Kenyan team Safi Organics won the Runner-Up Prize of $5,000 USD. Joyce Kamande, Kevin Kung and Samuel Rigu have developed a decentralized organic fertilizer production system and proprietary biochar formula that increases yields by up to 30% while correcting soil acidity. They have conducted over 20 field tests and have made $35,000 in sales to date, leveraging intellectual property from MIT. The team is beginning to scale up sales and production capabilities, securing key distribution and training partners.
Learn more about Safi Organics, one of 2018 TFF Challenge Finalists, and their plans for the future in this Q&A with Joyce Kamande, led by Thought For Food Program Manager Monika Jiang. Enjoy reading, and get in touch if you have any questions.
What inspired you to start Safi Organics in the first place?
Growing up on a rural Kenyan Farm, Samuel Rigu, our founder and CEO experienced firsthand the challenges of faced by small scale farmers, and the effects of expensive, imported fertilizer that was damaging soil and reduced crop yields year by year. With a degree in Agribusiness Management from the University of Nairobi, he eventually started Safi Organics, after trying to turn rice husks into briquettes and eco-friendly mosquito coils. I (Joyce) come from a quite similar background, and have witnessed farmers low productivity, resulting in malnourishment.
Safi Organics comes in with a fertilizer that not only increases farmers’ yields, but also that has environmental benefits as it actively sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, and curbs the farm waste disposal problem.
Looking at your journey with Thought For Food the past months, what are the key learnings and benefits you’ve achieved?
During the Startup Bootcamp we were encouraged to go out of the office, and actually talk to our customers on the ground. It may sounds very simple, but this was a very important takeaway for us, which now will keep doing on a regular base. Focusing on the customer’s experience, and consequently developing the product based out of their needs.
Congratulations again for winning the Runner-Up Prize! Can you tell us #whatsnext for Safi Organics?
We’re planning to expand to a 10 more areas within Kenya in the next 3 years. Thought For Food’s Runner-Up Prize enables us to begin with one of three projects we’ll be establishing this year. Apart from that, we’re looking for more investment to be able to grow our impact further. Thanks to Thought For Food, we’ve gained both local and international exposure through media, which is really great!
You’ve met a part of the TFF Global Community of next-generation innovators. What would you say makes it different to other organizations?
What is unique about Thought For Food is really the approach of connecting young people from different fields, nationalities, tackling the problem of food security along the value chain. From empowering smallholder farmers to nutrition, it’s all about bringing together different perspectives and expertise, while focusing on impact, and profit at the same time.
The question is really: What is the value and uniqueness you want to create? This goes beyond any competition, and leverages the potential of young people’s ideas and energy to solve problems within their local environment and context.
What was your experience like as a TFF Finalist and how did that experience shape where Safi Organics is today?
We refined our business model, learned about other projects and learnt a lot on how they deliver value and we are incorporating what is relevant to us in our business. The shared knowledge and experiences is really motivating. For us this was not only about making sales, but empowering each other as the next generation and getting involved in this global challenge of food security.