Franchise Model of VermiPonics System

Franchise Model of VermiPonics System: Scalable Climate-Resilient and Closed Loop Model for Food Production

Den Haag, NetherlandsBhubaneswar, India
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

VermiPonics system under a Franchise model provides a scalable and innovative solution to address urgent issues of climate & food security in India. VermiPonics integrates Vermicomposting and Aquaponics in one system to optimise resources use efficiency & production per m2 to boost food security.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if climate and food security issues can be solved by a climate-resilient and closed-loop technological system that optimises water use efficiency and production per m2 with a scalable franchise business model?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

More than 55% of India’s population is practicing agriculture in climate sensitive areas; 53% of the area suffers from serious soil degradation; 30 million hectares of land experiencing the fall in water availability/capita. These figures show the harsh effects of climate to food security as well as employment,income & env. sustainability. Water insecurity, worsened by climate change is arguably the most impactful factor on India's food security.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

VermiPonics is a tech. integrating Vermicomposting&Aquaponics in one system,producing Vermicompost,Worms,Compost tea,Fish&Vegetables as end-products for sales or recycled back within the system (Worms for fish feed). Aquaponics uses 90% less water req. than soil agri as it is a closed-loop system. Vermicomposting produces Vermicompost&Compost tea in which its application reduces crop water demand. And VermiPonics grows food under controlled environment,thus independent to shift in weather pattern (all-year round prod).VermiPonics is a climate-resilient&closed-loop system to boost food production per m2 (VermiPonics: 40 tonne/ha of edible flesh, grass-fed: 84 kg/ha). Franchise model allows system's replication using standardised approach.


1) 1st Winner of International Climate Adaptation Business Challenge 2014 (out of 75 applications from 28 countries); 2) Top 6 Finalists of World Bank Group Youth Summit 2015 (out of 350 proposals from 70 countries).
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

1. VermiPonics optimises resources use efficiency & food prod. per m2(VermiPonics: 35,000 pound/acre of edible flesh, grass-fed:75 pound/acre) 2. It uses 90% less water req. than soil grown 3. It does not use chemical fertilisers thus GHG savings from prod. of chem. fertilisers 4. It is grown under controlled environment&can be grown round the year; no threat of weather fluctuations 5. Vermicompost&Compost tea application improves soil water holding cap, reduces crop water demand by 30% & GHG savings (0.1 tons CO2 saved for 1 ton of compost) 6. It advances coping capacity of community by enhancing access to nutritious food 7. Franchise model encourages creation of green jobs and scalable impacts(circular economy) 8. Waste-to-values

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

With the current capacity of pilot (2 m3 fish tank + 5 m3 of vermicomposting bins): Total prod. of fish: 320 kg/year; Total prod. of vegetable (lettuce): 13.2 tonne/year; Total prod. of vermicompost: 15 tonne/year; Total prod. of compost tea: 1,500 m3; Total prod. of worms: year: 3.4 tonne/year. Impacts: 1. Food production intensity: 4 kg/m2 or 40 tonne/ha of edible flesh; 2. Water saving: 2,673 m3 water saving/year from lettuce grown w/ vermiponics; 3. CO2 saving: 5 tonne CO2 saved from lettuce grown w/ vermiponics w/o chemical fertiliser + 1.5 tonne CO2 saved from application of 15 tonne of vermicompost to soil; 4. Solid waste management: 30 tonne/year of organic waste will be collected. In the future: 1. Establish demonstration model in India (to bring knowledge from the Netherlands to India); 2. Develop franchise model to replicate impacts.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

The main spread strategies is through a Franchise model as a means of replication for VermiPonics system. Standardisation is a key to scalability & profitability when working with Base of Pyramid market in developing countries. AQGRI+ NL is responsible for Business in a Box (BB) package dvlpmnt (tech., bus. model, training, etc). AQGRI+ India carefully selects, trains, supports franchisees/entrepreneurs in India to spread the system. AQGRI+ India needs to set up local financing system for franchisees to set up the business. Franchisees will need to pay for BB fees and share gross revenue.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Infrastructure of VermiPonics pilot in the Netherlands is financed using the financial resources received when winning the 1st place of International Climate Adaptation Business Challenge. Now, we aim to apply for Grant/Subsidy to finance 2-years Product Development phase in India for franchise model development (Infrastructure + AQGRI & Partners' Salaries +Travel)= $550,000. Potential sources are Dutch Good Growth Fund, USAID & impact investors.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Other technology developer such as Solar irrigation pump also addresses water saving issue to ensure water availability for agriculture under the climate threat to improve food security. Nevertheless, the difference between VermiPonics and Solar irrigation pump is that VermiPonics really focuses on optimising resources use efficiency to optimise products generation per m2. More importantly, it is not only about optimising production of food per m2 (fish&vegetables), but also production of Vermicompost, Compost tea, and worms per m2.

