Agriculture in Bangladesh, a country with 170m people, plays a central role in the country's $415 billion economy and Agritech startups are beginning to have a moment in Bangladesh.
iFarmer, a full-stack agriculture platform that provides services to farmers, Agri-input retailers, and buyers of Agri produce, has raised $2.1 million in a new financing round as the company looks to maintain its accelerated growth and expand across the country.
The round was led by IDLC Venture Capital Fund, the VC arm of IDLC Finance, with participation from Millville Opportunities, a New York-based hedge fund, and Startup Bangladesh Limited, the Bangladesh Government-funded VC firm.
Bangladesh has about 16.5 million farmers and almost 80% are smallholders. The biggest challenges for farmers in Bangladesh is securing finance and good quality Agricultural inputs such as seeds, pesticide, fertilizers, etc., and then finding buyers to sell their produce. According to the Asian Development Bank, farmers in Bangladesh get only 40% of the consumer retail price due to the high number of intermediaries in the supply chain and annual post-harvest losses amounting to $2.5 billion due to multiple layers of product handling.
iFarmer, which started its operations in 2019, is the largest agri-tech company in the country offering solutions to these problems at scale. iFarmer facilitates retail and institutional funders to finance the farmers, enables access to high-quality Agri inputs through partnerships with Agri input companies and retailers, and creates better market access for the farmers by aggregating products from the farmers and selling them to institutional buyers, retailers, and wholesale markets.
"We are currently operating in 19 districts in Bangladesh —serving close to 63,000+ farmers, up from about 6,000 farmers in 2020", says Fahad Ifaz, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the startup.
iFarmer works with nearly 2900+ Agri-input retailers to supply agriculture inputs, which enables the farmers to buy quality agro-inputs at an affordable price from nearby retailers. iFarmer is currently supplying 8000+ tons of agri-produce directly procured from the farmers, and then selling to institutional buyers, wholesale markets, and retailers.
iFarmer has grown on every front, including the revenue, which increased by 7.7X, 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+ tons. Now it’s almost 8000+ tons. Every day, we aggregate produce from farmers and supply it to the market” said Jamil M Akbar, Co-Founder, and COO of iFarmer.
“The IDLC Venture Capital Fund I, aims 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. 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", said Mustafizur Khan, Partner at IDLC VC 1.
Alejandro Montealegre from 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 transform the agriculture sector that is critical to the economy of Bangladesh.”
iFarmer 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, and hire top tech talents. iFarmer has also been conducting pilots on agriculture insurance and developing sensor and remote sensing-based advisory services such as soil analysis, fertilizer recommendation, and weather advisory.
iFarmer was part of the Singapore-based accelerator program, Accelerating Asia, and won Seedstars Bangladesh, APAC round in 2019, and also UNCDF`s Fintech Innovation award.