Kenyan energy startup SunCulture raises $11m to expand solar-powered irrigation across Africa

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Kenyan solar irrigation startup SunCulture has received a US$11 million debt funding round to expand its operations across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Founded in 2013, SunCulture offers solutions tailored to smallholder farmers, combining technology with pay-as-you-go (PAYG) financing and value-add services. Claiming to be the first company to commercialise solar-powered irrigation in Africa, SunCulture currently reaches customers across Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Senegal, Togo, and Ivory Coast. 

The startup, which raised a US$14 million Series A funding round last year, has secured a US$11 million credit facility arranged by SunFunder, a financing company specialised in solar energy, and joined by new financial partners including the Off-Grid Energy Access Fund of the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Energy Inclusion Facility (OGEF); Triodos Investment Management, the Danish government’s Nordic Development Fund (NDF); and the investment company AlphaMundi.

SunCulture, which says it is the first company to commercialise solar-powered irrigation in Africa, will use the capital to expand further across the continent. It hopes to prevent the emission of 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year as farmers replace diesel pumps with solar ones whilst facilitating income growth and job opportunities in rural communities.

“The past year was devastating for the millions of smallholder farmers in Kenya; 87 per cent are in a worse financial position due to the pandemic. Eighty-one per cent of SunCulture farmers, however, were able to increase their revenue from farming in 2020. Solar irrigation helps create food security and sovereignty, and it also helps lift people out of poverty. This facility further enables our efforts to support farmers by providing them with more of our solar solutions and faster,” said Samir Ibrahim, chief executive officer (CEO) at SunCulture.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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