Founding Story

The inspiration came when I had the opportunity to do a project on ‘Reusing Pangasius wastewater (aquaculture) for irrigation of paddy rice (agriculture) as a climate adaptation measure at Mekong Delta, Vietnam'. On the field, I got to see directly the huge amount of wastewater that gets dumped into the environment. Considering the large amount of nutrients that are still within the wastewater, this means the large amount of resources and opportunities are wasted. When I saw this, I told myself “This waste has value and there is no way I am going to let it get dumped. I am going to make use out of it!” Since then, I kept developing the business idea until I came to the idea of VermiPonics!


1. Priska Prasetya (Founder and Financial Manager, Full-time based in the Netherlands): I have the educational background of Bachelor in Economics at Monash University (Australia) and Master of Urban Environmental Management at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). I am responsible for the overall strategy and management of AQGRI+ (e.g. marketing strategies, financial and sales management, where to access financial source, how to diversify income sources. I am accountable for the organisational, financial, and legal aspects of AQGRI+ (e.g. keep track on cost, sales, and cash flow of business, legal structure, tax payments). I am very much interested in innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainability sector. I selected Business, Economics, and Environmental Management as my background because I believe sustainability is a way to improve company's long-term financial sustainability. 2. Sarah Haimes (R+D Manager, Full-time based in the Netherlands): Sarah has the educational background of Bachelor in Biology at University of Prince Edward Island (Canada) and Master in Urban Environmental Management at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). She is responsible for the R+D activities regarding optimisation of resources use efficiency in the VermiPonics system to optimise production per m2 as well as the setting up of the system. She is very much passionate about circular economy and closed-loop agriculture. 3. Gino Smit (Aquaponics expert, Contract-based in the Netherlands): Gino has 7 years experience in building aquaponics system with his own company, Youmanitas Energy Farms. He is responsible for the construction and setting up of the VermiPonics system pilot in the Netherlands. In the future: AQGRI+ team will evolve by having an additional team member who is an engineer and responsible for the design and construction of the VermiPonics system. This 'Engineer' team member will receive knowledge transfer from Gino on the construction and setting up of the VermiPonics system in which he/she can develop it further.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:


Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:


Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

1. Top 6 Finalists of the World Bank Youth Group Summit 2015: Crowdsourcing Solutions for Climate Change by the World Bank
The World Bank Group Youth Summit 2015 focuses on young's people role to fight against climate change. The Summit invites the brightest young minds from around the world to use their knowledge and creativity to crowdsource solutions for climate change that contribute to growth and development in developing and emerging countries.

I submitted the business proposal of 'Franchise model of VermiPonics system for urban and peri-urban agriculture production in India' to the World Bank. It got selected by the Committee as the Top 6 Finalists out of the submitted 350 proposals from more than 70 countries and was invited to present the proposal to the World Bank in Washington DC.

2. 1st Place Winner of the International Climate Adaptation Business Challenge 2014 (AQGRI+) by Climate-KIC
International Climate Adaptation Business Challenge 2014 is an international competition that is held by Knowledge for Climate institute and Climate-KIC to compete different business ideas from all over the world (78 submissions from 28 countries) that address climate adaptation issue in their business model. The final stage of the competition was held at the Deltas in Times of Climate Change II conference in Rotterdam on September 25, 2014, where AQGRI+ won the 1st place of the competition with its idea of waste-to-values technology.

3. theJourney Summer school by Climate-KIC
The focus of the summer school is on Climate Change and Entrepreneurship. The 5-weeks summer school was aiming to develop a business model that can help to mitigate climate change. My group/project is called 'E-Way'. I took the position of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) whose main responsibility was to identify potential market for the service. With my other group members, we put forward a business plan to sell superfast charging services for Electric Vehicle (EV) drivers on highways, in order to tackle two major issues of EVs, which are short range and long charging time. Together, we propounded a unique selling point by providing a super-fast charging service using energy partially from renewable energy (wind-source) and sustainable technology (battery storage) on highways where people are more willing to pay premium price. E-Way was nominated as the "Best Speech" during the Final Competition.

4. Wastewater treatment design associate at Dutch Start-up by Safi Sana
Safi Sana is a company that collects toilet and organic waste from slums to produce biogas and organic fertilizer and sell them to the market in Ghana, I contributed in the development of wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) design for their new future biogas plant site in the city of Ashaiman. I worked together with the technical manager of Safi Sana towards the detailed design of the site by looking at different WWTP technological options and scenarios, dimensioning and drawing the selected scenario, and developing the BOQ (Bill of Quantities) for the selected WWTP.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

1. WASTE (the Netherlands) is an international organisation specialised in business development in sanitation and solid waste management in developing countries. They have 30 years experience in India for innovative financing and waste management. They are supporting AQGRI+ in franchising model development of VermiPonics in India.

2. FINISH Society (India) is a local organisation specialised in local financing for waste management projects and waste-to-values activities. They have built strong record across 10 states in India within the respective field. They are supporting AQGRI+ in brainstorming options for local financing, local stakeholders management, and provision of location for demonstration project.

3. Climate-KIC (Europe) is Europe's largest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate innovation to mitigate and adapt to climate change. AQGRI+ is an active member of Climate-KIC network to connect with other social entrepreneurs in Europe.