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May 22, 2024
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Netflix Founder, Others Back African Solar Irrigation Startup With $27m

Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings and former Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt, via their foundation, recently participated in a funding round for an African solar irrigation startup based in Kenya.

SunCulture, headquartered in Nairobi, announced that the two billionaires joined other investors, including InfraCo Africa and Acumen Fund, in injecting $27 million into the company.

The startup specializes in supplying small solar-powered water pumps to small-scale farmers, with the cost subsidized by the sale of carbon credits. This initiative enables farmers to replace diesel-powered pumps, thereby increasing yields in previously non-irrigated fields. Operating in Kenya, Uganda, and Ivory Coast, SunCulture also has distribution agreements in Ethiopia, Zambia, and Togo.

Hastings expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “SunCulture helps farmers grow more food, which is exactly the kind of business that prospers.”

SunCulture estimates that out of the 700 million Africans residing on small-holder farms, only 4% have access to irrigation, resulting in lower yields and susceptibility to dry weather conditions.

The company has already sold 47,000 units of its solar-powered irrigation systems, which consume minimal power, making them cost-effective alternatives to diesel and petrol pumps.

Samir Ibrahim, CEO of SunCulture, emphasized their mission, stating, “We’re the largest small-holder solar irrigation company in Africa. We use financial services and carbon revenues to make the cost of solar irrigation 50 percent cheaper than diesel and petrol pumps.”

With the Series B funding round totaling $65 million, SunCulture is closer to its goal of raising $219 million to install 274,000 systems in Kenya alone. This funding will be sourced from equity, debt, grants, and carbon financing.

Additionally, SunCulture plans to expand its operations across the continent, with pilot programs underway in various countries. The company also aims to diversify its offerings to include other farming services like soil testing and insurance.

Previous investors in SunCulture include EDF International SAS, DPI Energy Ventures, Equator Africa Fund, and Energy Access Ventures Fund.

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