Safi Sarvi: doubling rural farmers' income

Double rural farmers’ income by providing access to locally produced fertilizer

We use technology to downsize fertilizer production, making it feasible to deploy at village level and increasing farmers’ yields by 30%.

Use Case

Mr. Kibuchi is a rice farmer who owns 3 acres. He used to gross $2400/year from harvest, but due to the large fertilizer and other input costs ($2060/year), he is only netting $340/year in income. As he depends on synthetic fertilizer over the long term, he has actually seen his soil acidified and yield decreasing over long term. 1.5 years ago, he started using our product and immediately saw an increase in his gross to $2640/year, while his input costs are constant ($2010/year). This means that his now nets $630/year, or nearly double his income. He therefore had enough cash to send his 2 children to school, and recently, bought a second-hand tractor for his farm. He started recommending our product to his neighbors, and now we have more than 1000 local customers.

Potential

Food insecurity due to soil degradation and fertilizer accessibility remains one of the gravest threats for billions of smallholder farmers worldwide beyond Kenya. Currently these farmers are spending $30 billion/year on ineffective or even harmful fertilizers, and the scale of the problem is expected to double by 2040. By providing high-quality, locally accessible fertilizers, not only are we improving the way these farmers interact with their land, but we are also delivering livelihood in terms of improved crop yield (for subsistence farmers), doubled income (for commercial farmers), and rural employment opportunities (for underemployed youths who often have to migrate to urban centers). What is more, all this rural economic development is done in a net carbon-negative manner.

Business Case

Initially, to prove our technical/business viability, we own/operate 3-5 village-based fertilizer production pilots. We will buy the crop residues from local farmers, operate our technology to convert it, and package the final product (total production cost $138/ton), and sell it to local agricultural distributors at a 45% gross margin (at $250/ton). These revenue and cost numbers have been validated by averaging our actual financial figures from a pilot in the past 12 months. As we expand beyond our initial pilot, we will set up a franchising model: we partner with local agricultural organizations or microentrepreneurs who will run their own village-based fertilizer production. We provide the training, equipment, and ongoing technical support in exchange for a 10% franchising fee.

Objectives:

  1. Show that our product on average doubles farmers’ income in a group of 100 farmers in 2 villages after 2 years of application by mid-2019.
  2. Set up 3 village-based pilot production facilities by mid-2019 that achieve 2 tons/day production with a 40% profit margin.
  3. Demonstrate that our project can scale beyond localized pilots by establishing at least 5 successful franchisees outside Kenya by mid-2020.

Team Safi Sarvi

Mwea, Kenya

Our Team

About pricing / Published May 3, 2018 by Kevin Kung

About pricing

When we first started testing the product, we thought that by offering the product at a discount price compared to conventional fertilizers, we can gain market penetration more rapidly. However, as we interact with more smallholder farmers, we quickly realized that these farmers, though poor, have very discerning view on pricing, and associate cheap cost with poor-quality product. This caused us to change our perspective, and now we market our product to the farmers at the same price as what they currently pay for traditional fertilizers, but tell them that instead, their yield and income will increase compared to the competitors.

Our Mission

We have seen rural smallholder farmers being charged high prices (2-3 times the world price) for imported, synthetic fertilizers, because transportation to rural areas is expensive. We feel that this is wrong. Thus, our work is dedicated to smallholder farmers, helping them increase their harvest yields and double their net incomes by accessing locally made, high-quality fertilizer tailored to their soil. We do so by commercializing state-of-the-art biomass technology developed at MIT.

Our Background

Samuel Rigu grew up in rural Kenya and witnessed first-hand the issues that his family and neighbors faced in adequate fertilizer access. Thus he resolved to solve this problem: he earned B.Sc. in Agribusiness and then worked \as a farm manager before joining this team. Kevin Kung has worked for the past 7 years on the core technology at MIT, and he is dedicated to engineering in resource-constrained settings, having worked since 2008 in regions such as Peru, Vietnam, India, and East Africa.

About pricing / Published May 3, 2018 by Kevin Kung

About pricing

When we first started testing the product, we thought that by offering the product at a discount price compared to conventional fertilizers, we can gain market penetration more rapidly. However, as we interact with more smallholder farmers, we quickly realized that these farmers, though poor, have very discerning view on pricing, and associate cheap cost with poor-quality product. This caused us to change our perspective, and now we market our product to the farmers at the same price as what they currently pay for traditional fertilizers, but tell them that instead, their yield and income will increase compared to the competitors.

Our Team

Our Mission

We have seen rural smallholder farmers being charged high prices (2-3 times the world price) for imported, synthetic fertilizers, because transportation to rural areas is expensive. We feel ...Read More

Our Background

Samuel Rigu grew up in rural Kenya and witnessed first-hand the issues that his family and neighbors faced in adequate fertilizer access. Thus he resolved to solve this ...Read More

Our Badges

  • Power Team
    Your team has at least three members
  • Design Lab Experts
    Attended at least one of the weekly TFF Design Lab “office hours” sessions.
  • We Famous
    Your project has been covered by your university or other media outlet
  • Get #Social
    Created team Facebook or Twitter page and attached to team page
  • Fan Club
    You have 100 likes or followers on your team Facebook or Twitter
  • Interior Architect
    Posted three pictures of your team workspace
  • Idea Parkers
    Shared a picture of your teams unique “idea parking”
  • Global Foodies
    Posted three facts about global food issues learned in the Explore mode
  • Insight + Insight + Insight
    Shared three new insights your team formulated in the Define mode
  • On Time, On Target
    Shared your Design Statement created during the Define mode
  • Post-it Fiends
    Shared pics of the chaos of the post-it filled Ideate work mode
  • Brain Food
    In the Ideate intro video, Richard shares an important tip while eating an apple. Share a team-apple-eating pic!
  • Expert Input
    Shared three pieces of expert feedback on your concept
  • GIF Masters
    Shared a GIF of the prototype building frenzy
  • Live Testing
    Shared a video of a user testing your concept
  • Way To Go
    Shared a picture of your plan for iterating your project
  • Etch-A-Sketch
    Shared your logo sketching session on your team blog
  • WE DID IT!!
    Submitted Final Pitch, including videos and concept details
  • Introduction
    Completed the Introduction section of the Design Lab
  • Explore
    Completed the Explore section of the Design Lab
  • Define
    Completed the Define section of the Design Lab
  • Ideate
    Completed the Ideate section of the Design Lab
  • Conceptualize
    Completed the Conceptualize section of the Design Lab
  • Prototype
    Completed the Prototype section of the Design Lab
  • Test
    Completed the Test section of the Design Lab
  • Iterate
    Completed the Iterate section of the Design Lab
  • Pitch
    Completed the Pitch section of the Design Lab
The information contained here represents student project ideas developed as the result of brainstorming activities during Round 1 of the TFF Challenge. It does not represent any final business plans or commercial products.