Agrifood Tech | June 6, 2024

Kenyan agri-data provider Gro Intelligence shuts down

Lucy Ngige
Guest Author

Lucy Ngige

Nairobi-based Gro Intelligence has spent the last 12 years analyzing and delivering predictive farm data in order to improve the resilience of global agri-food chains. But the company, once named a Time100 influential business, is shutting down after a string of layoffs and challenges fundraising.

The demise follows a shake-up in March, when Gro laid off 60% of its workers and CTO James Cariello replaced founder Sara Menker as CEO.

It’s the latest setback for Africa’s startup scene: Kenyan logistics provider Copia and agri-logistics firm iProcure have recently gone into receivership following fundraising difficulties. 

Illuminating food risk

Menker, an Ethiopia-born Wall Street commodities trader, said she founded Gro “in order to get people to pay attention to food system risk.” The agricultural commodity market, she added, “needs to be able to articulate risks more clearly.”

Gro was an early mover in providing agricultural insights to global companies like Unilever, Yum!, BNP Paribas and Wells Fargo. It culled data from thousands of government sites, as well as satellite imagery and trade organizations and other sources, then forecast trends in supplies, crop yields, product demand, and more recently, climate risk.

Gro’s demise may have stemmed from a potential business strength: “Gro’s use cases are endless,” argued EchoVC, a venture fund for underrepresented founders that backed Gro’s $85 million Series B round alongside TPG Growth, Rethink Food and others in 2021. Market observers say the company was never able to build a sticky or scalable product around the data it collected.

“Without a single killer core use-case, achieving and maintaining product-market fit can be challenging,” commented Emeka Ajene of African tech newsletter Africadigest.