Agrolend raises $21M to build the “Nubank for farmers”

The Brazilian fintech is looking to give farmers access to credit through a user-friendly mobile app

São Paulo-based Agrolend is the latest company to go after the problem of lack of credit for farmers
By Marcella McCarthy (EN)
January 20, 2022 | 10:15 PM

Miami — Today, Agrolend, a Brazilian fintech that’s hoping to build a “Nubank for farmers,” closed on a $14 million Series A round led by Valor Capital with participation from Continental Grain Company, SP Ventures, Provence Ventures and Barn Invest. The company also raised $7 million in debt.

Founded by brothers André and Alan Glezer, who both have strong financial markets backgrounds, Agrolend works with retailers to the agriculture sector to offer credit to farmers via an app.

André first came across the problem of lack of credit to farmers when he was working in private equity in the food and agriculture space. The group he worked for was looking to consolidate the more than 9000 various agricultural retailers in Brazil. But along the way, André noticed another problem in the sector.

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“It became clear to me that the biggest opportunity was to build a bank for farmers,” he said. Agriculture is a huge sector in Brazil, but farmers aren’t a group that traditionally receives funding from the big Brazilian banks, and startup hopefuls are starting to take notice. Just last week I wrote about TerraMagna, another Brazilian startup tackling the farmer credit problem. Terra raised a $40 million round led by SoftBank.

How it works

Agrolend takes the Nubank approach to banking by making it simple, fast, and secure.

“Farmers can ask for a loan through a mobile app - it takes about 90 seconds - and then in 5-10 minutes we can tell the farmer if the loan was approved, and the contract gets sent via WhatsApp,” said André, CEO and co-founder of Agrolend.

Tech is often lauded for bringing efficiency to sectors that have previously been cumbersome, and financial services is definitely one of those areas.

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“Our product is saving time because our solution is bureaucracy free. We’re saving time for people who are very productive,” Alan said.

To be able to scale quickly, Agrolend works with retailers who “sell” the service on Agrolend’s behalf. The money is sent directly to the retailer, and the farmer can then use that money to purchase goods from that retailer alone. To make sure the retailers only offer Agrolend to farmers they trust, retailers have to guarantee 50% of the loan.

“In terms of product risk, we believe that we have lower risk if we aren’t giving the money to the farmer directly,” said Alan, CFO and co-founder of Agrolend. “That way we know they are using the money responsibly and for what it was intended for,” he added.

Agrolend pays the retailer a commission for each loan they secure and that gets paid back, said Alan.

This sophisticated structure gives Agrolend security while also allowing it to scale quickly, since they don’t have to reach out to each farmer individually and can instead access the retailers’ existing client base. The company launched in April of 2021 and already has clients in 11 Brazilian states and more than 100 cities.

“We are present in all regions and all crops so we’re a very diversified business,” said André.

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The brothers, who also have other co-founders including Valéria Bonadio, Leopoldo Vettor, and Carlos Fagundes, have made sure to diversify in multiple ways to reduce risk. Because Brazil is such a large country, “we can also mitigate the climate and weather risk,” said Alan, stressing that they also diversify in terms of crops, too.

The company has 15 full-time employees and plans to use the money from this round to grow the team to 50 by year end, increase the credit portfolio, and further develop the platform and its credit model.