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    HomeEcosystem NewsEASTERN AFRICANetflix Co-Founder and Former Alphabet CEO Back Kenya-based Irrigation Startup SunCulture in...

    Netflix Co-Founder and Former Alphabet CEO Back Kenya-based Irrigation Startup SunCulture in $27M Funding Round

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    In a move highlighting their commitment to sustainable development and technological innovation, Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix, and Eric Schmidt, former chief executive of Alphabet, have participated in a funding round for SunCulture, an African solar irrigation startup based in Kenya. This investment, totaling US$27 million, signals a strong endorsement from prominent tech leaders towards initiatives aimed at addressing agricultural challenges in Africa.

    SunCulture, a Nairobi-based company, announced that Hastings and Schmidt, alongside other investors such as InfraCo Africa and Acumen Fund, have injected capital into the venture. Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that this influx of funds will support SunCulture’s mission to provide small-scale farmers with affordable, solar-powered water pumps. These pumps, subsidized by the sale of carbon credits, enable farmers to transition away from diesel-powered pumps, consequently enhancing yields in previously unirrigated fields.

    The impact of SunCulture’s initiatives extends beyond Kenya, with operations also in Uganda and Ivory Coast, and distribution agreements in Ethiopia, Zambia, and Togo. This expansion underscores the company’s commitment to addressing the needs of smallholder farmers across the African continent.

    Reed Hastings emphasized the importance of SunCulture’s mission, stating, “SunCulture helps farmers grow more food, which is exactly the kind of business that prospers.” This endorsement reflects the growing recognition of agriculture as a critical sector for economic development in Africa.

    SunCulture’s founding in 2013 by Samir Ibrahim and Charlie Nichols, who met during a business degree program at New York University, stemmed from a shared vision to revolutionize agriculture through innovative solutions. The company’s flagship product, the RainMaker2 solar-powered irrigation system, exemplifies this vision, providing farmers with an efficient and sustainable water-pumping solution.

    The significance of SunCulture’s work lies in its ability to address longstanding challenges faced by smallholder farmers, including manual irrigation methods and dependence on unpredictable rainfall. Through the development, manufacturing, financing, and servicing of Internet of Things-enabled solar energy systems and irrigation equipment, SunCulture has empowered farmers to increase productivity while reducing costs.

    Moreover, SunCulture’s adoption of pay-as-you-grow financing models has democratized access to its products, enabling farmers to invest in irrigation infrastructure without upfront costs. This approach has proven successful, with over 45,000 units sold to date and a growing presence in international markets.

    In addition to its commercial success, SunCulture has prioritized sustainability by introducing VeraSol tested non-battery and battery-equipped solar irrigation systems. These innovations not only enhance the resilience of farmers to climate variability but also contribute to environmental conservation efforts.

    Looking ahead, SunCulture remains committed to its mission of empowering smallholder farmers and driving agricultural transformation across Africa. Through continued innovation, strategic partnerships, and investments from visionary leaders like Reed Hastings and Eric Schmidt, SunCulture is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of agriculture on the continent.

    Charles Rapulu Udoh is a Lagos-based lawyer, who has several years of experience working in Africa’s burgeoning tech startup industry. He has closed multi-million dollar deals bordering on venture capital, private equity, intellectual property (trademark, patent or design, etc.), mergers and acquisitions, in countries such as in the Delaware, New York, UK, Singapore, British Virgin Islands, South Africa, Nigeria etc. He’s also a corporate governance and cross-border data privacy and tax expert. As an award-winning writer and researcher, he is passionate about telling the African startup story, and is one of the continent’s pioneers in this regard.

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