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Safaricom's Spark Fund ploughs resources into agricultural analytics startup

Safaricom's Spark Fund ploughs resources into agricultural analytics startup

FarmDrive, a data analytics startup founded by two female University of Nairobi graduates, has secured investment of an undisclosed amount from Safaricom's Spark Venture Fund.

The startup developed an alternative credit-scoring model for small-scale farmers based on mobile phones and machine learning algorithms which it uses to connect them to financial services through their phone.

Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom vouched for the usefulness of the service offered by FarmDrive which he says helps to address the lack of visibility and data that lenders cite in denying smallholder farmers access to financial services

"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," said Collymore.

The FarmDrive mobile phone application also allows farmers to track their revenues and expenses in addition to applying for loans. The data that is gathered is then fed into a credit-scoring algorithm, alongside satellite, agronomic, economic data, to help improve yields. The various data sets are analysed in order for the algorithm to generate credit scores for farmers.

Rita Kimani, cofolunder of FarmDrive says the support from Safaricom's Spark Venture Fund will go towards supporting the next phase of growth by building FarmDrive's innovative credit scoring model and enhancing its human resource base in research, analysis and insight generation.

"We are excited about this investment because it enables us to scale this innovation, score more farmers, unlock more capital, and grow the agricultural loan portfolios of our financial institution partners. This is all good for the inclusive development of our country," said Kimani

FarmDrive is currently managed by a team of eight including the two cofounders and claims to have 3,000 farmers have registered and Kshs 13 million (US$130,000) accessed in loans. It comes in fifth on the list of investments by the Safaricom's Spark Venture Fund since the fund was established in 2015.

Previous benefactors include Eneza Education which provides exam revision tools and global mobile-first research platform mSurvey.

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