Agriprocity: democratizing nutrition through affordable and healthy superfoods
According to the World Food Program, it is estimated that on a global scale, one in three individuals are malnourished. More specifically, child malnutrition has been associated with 54% of child deaths in developing countries, and poverty is the major cause. It is predicted that the majority of births in the next decade will occur in lower-income countries, where the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables a day can potentially cost more than half of the household income.
Unicef estimates child survival in Eastern and Southern Africa has improved steadily since 1990, with under-five child mortality rates reducing at an average annual rate of 3.7% – but challenges remain. Nearly one million children across the region are still suffering from “severe acute malnutrition”, a crisis exacerbated by climate change, specifically an increase in droughts and the El Niño effect. As a consequence, the region is facing food and water shortages, with rising food prices worsening the situation.
The malnutrition challenge is attracting innovators who are proposing solutions to combat the inefficiencies of traditional food supply chains. This is the case of social entrepreneur Nicole Rogers, who is democratizing nutrition by processing imperfect and surplus crops in rural Kenyan communities. Agriprocity, is a globally focused agricultural advisory and investment company and began operations in Kenya in 2018. The idea for the Kenyan business is a result of Nicole’s five years of participation as a private sector delegate in the United Nation’s Committee on Food Security (UNCFS). Agriprocity is building a B2B platform that will produce food-based natural supplements. They use fruit and vegetable crops that have high levels of waste and are easily produced but lack strong market opportunities. Agriprocity processes these crops rurally at farm gate, creating food-based nutrition supplement powders.
Vitamin A, Vitamin K and iron deficiency, are part of what UNICEF calls the ‘Hidden Hunger’ epidemic. Deficiency in these micronutrients does not yield immediate negative symptoms but over time leads to stunting, decreased cognitive abilities, poor eyesight, and poor immunity to diseases. An estimated 30% of children in Kenya have vitamin A deficiency and addressing this issue has become one of the priorities of the Kenyan Government.
Agriprocity has built their first pilot for a line of supplement powders, using iron and vitamin A-rich kale and spinach, which are crops largely produced in Kenya with high rates of postharvest losses, that would otherwise yield little to no revenue for a small farmer. Early processing of green leafy vegetables into powders unlocks the rich natural nutritional elements of a crop before it’s wasted. These nutritional attributes are present regardless of the taste or appearance of the crop. Once dried and processed, these crops can be more easily shifted into the hands of households with poor or little access to fresh produce. Traditionally parents in low-income markets focus on filling up little tummies with dense foods like porridge made of grains or maize. By adding a 15-gram dose of an Agriprocity’s product, this staple meal will be more complete.
The company acquired an InspiraFarms off-grid refrigerated food processing facility of 120sqm, operational since September 2019, to manage a green leafy vegetable processing line, consisting of storing, washing, rinsing, oven drying, and finally milling into a fine powder. The facility is in Machakos County, an area located 100 Km from Nairobi, with rich horticultural production, easy access to a diversity of crop production, and where the company has secured supplier agreements with more than 20 small farmers nearby. With the capacity to store and process more than 20 tons of leafy vegetables completely off-grid, the project will start testing the process with 100 Kg batches of kale, spinach and other indigenous leafy greens.
The company intends to distribute their powders first within the local Kenyan market with a focus on foodservice outlets for use in products like smoothies and juices. Concurrently they will focus on supplying government-sponsored school feeding programs. Food safety certification, traceability, and certified origin are other essential components of the company’s value proposition, for which InspiraFarms provided the right fit in terms of technology. Nicole comments, “After this initial pilot project it is our aim to replicate to build scale, deploying multiple processing units throughout Kenya and neighbouring African countries. As such, we wanted to build a facility that would easily comply with global food safety regulations. InspiraFarms allowed us to standardize our facility build process so as to not contend with uncontrollable variables, such as electrical systems, and local contractors. The modular and prefabricated InspiraFarms technology allowed us to focus on the commerciality of our business, identify our processing technologies and build relationships with our buyers and farmers.”
In the future, Agriprocity intends to scale the program into the export market. The health and wellness sector is estimated to be worth USD$ 20.6 billion by 2022. “We envision our natural ingredient products being a component of a variety of snack and baby foods, so it’s important that we build systems now that will enable us to access global markets with greater ease and a competitive advantage as we scale.”