May 21, 2024
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Tech Titans Reed Hastings and Eric Schmidt Back African Solar Startup

Renowned tech personalities Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix, and Eric Schmidt, former chief executive of Alphabet, have joined forces to support African solar irrigation startup, SunCulture, based in Nairobi, Kenya. The duo participated in a funding round that raised a substantial $27 million for the company, alongside other investors such as InfraCo Africa and Acumen Fund.

SunCulture specializes in supplying small solar-powered water pumps to small-scale farmers across Kenya, Uganda, and Ivory Coast. These pumps, subsidized by the sale of carbon credits, replace traditional diesel-powered pumps, enabling farmers to enhance their crop yields, particularly in areas lacking access to irrigation.

According to Bloomberg, SunCulture’s innovative approach addresses a critical need, as only 4% of the 700 million Africans living on small-holder farms currently have access to irrigation, leaving them vulnerable to dry weather conditions and lower yields.

The startup has already made significant strides, selling 47,000 units of its solar-powered water pumps. These pumps, powered by solar panels, consume minimal energy, with some requiring as little as 310 watts, equivalent to the power needed for five standard-size incandescent light bulbs.

Samir Ibrahim, CEO of SunCulture, emphasized the company’s commitment to leveraging financial services and carbon revenues to make solar irrigation solutions 50% cheaper than traditional diesel and petrol pumps. He highlighted the transformative potential of irrigation technology, noting that it could increase crop yields by up to five times.

The recent Series B funding round, bringing the total raised by SunCulture to $65 million, marks a significant step towards the company’s goal of raising $219 million to install 274,000 solar irrigation systems in Kenya alone. These funds, sourced from equity, debt, grants, and carbon financing, will support the company’s expansion plans across the continent, including pilot projects in multiple countries.

Earlier investors in SunCulture’s funding rounds include prominent entities such as EDF International SAS, DPI Energy Ventures, Equator Africa Fund, and Energy Access Ventures Fund.

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