopus Ventures.
Several new and existing investors — including AgFunder, June Fund, LocalGlobe, Rabo Frontier Ventures, and True Ventures — also took part in the round, taking the startup’s total funding to date to $32 million. [Disclosure: AgFunder is AFN‘s parent company.]
London-based Wefarm enables smallholder farmers to connect with each other free-of-charge via SMS to share best practices and price intelligence, and transact in a trusted environment. To date it has primarily focussed on Africa, and has opened offices in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Since launching in 2015, the startup claims to have onboarded 2.5 million farmers. They’ve held over 37 million “knowledge-sharing conversations” using Wefarm’s text-messaging service, while the startup’s marketplace — which connects farmers with vetted suppliers — has generated sales worth $29 million over the same period.
Now, Wefarm is getting an upgrade.
The proceeds of its Series A-plus round will be deployed to fully launch an online service, including a forum where farmers can continue to support each other through knowledge sharing and “aggregate their buying and selling power to change the global supply chain,” according to the startup.
The SMS-based platform was pioneering back in 2015, allowing farmers in emerging markets to interact with each other without the need for internet access, which was scarcer at the time, typically too costly for many smallholders and beset by infrastructure problems.
But times have changed. Penetration of internet connectivity and smartphones, even in the most remote corners of developing economies, has grown at breakneck pace – while the costs of wireless devices and mobile data plans have likewise dropped substantially in many places.
‘We just invested in the fastest-growing agtech company and farmer network in the world’ – read AgFunder’s Series A investment note here
Though Wefarm has offered some internet-based services for a while, it appears these will now become more of a central focus as the startup’s existing and target user base is increasingly online.
“This is perhaps the largest community on Earth and yet it’s been vastly underserved by tech. Today, the community is ready to expand into an online space with us,” Wefarm founder and CEO, Kenny Ewan said in a statement.
“We have years of learnings and millions of data points to strengthen our first-mover advantage as we build the online expansion of Wefarm for hundreds of millions of farmers.”
Wefarm raised $13 million for its October 2019 Series A round, which was led by True Ventures. An earlier seed round in March 2018 saw it secure $5 million funding from Skype founder Niklas Zennström, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, Blue Bottle Coffee CEO Bryan Meehan, and Sweden’s Norrsken Foundation. UK-based Accelerated Digital Ventures has also invested in the startup.