Agritech Startup Shows How To Stay Dollar-Positive Amid Nigeria’s Currency Challenges


Winich Farms an Agritech startup shows how to stay dollar-positive amid Nigeria’s currency challenges 


The recent recovery of the Naira against the US Dollar (in mid-April, it hit a seven-month high against the world’s most used currency) will have come as welcome news to economically stressed Nigerians. Few, however, would have forgotten how bad things were just a few months previously. In February, the local currency hit a record low, having depreciated 44% against the dollar since the start of 2024. 


That depreciation did not just impact Nigerians, who had to pay more at the petrol pumps and in shops. It also impacted local startups, particularly those reliant on funding and investment. As most funding is delivered in dollars, even the healthiest balance sheets can look underwhelming when translated from naira to the US currency. As a result, those startups can find it challenging to retain and attract investment.

As agritech startup Winich Farms proves, however, challenging does not mean impossible. Backed by investors including Founders Factory Africa, Winich Farms is an inventory supplier and organiser which connects small and medium-sized factories with a pool of more than 40 000 small-scale farmers. By staying true to its vision, utilising technology effectively, and leaning on the available support, it’s grown successfully, even in an incredibly challenging economic environment.


“Winich Farms is one of the leading companies in our agritech portfolio. We were among Winich Farms’ earliest investors and backers, with their progress in serving small-scale farmers exceptional,” says Sam Sturm, Chief Portfolio Officer at Founders Factory Africa “What it’s managed to achieve through a carefully considered approach shows what’s possible for African startups, even in challenging economic environments.”


Addressing real problems 


According to Winich Farms co-founder and CEO, Riches Attai, one key component of that success has been its ability to address a real and locally relevant problem, something which has been baked into the company from its inception.


“My first startup, which I founded while still in university, involved the packaging of beans,” he says. “One of the major challenges we experienced while in that business was the high cost of procuring beans from the local market. This was worrying, because at the time Nigeria was the largest producer of beans in the world. We even discovered that beans were cheaper in London than in Nigeria.”


After some investigation, Attai and his co-founders realised that a big part of the problem is layers of middlemen. These middlemen add three or four layers to the supply chain before products arrive at market for purchase by the consumer, with prices increasing at each layer.


They also realised that these layers meant that small-scale farmers were not getting fair prices for their goods, making it more difficult for them to make a living and stay on their farms. Further down the line, processors and retailers were also being harmed by the presence of middlemen, stunting their ability to grow and scale. The solution? A mobile platform that uses mobile technology to help informal processors and retailers access their inventory directly from smaller farmers without the activities and added margins of middlemen.


Utilising technology in ways that make sense locally 


As Attai points out, success on that front made the Winich Farms team realise that there were other opportunities to help its customers, particularly when it comes to financial inclusion.


“We realised that we could use the data we have on our customers, many of whom are unbanked to access financing,” he says. “So we built an algorithm that helps build their credit score and access financing, insurance, and other services that are so important in the world of business.”


It’s something, he says, that works especially well in a market like Nigeria.


“Nigeria has a population of more than 200 million people,” he says. “Of those, around 35 million are smallholder farmers. It would be untenable to expect them to move to the city and find better-paying jobs – although many do. It’s much better to ensure that they can more effectively make money doing what they know best.”


Farmers, Attai adds, are receptive to this approach too.


“A lot of people say farmers are very resistant to change,” Attai adds, “and that they’ll reject any new technology you try and show them. But that’s not the case. If you can show a farmer that a new method, process, or technology will help them increase productivity and, in turn, income, they happily embrace it.”


The right support matters 


According to Attai, it would have been significantly more difficult for the company to achieve what it has without the support of venture capital investors like Founders Factory Africa. Particularly key, he says, is the fact that Founders Factory Africa (FFA) has the expertise necessary to give African companies the support they need to succeed.


“I cannot speak highly enough about FFA and how its support has helped us,” he says. “It understands the local context, what’s obtainable in the market and when it offers solutions, it doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, it provides the kind of backing that allows companies to achieve what’s obtainable in that local market.”


Authentic success 


As a result of these and other factors, Winich Farms moves an average of over 3 billion naira (approximately US$3 million) worth of produce every month. Additionally, it closed the year with over US$30 million worth of transactions and about US$1.9 million in revenue.


When asked how other entrepreneurs can achieve similar levels of success Attai says it’s important for Nigerian founders to realise that they’re all in it together and to lean on the entrepreneurial community. But, he adds, there are fundamentals everyone should get right.


“Build for your customers,” he says. “To do so effectively, you have to keep engaging with them. It’s important to keep that engagement up as you iterate and evolve your product. If you understand what customers want and build according to their feedback, you stand a much better chance of building solutions that will be resilient and pass the test of time.”