Wakati

Wakati: Post-harvest storage solutions for smallholder farmers

Antwerpen, BelgiumKenya
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Wakati aims to change the agricultural supply chain in developing and emerging markets.

45% of all food is being wasted. Wakati creates storage solutions for fruits and vegetables without the use of cooling. 

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

We want to reinvent the supply chain of fruits and vegetables in developing and emerging markets to eliminate food losses and lift millions of people out of poverty.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

45% of all food is being wasted. In developing and emerging countries these food losses are due to inadequate post-harvest storage solutions. In some cases, up to 70% of the harvest does not reach the market! These food losses result in income losses for local farmers, spoilage of resources and land and insufficient food supplies.

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

The main reason for the absence of proper storage is because 20% of the world population does not has access to the power grid and/or lacks the sufficient financial means to invest in an expensive cold chain. Our Wakati units create a humid and self-sterilising microclimate that extends the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables. As our tent-shaped storage unit runs on solar power, it can reach the 2 billion of people that don't have access to electricity. Wakati is an affordable solution for the developing countries as it needs very small amounts of electricity, generated by its own solar panel.

Awards

M.I.T. 35 Innovators Under 35
Impact: How does it Work

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

A farmer in Uganda can currently store its crops for just a few days. This means that if he does not sell it in time, many produce ends up in the trash. On top of that he often sells his product at a very low price as there is no buffer time. With Wakati, he will be able to longer preserve his crops, keep the quality intact and thus sell more and at higher prices. This could have a significant impact on the hundred millions of households that depend on agriculture for their income.

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

We have sold 150 units and are located in Haiti, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenia, Benin and Sierra Leone and are setting up new pilot projects in China and India. This helped the local farmers to longer store their oranges, tomatoes, mangos, ... . It resulted in higher prices for the crops, higher income for the farmer and less food losses.

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

Our ultimate goal is to fix the agricultural supply chain in developing and emerging markets. We want to reach every farmer in Africa, Latin-America and Asia that does not has access to the power grid. For this we will do twe things. Firstly, we need to partner with strong international and local organisations like NGO's, wholesalers, food producers and agricultural dealers. Secondly, we will stet up local production units in developing countries to more efficiently supply our markets. With Wakati we will be able to lift millions of people out of poverty by reducing their food losses.
Sustainability

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

We focus both on selling to NGO's and retailers. In the short-term we expect to create the biggest impact together with strong partnerships with foundations and NGO's. On the long-term though, we want to set up direct sales channels with local distributors. Only in that way we can create a sustainable company with a sustainable impact.

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

Many agricultural technologies are focussing on increasing the production of the smallholder farmer to compensate for the current post-harvest food losses. Examples of this are drip irrigation, improved seeds and water pumps. However, we believe it makes more sense to focus on reducing food losses instead of focusing on increasing production to compensate for these losses. Asides from Wakati, there are very few post-harvest storage solutions. You have refrigeration, which is not an option for 85% of all smallholder farmers due to lack access to the power grid.
Team

Founding Story

The first step in the development of Wakati was a field trip to Ethiopia for identifying opportunities with local entrepreneur Yordanos Kidanie. During my stay it became clear that the post-harvest losses were huge in Africa and there were no cheap solutions available. Based on this research, Wakati emerged to increase the productivity of smallholder farmers instead of focusing on their production. The AHA moment was when I touched an eggplant in the full sun, which was over 100°F and realised that crops do not grow in a refrigerator, they grow in the full sun and are in the best shape they will ever be!

Team

We are 3 Belgian entrepreneurs with a background in product engineering, business development and marketing. Arne (28) is the inventor and CEO of Wakati. Michael (23) is responsible for marketing and Arno (28) takes the lead on sales and business development. We plan to expand our team by the summer of 2016. More concrete we will expand our production team and set up local sales teams. By starting up local production and opening regional offices, we want to get as close as possible to our customer.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Ashoka community

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

Co-Founder Sales Director

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, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption and Production.

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

Visiwa: a start-up active in the alternative tourism industry. Raised funding and achieved recognition in international media like Business Insider.
Lonely Alien: A multi-media company working for clients in Belgium.

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

We are part of the Food-X accelerator program based in New York. We are currently setting up pilot projects with the Rockefeller Foundation, Metro AG and numerous NGOs like Cordaid and VECO.

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