Using imperfect produce for delivering nutritious meals – Rejuv
This month we invited Nicole Rogers—founding partner of Rejuv and a new InspiraFarms client—to tell us about her business venture using discarded fruit & vegetables to produce nutritious and high-quality meals.
Nicole is Canadian but has been based in Dubai since 2008 when she took a position as Canada’s Agricultural Trade Commissioner to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This experience led her to found Agriprocity in 2013, with the purpose of building better connections between farmers and global food systems by developing strategic long-term contracts between farmers and buyers. She is currently exploring emerging markets in Africa in order to bring innovative marketing opportunities to smaller farmers.
Rejuv is a social enterprise founded by four like-minded partners, each a successful entrepreneur with past experience in logistics, agriculture, food service, and manufacturing. The company is dedicated to tackling global environmental waste issues, believing that collectively is possible to make an impact on food trading and processing. Their focus is largely on deploying previously executed technologies in emerging and difficult markets. The company is starting operations in Kenya and Dubai.
- How did you arrive at the idea of building food systems using produce that doesn’t meet the grade?
I was previously engaged in a smallholder crop-marketing program in Kenya through my ventureAgriprocity I realized there was a great opportunity to find markets for the 40% of Kenyan rural fruit and vegetable produce that is not desired by the export trading market. Rejuv’s four founding partners are located in the UAE but we chose Kenya for our pilot processing facility. I had previously spent time in market, and we had some terrific existing partners who could help us engage the local rural community within which we intend to deploy. It’s our intention to tackle the ‘Zero Hunger’ initiative within Kenya, supplying nutritionally complete and highly caloric products to local school feeding programs.
- What is your business solution?
WithRejuv, we decided to look at simple processing solutions, as one of the largest issues facing agricultural production in emerging markets is the lack of access to cold chain logistics infrastructure. Our solution is to take fruit and vegetable produce that is overripe, misshapen or the wrong size, and process remotely into shelf stable products. InspiraFarm’s off-grid refrigerated storage and food processing facility will allow us to have an inexpensive solution for housing our processing equipment and keeping our imperfect produce chilled so we can maximize our production efficiencies.
- How are you making use of “discarded” fruits & vegetables?
We can’t share all the details of our proprietary technology, but the key differentiating qualities are that we are using steam-cooking techniques as opposed to isolated heat. This allows us to have greater versatility in our end products, with diversified textures and cooking times. Essentially, our technology allows us to take in any crop input (mango, avocado, beans, meats, dairy or a combination) and produces a final product that is free from pathogens so can be packed aseptically for up to two years.
Our first product will be a blend of imperfect quality beans, banana, mango and vegetables, to create a single serve product for children that is naturally sweet. By creating our products in rural areas, we remain very competitively priced, utilizing otherwise wasted products with little value to our farmers. Upon completion of our pilot in the Kenyan market, we intend to focus on creating tropical fruit blends for a handful of global food manufacturing partners (largely located in the GCC and North America).
Our processing will be FDA (food and drug administration of the United States) approved, though we intend to first focus our pilot on getting highly nutritious fruit and vegetable-based products into the hands of those with little to no access in eastern Africa.
- What is the expected outcome and impact?
Our principal aim is to bring a more consistent, greenfield revenue stream to rural farm groups in emerging markets. Lower quality produce is traditionally not a focus for small farmers, and so they make 100% of revenue from as low as 40% of their crop output. Our aim is to provide a way to reduce these losses with a consistent solution. Processing builds greater stability versus trading which is highly seasonal with demand being driven by finicky consumers.
- How are small farmers engaged and involved in the business?
The entirety of our inputs will be purchased from smallholder farmers in rural Kenya. We use aggregators to communicate and help with the logistics of bringing the crops to our facility. This is a work in progress as we develop the most efficient way to source. The aim will remain to leverage local community actors to be part of the business.
- What is coming next?
Our intention is to scale our business through agents who can leverage our mix of operations, technology, and a supportive buyer network to execute in their own market. We are first focused on emerging markets, with a special interest in Africa. Our ideal agent would be someone with existing agricultural sector knowledge and network in their targeted execution market. We want to provide the complete solution to take care of the business plan, but realize that each rural farming community is diverse so need local experts.
If you want to know more about Rejuv you can send an email to Nicole: firstname.lastname@example.org