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Growing Africa’s Agriculture Industry around Data

Sara Menker built Gro Intelligence, a firm that pulls global agricultural data from thousands of data sets, and then uses artificial intelligence to create forecasts for supply, demand, and pricing. Wondering how much pork will cost in China next year? Gro crunches tens of thousands of data points–weather, international trade volume, projected soybean and corn yields (i.e., pig food)–to produce an answer that makes sense to both pig farmers and hedge fund managers. Using publicly available satellite images from space agencies instead of private companies helps Gro offer pricing that starts at $1,000 a year. After quitting her Wall Street job in 2012, Menker, who was born in Ethiopia, spent two years studying the industry. She initially self-funded her operation, and then persuaded some of her former bosses to invest and started building a team in Nairobi, where the company still maintains an office in addition to its New York City headquarters. Gro has raised $40 million, which Menker says will help strengthen its data-crunching capabilities–and maybe solve some of the world’s larger problems.