Oghenetega Lortim built Nigerian-based cold chain startup Figorr after devising better ways to store and transport temperature-sensitive produce following the post-harvest losses of his fresh agribusiness venture.
Figurer (formerly Grid) operates IoT-powered solutions that provide businesses, especially those in healthcare and agriculture, with key data such as location, humidity, and temperature of highly perishable products, helping entrepreneurs mitigate the losses resulting from a lack of such visibility. Figorr’s devices, which are placed/secured in cold storage setups, are free, but users subscribe to access the collected data.
Lortim says Figorr currently has an expansion bid, following an increase in demand for its solutions outside Nigeria. The expansion is powered by successful $1.5 million seed funding that it raised in a round led by Atlantica Ventures, with participation from Vested World, Jaza Rift and Catapult. The startup has so far raised $1.7 million in equity and $275,000 in grants from various entities such as the Google Black Founders Fund, Africa Business Heroes from Jack Ma Foundation, FbStart, and Lafiya Innovators from Impact Hub.
Outside of Nigeria, Figorr’s solutions are currently in use in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. It recently entered the Kenyan market to capitalize on the growth of its agricultural sector.
“Kenya is a very interesting market for us, especially because of agriculture. We also believe it can be a very important springboard to new markets.” LortimFigorr’s founder and CEO told toptecheasy.com.
Figorr will also launch a risk management platform before the end of the year, which will provide insurance companies with the data needed to introduce tailored products to their customers. The platform will be built on the data that Figorr has collected over the past three years to map the risk profiles of its clients.
Lortim believes that with suitable and specific data, insurance companies will be better able to offer tailor-made products.
“A major challenge we have seen serving the industry is that many of our customers are afraid of getting reports that their products are exposed to harsh conditions simply because perishables have historically been a high-risk industry,” said Lortim. .
“We help insurance companies see the opportunity by providing them with the data [and] for our client, if something goes wrong, they will have some comfort that the insurance will provide them with some level of coverage,” he said.
He says the insurance solution it is building will revolutionize the way business is done, especially for small farmers.
Lortim said having insurance will not only insure businesses against losses, but will also ensure that products are less expensive because businesses don’t have to pass on the costs resulting from losses to their customers.
Lortim launched Figorr in 2019, as a supplier of solar-powered mobile storage boxes, before focusing on doubling down on the IoT component of the product.
“As we built the solution, a lot of people were more interested in that IoT component, and in 2020 we decided to focus on helping companies monitor temperature-sensitive products, also informing them about the location, helping them prevent and preventing losses from happening,” he said.
Lortim expects Figorr to continue to grow, supported by rapidly rising opportunities in Africa’s agricultural and health sectors.
In Nigeria, the device is mainly used in healthcare to monitor temperature-sensitive products such as vaccines and insulin, while in markets such as Kenya there is a demand in the agricultural sector, particularly from horticultural companies.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 37% of the food produced, or 120-170 kg/year per capita, is lost or wasted due to poor storage and handling, but this can be avoided if the food is stored securely and monitored in real time to prevent losses. It is estimated that half of the world’s vaccines are lost, mainly due to cold chain breaches.
Startups like Figorr help avoid these losses caused by poor storage and lack of monitoring.
“What we’re building really impacts people,” says Lortim. “You can see the real effect on people’s lives in terms of access to health care and improved incomes.”
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