From idea to developing an inclusive business model: organic fertilizer for Zambian farmers
When John Mutekenya and Eugene Bwalya at Mutekenya Livestock, and their business entity Poultry Farm Limited (MLPFL), heard about The Innovations Against Poverty (IAP) challenge fund, they saw an opportunity to explore an innovate business idea. They had one thought in mind – what can we do for Zambian farmers? The idea of integrating an already existing business into a new business model was born.
The colleagues recognized that availability and affordability of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers is a big challenge for many small scale farmers in Zambia. At the same time, there was an increasingly growing demand for organic fertilizers and very few companies producing and selling it, and none at affordable prices for low-income people. Meanwhile, John and Eugene noticed that they had trouble disposing the manure at the broiler farm. As a result, MLPFL developed ‘Cirrus’, a patented organic fertilizer. Using raw material from the broiler farm, chicken manure, they created a commercial product that will sell at affordable prices for low-income people. The idea also presented an opportunity for back ward linkage with other chicken poultry farmers to be possible suppliers of chicken manure which is normally treated as waste.
“The cheapest bag of a 50kg fertilizer you can find on the market today cost 13 dollars. A 50kg bag of Cirrus will sell for 8 dollars” – Eugene Bwalya, COO.
Being one of 35 investees of the IAP program has been one of the biggest milestones for the company, one they did not see coming, according to CEO John Mutekenya. In a short time, they went from idea to product, with a growing business.
“It was exciting going from application to short list, and then final stage. Being one of the final grantees meant everything – it gave us the means to move forward with our idea” – Eugene.
The Company brought onboard a business adviser as well as a soil and fertilizer expert, to help take the idea into a ‘ready to sell product’. While the construction of the production and processing plant proved to be the biggest challenge due to production costs higher than expected –they are currently close to finalizing the integrated broiler and fertilizer production plant. Soon, the first bag will be ready for sale. To ensure that the company reach small scale farmers in more rural areas surrounding Lusaka, they collaborate with farmer cooperatives active in the area.
The integrated broiler production and organic fertilizer processing plant will not only supply cheap organic fertilizers for 2000 small scale farmers it will also create employment opportunities for 30 women and youth in the low-income bracket. Their goal is to employ 60% women and 40% youth in the production and distribution value chain.