Oghenetega Iortim built Nigerian-based cold-chain startup Figorr after imagining better means of storage and transportation of temperature-sensitive products, following the post-harvest losses from his fresh agro-produce venture.
Figorr (previously Gricd) runs 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 to cut the losses that emerge from lack of such visibility. Figorr’s devices, which are placed/stuck in cold-storage setups, come at no cost, but users subscribe to access the collected data.
Iortim says Figorr is currently on an expansion bid, following an increase in demand for its solutions outside Nigeria. The expansion is driven by a successful $1.5 million seed funding it has raised in a round led by Atlantica Ventures, with participation from VestedWorld, Jaza Rift Ventures and Katapult VC. The startup has so far raised $1.7 million equity funding, and $275,000 grants from various entities such as the Google Black Founders Fund, Africa Business Heroes by Jack Ma Foundation, FbStart and Lafiya Innovators by Impact Hub.
“Kenya is a very interesting market for us, especially because of the agricultural play. We also believe it could be a very key springboard into new markets,” Iortim, Figorr founder and CEO, told TechCrunch.
Figorr is also set to launch a risk management platform before the year ends, which will provide insurance companies with the data needed to introduce tailor-made products to their customers. The platform will be built against the data that Figorr has been collecting over the last three years to show the risk profiles of its customers.
Iortim believes that with suitable and specific data, insurance companies will be better placed to provide tailored products.
“One major challenge we have seen by serving the sector is that a lot of our customers fear getting notifications that their products are being exposed to harsh conditions, and this is simply because historically, perishables are a risky sector,” said Iortim.
“We are helping insurance companies to see the opportunity by providing them with the data [and] for our customer, if something goes wrong, they will have some comfort that insurance is providing 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 smallholder farmers.
Iortim said having insurance will not only insure businesses from losses, but also ensure products are cheaper as businesses will not need to pass costs emerging from losses down to their customers.
Iortim launched Figorr in 2019, as a provider of mobile solar-powered storage boxes, before pivoting to double down on the IoT component of the product.
“When we built the solution, a lot of people were more interested in that IoT component, and in 2020 we decided to focus on helping businesses monitor, temperature-sensitive products, informing them on the location as well, helping them preempt and prevent losses from happening,” he said.
Iortim expects Figorr to continue growing buoyed by the fast-rising opportunities in Africa’s agriculture and health sectors.
In Nigeria, the device is mainly used in the healthcare sector to monitor temperature-sensitive products like vaccines and insulin, while in markets like Kenya, there is demand in the agriculture quarter, especially by horticulture businesses.
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, yet this is preventable if the food is kept safely and monitored in real-time to prevent losses. It is estimated that half of the vaccines in the world go to waste mainly due to cold-chain breaches.
Startups like Figorr are helping prevent these losses caused by poor storage and lack of monitoring.
“What we are building is something that really impacts people,” said Iortim. "You can actually see the real effect on people's lives in terms of accessibility to healthcare, and improved incomes.”