Apollo Agriculture, based in Kenya, delivers customized packages of seed, fertilizer, and insurance on credit for smallholder farmers. The farmer customers also receive valuable guidance in farming techniques and information on weather conditions that may affect results. Accion Venture Lab was an early investor in the company and continues to work with Apollo in an advisory capacity.
Technology is at the center of Apollo’s model. Its founders, Eli Pollak and Earl St. Sauver, built on their experience at The Climate Corporation using data to help farmers make better-informed decisions. Apollo’s systems rely on remote sensing technology, data science, mobile money, and voice-based trainings to make them cost-effective and scalable.
At the same time, Apollo’s results-driven, customer-focused approach means it must stay in close contact with farmers and gather feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Some of its staff’s work is almost entirely out in the field. For example, Rebecca, a field associate, works with both farmers and with the Apollo agents that visit their farms and set them up with their accounts. She finds the opportunity to speak directly with customers very rewarding. She says, “I’m most satisfied when the farmers come to me and tell me how the quality of their harvest has gotten better. When you help that farmer come from nowhere, to know something, and he appreciates you, it gets you excited that you got to help. This inspires me to keep doing this.”
Other Apollo staffers focus more on the technical systems, like Nairobi-based operations designer Javan, who collaborates with the tech team to identify and address issues in various processes. Even so, keeping up with customers is a central part of his work, as he explains, “ We have a call center team that gets feedback from the field. I also deal with farmer communication, making sure that we are in touch with our farmers as often as we can, reminding them to check payments.” He also goes out into the field himself to see how processes are working and solve problems as they arise.
Says Javan, “The small farmers grow food that the country depends on, both for the community and their own family. I like work that impacts communities. It feels great.”