Lion Mountains launches Series A, pilot operations underway – exclusive

Phoenix Africa’s Sierra Leone rice farming project started operations in October and is now raising $1.1m to expand and buy more infrastructure.

Phoenix Africa’s Sierra Leone rice farming project, Lion Mountains, is on the road marketing a Series A round of funding after successfully launching pilot operations in the country during the fourth quarter of 2014.

The project is targeting $1.1 million in Series A funding to buy a new mill, expand operations across 100 hectares and invest in other infrastructure such as transport. The project is pursuing a vertically-integrated model from farm to consumer.

A UK family office has already committed between $300,000 and $500,000 to the round on the condition that the remaining is raised, Paddy Docherty, chief executive of Phoenix Africa told Agri Investor.

Pilot operations were put on hold for just over a month in the wake of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone and other African countries, but Docherty and his colleagues were keen to start putting seed money to work as soon as possible and started work in October with $250,000 of seed capital.

The project has now planted six hectares of rice and groundnuts and has started milling rice from surrounding smallholder farmers, a surprisingly busy and profitable side-business, according to Docherty.

“We only really bought the mill to mill our own rice, but we soon discovered that there is a lot of pent-up demand for processing among the local farmers and this is an excellent side business for us,” he told Agri Investor.

Docherty has other commitments on the sidelines awaiting further investment from other sources, such as a $1 million commitment from an African merchant bank.

He hopes to complete the Series A by the end of March and will then roll out a $.35 million Series B in 2016 to expand across 500 hectares. A Series C round would follow in 2017 to extend to 5,000 hectares or more.