iFarmer, a full-stack agriculture platform providing agri-based services to farmers, recently raised $2.1 million (more than Tk18 crore) in a new financing round, maintaining its accelerated growth.
IDLC Venture Capital Fund, the venture capital arm of the top local non-bank financial institution IDLC Finance, led the financing round, according to a press statement.
New York-based hedge fund Millville Opportunities participated in the round.
Startup Bangladesh Limited, the flagship venture capital fund of the ICT ministry, also participated in the financing round.
Bangladesh has about 1.65 crore farmers, and almost 80% are smallholders. The biggest challenges for farmers in Bangladesh are securing finance and good quality agricultural inputs such as seeds, pesticides and fertilisers, and then finding buyers to sell their produce.
iFarmer, which started its operations in 2019, is the largest agritech company in the country offering solutions to these problems at scale.
It facilitates retail and institutional funders to finance farmers and enables access to high-quality agri-inputs through a partnership with companies and retailers.
This, in turn, creates better market access for farmers by aggregating products from farmers and selling those to institutional buyers and retailers as well as in the wholesale markets.
"We are currently operating in 19 districts in Bangladesh – serving over 63,000 farmers, up from about 6,000 farmers in 2020," said Fahad Ifaz, co-founder and chief executive officer of iFarmer.
It works with around 2,900 agri-input retailers to supply agriculture inputs, enabling farmers to buy quality agro-inputs at an affordable price from nearby retailers.
Currently, iFarmer supplies over 8,000 tonnes of agri-produce directly procured from the farmers and then sells it to institutional buyers, wholesale markets, and retailers.
It has grown on every front, including the revenue, which increased by 7.7 times in 2022. The revenue is driven by the supply of agri-produce to the market, sales of agri-inputs to the retailers, and commission from financing.
"When we started supplying farm produce in June 2020, our monthly volume was around 50 tonnes. Now it is around 8,000 tonnes. Every day, we aggregate produce from farmers and supply it to the market," said Jamil M Akbar, co-founder and COO of iFarmer.
Fahad Ifaz, the CEO of iFarmer, has worked for almost 10 years in agricultural and rural development across South Asia with organisations like the World Bank, CARE, and Swisscontact.
Meanwhile, Jamil Akbar, the COO, has a background in technology and project management for large scale IT companies serving global clients.
"The IDLC Venture Capital Fund-I aim to finance promising new businesses which are solving fundamental problems for Bangladesh. We are excited that iFarmer is unlocking the true potential of the agriculture sector through technology at scale," said Mustafizur Khan, partner of IDLC VC-1.
"It is using innovation to enable farmers all across Bangladesh, and we believe they are solving the most crucial problems in the industry's supply chain," he added.
Alejandro Montealegre, the managing partner of Millville Opportunities, said, "iFarmer has proven that it can significantly improve the lives of farmers while bringing efficiency to the agri-supply chain. We are excited to back iFarmer as they are working to transform the agriculture sector that is critical to the economy of Bangladesh."
The startup plans to deploy the fresh capital to expand to more districts in Bangladesh, expand its supply chain infrastructure to supply agri-inputs, and also aggregate farm produce.
iFarmer has also been conducting pilots on agriculture insurance and developing sensor and remote sensing-based advisory services such as soil analysis, fertiliser recommendation, and weather advisory.