Safi Organics: Decentralizing fertilizer production to provide rural jobs and livelihood and to improve farmers' income by 50%
We use technology to establish profitable village-based fertilizer operations that help farmers improve their yields by 30%.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Takachar (doing business as Safi Organics Pvt. Ltd.)
Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Wang'uru, Kirinyaga County
Location(s) of impact
Kenya: Wang'uru, Mwea region, Ekalakala region, Naivasha, Awendo
Testimonials from local farmers
A rural farming family posing with our conversion reactors
Farmers purchasing the locally produced Safi Sarvi fertilizer
Local village-based full-time production team in Mwea
Safi Sarvi fertilizer mixed produced from our conversion process
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Most fertilizers today are produced in large-scale, centralized facilities and then shipped to remote/rural areas. Due to the long-distance transportation, many rural farmers often pay 2-3 times the world price for their fertilizers. As they have limited income, these farmers often become dependent on the cheapest, synthetic varieties that over time degrade and acidify their soil. Mr. Kibuchi, for example, a rural farmer in Kenya, has seen his harvest yields decrease by almost 50% in the past 20 years.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
We use technology (developed at MIT) to downsize/decentralize fertilizer production, making it possible to deploy on a village level profitably using local resources/labor. Imagine low-cost, small-scale and portable reactor units that can be latched onto tractors and shipping containers, and enable the on-site conversion of agricultural residues into a carbon-rich intermediate in 2 hours without external energy input. This intermediate is then mixed with our proprietary recipes to complete the nutrient requirements. Our product is a liming agent, which reverses soil acidify and improves yields. At the same price that farmers pay for their fertilizers, their yields can improve by 30% and income by 50%.
In addition to benefits to farmers, our process, by virtue of creating profitable village-based fertilizer operations, also creates livelihoods/jobs in rural decentralized areas.
Finally, our product is carbon-negative: the more farmers purchase/use it, the more CO2 we mitigate.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
Mr. Kibuchi is a rice farmer in Mwea, Kenya who owns a one-acre land. For the past 20 years, he has been dependent on imported DAP fertilizer, and has noticed that his crop yield almost halved due to increasing soil acidity and leaching. Last year, he started using our Safi Sarvi, and noticed an immediate improvement in his crop growth (rate, flowering, and harvest yield) compared to before. After 2 seasons, he has seen his harvest and income increase by 30%, which was sufficient to allow him to send his 2 children to school and invest in a new tractor. So far we have impacted more than 1,000 farmers like Mr. Kibuchi. In Kenya alone, there are an estimated 3 million such farmers, spending about USD45 million/year on ineffective fertilizer.
In addition to social benefits, due to the carbon-rich nature of our fertilizer, each ton applied sequesters 1.7 tons of CO2 equivalent from the atmosphere. So far we have sequestered about 5,700 tons of CO2 and managed 7,200 tons of local waste.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
Initially, as we prove our self-operated pilot cases, we rely primarily on grants (60%) and earned income from local operations (40%) to iterate our process. As we replicate in more villages, we expect these operations to be completely supported by earned income and make a $60,000/year/village profit. Once we prove this profitability, we will start franchising the solution out to farmers' cooperatives and local agricultural NGOs to achieve faster scale, by providing training/equipment in exchange for 10% of the profits from these franchisees as our income. To help us scale beyond Kenya into other countries, we will also seek impact financing (~$500,000) in 2019 to accelerate the process; we estimate that this equity financing can be paid back in 5 years with 4x return.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
Most existing fertilizer processes (e.g. OCP, Uralkali) are large-scale (100+ tons/day), cost more than $500000 upfront, and take years to construct. These are incompatible in remote villages without long-distance transport. Our reactors cost $20, can be deployed in a matter of weeks, and is more agile.
Compared to small-scale organic composting (e.g. Sanergy), our conversion process is 200 times faster. Compared to biochar-based fertilizers, our process has 2-3 times higher conversion yield
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
Co-founder Samuel came from a rural Kenyan farming family, and grew up witnessing how farms in his village were degraded by the dependency of synthetic fertilizers. He studied agriculture in university, wanting to improve rural agriculture in his village and beyond. In 2013, Samuel met co-founder Kevin, who has been working since 2011 on a low-cost, decentralized biomass reactor design. The duo initially co-founded a prior company that sold millions of low-toxin mosquito coils to the Kenyan market. After this initial work, Samuel brought local insight of rural farmers from his background and developed various proprietary nutrient recipes into the Safi Sarvi product that they love, while Kevin completed the design of the reactors as part of his PhD thesis at MIT. The co-founders incorporated the company in 2015 and now has grown it to more than 1,000 customers and 7 full-time employees.
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?
Upon recommendation from others