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Kenyan AI focused start-up raises US$85m in funding

AI solutions focused and Kenyan venture Gro Intelligence has raised US$85-million in Series B funding.

According to a statement published on its website, the round was co-led by Intel Capital, Africa Internet Ventures (a strategic partnership between TPG Growth and EchoVC), and the family offices of Ronald Lauder and Eric Zinterhofer.

They were joined by previous investors DCVC and GGV Capital. Participating new investors include Schusterman Family Investments, Dick Parsons, Rethink Food and various strategic family offices.

Gro Intelligence is described as an AI-powered insights company that provides decision-making tools, solutions and analytics to the food, agriculture, and climate economies and their participants.

Sara Menker, Gro’s Founder and CEO, is quoted in the statement as saying: “Food security and climate risk represent existential global-sized opportunities for our AI-powered decisions and insights platform. We see a tremendous need for the market knowledge provided by the Gro Platform. Our customers have come to rely on Gro as a unique source of actionable data-driven insights about our food supply and models to measure and manage associated climate change risk to physical and financial assets across the globe. We are absolutely delighted to welcome our new investors and continue to be grateful to our existing investors for their support.”

Gro Intelligence says it will use the financing to accelerate the growth and global adoption of the Gro Platform, enhancing the platform’s machine-learning capabilities and delivering localised insights on food, agriculture and climate risk.

Trina Van Pelt, Senior Managing Director, Intel Capital stated: “Gro Intelligence is one of the most exciting AI companies and is tackling two of the world’s biggest challenges: food security and climate risk. Their software-based platform will drive compute-powered cross-border knowledge to surface meaningful insights and enable better informed agricultural decisions.We are excited to co-lead this investment round because Gro Intelligence’s technology aligns with our mission of unleashing the power of data to improve the world.”

Yemi Lalude, Managing Partner of TPG Africa, added: “Gro Intelligence has had a remarkable journey so far and demonstrates the growing importance of AI in driving a more sustainable food supply.TPG Growth is proud to have supported the company from its beginnings in Nairobi to the forefront of today’s efforts to make companies and institutions across multiple industries around the world more resilient to climate change and climate risk.”

Through its partnership with EchoVC, TPG Growth also led Gro’s Series A-2 financing round in 2017.

“With its AI-powered platform, Gro Intelligence is solving, at scale, two of the world's most pressing problems - climate risk and food security,” said Julia Paliare, Managing Director at the Family Office of Ronald Lauder. “Sara’s vision, leadership and experience, along with the remarkable technology and team she has assembled, have positioned the company for accelerated growth at a time when these issues are so critically important.”

Demand for ethical AI

Artificial Intelligence has been identified as a top emerging technology going forward by research houses.

The Forrester report ‘Top Trends and Emerging Technologies, Q3 2020’ identified rising demand for ethical AI as a key trend.

“Today, however, values-based consumers and employees expect companies to adopt AI in a responsible fashion. Over the next few years, firms will deliberately choose to do business with partners that commit to data ethics and adopt data handling practices that reflect their own values and their customers’ values.”

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