East Africa Fruits Co., a Tanzanian version of Twiga Foods, addressing food distribution challenges to improve efficiencies in the farm-to-market sector has closed Series A equity funding totaling $2.05 million.
East Africa Fruits Co. says the fundraising round was led by Goodwell Investments with participation from FINCA Ventures and elea. The firm will use the funds to build essential supply chain infrastructure and better transport fresh produce directly from farms to urban marketplaces and strengthen livelihoods for small-scale farmers and food vendors.
According to Elia Timotheo, founder and CEO of East Africa Fruits, “We’re eager to scale our operations, expand the reach of our smallholder farmer network and our distribution footprint, and ultimately to demonstrate real impact in the lives of local farmers and informal food vendors.”
The social enterprise provides a stable, fair market for horticulture crops by aggregating supply and demand and improving cold chain distribution and warehousing infrastructure that reduces post-harvest loss and increases availability and quality of produce in local markets.
The combined $3.1 million in Series A equity and debt capital will help the company to grow its operations. Over the next three years, East Africa Fruits will serve over 10,000 farmers and 6,000 small-and-medium enterprise (SME) vendors. The company will also acquire new machinery for its main distribution center and build essential infrastructure and technology to collect, store and distribute produce to match demand more accurately.
Founded in 2013, the firm’s main goal has been to transform the farm-to-market value chain — reducing the waste by removing layers of middlemen and delivering more control, transparency and efficiency to small-scale farmers and informal vendors. In Tanzania, roughly half of what farmers produce never reaches the market and this loss is spread out across the farm-to-market value chain due to poor transportation and storage that results in spoilage, and a lack of market training for smallholder farmers. With more robust and technology-driven infrastructure, the firm aims to bring greater efficiencies to the sector and increase productivity and living standards for local farmers and the vendors who rely on them.
East Africa Fruits is the first agricultural investment under Goodwell’s uMunthu portfolio which addresses food security as the majority of produce never reaches the market due to poor food transportation, lack of cold chain food storage and inadequate market information for farmers.
“Our investment in East Africa Fruits will help address these challenges. The substantial impact on enhancing food security and empowering the farmers through market linkage, driven by outstanding, local entrepreneurs, makes EAF a perfect match to our investment philosophy,” said Joel Wanjohi, Associate Partner and Lead Investment Manager, East Africa, at Goodwell Investments.
“East Africa Fruits is not only improving market linkages in the value chain for smallholder farmers and vendors in the market, but also they are enhancing the potential for financing smallholder farmers and market vendors by raising income levels and providing predictable and well-documented cash flows,” added Ami Dalal, Managing Director of FINCA Ventures. “Expanding and strengthening East Africa Fruits’ offerings will support greater economic and financial inclusion for farmers and small food businesses in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Stefan Kappeler, Managing Director and COO at elea added that East Africa Fruits directly links supply and demand by working closely with smallholder farmers who receive fair prices for their produce as well as with their clients catering to end consumers demanding fresh quality products both in the formal and informal market.
“This approach creates livelihoods for thousands of smallholder farmers in rural Tanzania while at the same time ensuring food security for the people,” Kappeler. “We are very much looking forward to working together with East Africa Fruits in the years to come and providing strategic support and sector-specific insights.”