Last year I decided to start making a few angel investments. It’s a fantastic way to meet new founders, learn about industries and share in the excitement of an early-stage startup. One of the first companies I invested in is Agrigistics. They're building a farm operating system for African farmers.
The agriculture industry is largely ignored by South African tech entrepreneurs. While a dozen fintech startups launch each year, you could probably count the total number of active agritech startups on one hand. This is surprising given that in South Africa there are 10,000’s of farms contributing 2.4% of our GDP and accounting for 5% of formal employment. There’s a massive unrealised opportunity here!
Agrigistics was started by a team of mission-driven founders consisting of Luke Kroon, Johan Ferreira and Cilliers Geldenhuys. It’s rare to meet founders as customer-obsessed as the three of them. Every conversation with them leads back to solving problems for farmers and farm workers.
The idea that sparked Agrigistics was the realisation that rising labour costs would have a profound impact on farms. Most farms still rely on old school pen and paper to track what workers do, which is usually transcribed into Excel sheets sometime later. It’s a slow, cumbersome feedback loop that’s prone to error.
Agrigistics’ original innovation was a simple solution for tracking labour using Android devices and RFID tags. The platform would allocate the labour input to a specific field and crop, so farmers could see exactly how much labour went into each field on the farm. This data could be imported into payroll systems and dramatically speed up wage payments.
From this initial innovation, they have expanded their offering to include tracking fertilisers, chemicals, diesel and pest scouting. The magic happens once you’ve got all this data in a central place. Farmers end up making more informed decisions, increasing labour efficiency and planting more profitable crops each season.
Agriculture is a tough space to build a startup in. Farmers have a reputation for being tough customers and are cautious of adopting unproven technology. But Agrigistics have built up a growing group of fanatical customers. In 2021 they grew by 400%. In total, more than 60 farms and 4000 farm workers use their system.
In the long term, the Agrigistics platform is building a strong data moat. With enough data, the platform will be able to help farmers benchmark their processes, advise on optimal crops to plant and even provide financing. I believe the Agrigistics team has a shot at building one of Africa’s most impactful startups.
Other agritech startups
If you’re interested in other South African startups working in the agriculture industry check out: