Fruit rejects offering alternative income to farmers
Horticulture farming provides employment to over two million people in Kenya alone. Set as the fastest growing industry in the country with a growth rate of seven per cent, we are yet to see the best of this industry. With new developments in technology in regards to new farming methods and machinery, Kenyan entrepreneurs have a vast playing field in coming up with new innovations. Miyonga Fresh Greens is one such enterprise.
Since its inception in 2014, the company has grown from out growers of french beans for other exporters to direct exporters of Fresh fruits and vegetables to United Kingdom, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Ireland and South Africa.
They grow horticultural products for the export market. They are currently growing french beans and baby corn to meet the high demand. They are planning on increasing their product offering to chilies, mango tout, avocado, snow peas, baby carrot, passion fruits, okra, hangout, kerala, dudhi, Fern, aubergine, garlic and capsicum.
Banking on innovation, they have begun the Wheeling Fruits project. It aims at processing surplus fruits at farm gate level using a mobile processing unit. Together with Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI), they have been able to produce powder from surplus mangoes.
A semi mobile processing facility or a mobile one, fitted onto a trailer will be able to move between farming areas. For the pilot, they intend to work with a semi-mobile solution for simplicity and cost effectiveness. The first grade mangoes are usually picked and sold for export by farmers while surplus and cosmetically unattractive foods known as rejects will be bought by Wheeling Fruits from the farmers directly at an already existing aggregation centre and processed into powder.
The Wheeling Fruits concept is based on the premise that by reducing the volume of produce to be transported and the option of bulking due to extended shelf-life, additional cost savings can be realized. For powder, about 90% volume reductions are realized. The key element of the services is the processing of otherwise wasted fruits. By doing this farmers are provided with an additional source of income.
So far they are running a semi-mobile facility at one mango aggregation centre in Tana River as their pilot. Following the success of the pilot project a further roll out to other areas of Kenya, mainly Garissa, Kwale and Kilifi counties, is planned, using a mix of mobile and semi-mobile facilities. Eastern region with the counties of Meru and Tharaka Nithi will complement the operating area.
In this way, mangoes will be available for processing all year round, with exception of the months of August and September. Situations in which mangoes will be in short supply, berries and other fruits will be tested for processing.
They are working towards local entrepreneurs running the facilities, which will further empower rural communities and support the objective of Wheeling Fruits to have an impact on livelihoods in rural Kenya.
Miyonga Fresh Greens began its collaboration with Kenya Climate Innovation Center in 2017. KCIC is providing them with hands on business advisory services, linkage to financing and investment opportunities and refinement of their business model and systems.
By Michelle Mung’ata