Kenya’s Instaveg benefits from modular cold storage, pre-cooling and processing facility
Agriculture in Kenya contributes to 24% of GDP however, only 4% of all the horticultural produce (Fruits and Vegetables) is exported while 96% is consumed locally. Over 90% of the produce consumed locally is produced by small-scale farmers. More recently, the agricultural sector in Kenya has grown with more export opportunities opening up in the past few years with access to more regions in the EU, USA and UAE. (FAO,2021)
The sector’s success and expansion can be accredited to numerous changes in the commodity mix, the types of marketing institutions involved, the use of the latest technology, availability of technical training used to maintain quality and food safety standards that enable easier access to markets.
The pandemic saw the closure and downfall of various businesses and sectors in the country. However, the horticultural industry was not among them. The sector performed rather well where flowers earned the country Ksh 108B, Fruits Ksh 18B while Vegetables earned Ksh 24B (fpeak,2021). Strengthening and improving the performance of the agricultural sector continues to be vital in the region to maintain the economy by allowing access to high value markets.
One such farm contributing to this is Instaveg Limited. A fresh produce exporting company in Kenya located in Kirinyaga County that started in 2007 made up of aggregators, processors and marketers of fresh fruit and vegetables for local and international markets.
Their main produce for export are French beans, garden peas and tender stem broccoli that they export to the United Kingdom, Dubai and France. Their activities mainly include procurement and distribution, extension services, produce and product logistics, sorting, packing and marketing of the fresh produce.
Instaveg faced several challenges such as post-harvest losses due to inefficient cold chain facilities on a rental basis, failure to meet certification standards to access high value markets and were also experiencing high running & maintenance costs for facilities that were over 30 years old. Not being able to access reliable and efficient cold chain was their main pain point. With previous leasing of their then facility from the government, they could not meet the quality standards they hoped for in maintaining their shelf life after export.
Modular cold storage, pre-cooling and processing facility
At Instaveg, Farmers keep their harvested produce in the grading shed awaiting collection by their own trucks. Their refrigerated truck collects the produce the same day of harvest. Upon arrival on site, the trucks are immediately offloaded and kept in the cold room for precooling. The product is then packed at 17 degrees with minimum retention time then further cooled at the dispatch cold room. This is then dispatched the next day in refrigerated trucks to the airport.
Instveg products in the cold room ready to be dispatched
“Our products are able to hold on shelf; there has been over 50% reduction in customer complaints and the same reduction in claims since we attained a complying packing facility. We are also using less power bills by 30% despite cooling a bigger area,” he continued.
The Director explained that emphasis should be put on cold chain management which has improved overall product quality and reduced the post-harvest losses at Instaveg.
Instaveg farmers packing French beans in the processing facility for export
“We have received a lot of good feedback and our customers appreciate the fact that we pack from a complying facility which is certifiable by a milestone in regards to food safety,” he said.
Ashibon concluded by saying that agribusinesses should invest in food safety certification and a cold chain management regime to enable expansion of markets.
Fao.org. 2021. Kenya at a glance | FAO in Kenya | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. [online] Available at: <https://www.fao.org/kenya/fao-in-kenya/kenya-at-a-glance/en/>
Fpeak.org. 2021. Update on The State of The Horticulture Industry in Kenya 2020 – Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya. [online] Available at: <https://fpeak.org/update-on-the-state-of-the-horticulture-industry-in-kenya-2021/?sfw=pass1634796721>