Acumen has invested in CropSafe — a social enterprise supporting smallholder farmers by minimizing post-harvest losses and providing access to local and international markets. This is Acumen’s first investment under our partnership with the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment, managed by the Palladium Group, Randstad and VSO, and funded by the Netherlands Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The fund’s mandate is to improve the livelihoods and resilience of low-income communities by building companies and a market that creates and improves youth jobs (ages 15-35).
The Challenge: Post-Harvest Losses Slash Incomes for Millions of Smallholder Farmers
The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria highlighted on August 11, 2022, that the country experiences a staggering loss of $8 billion annually due to post-harvest losses, which are primarily caused by poor infrastructure. These losses lead to compromised food quality, heightened food insecurity, and decreased incomes for millions of smallholder farmers.
The cereal and grains sector is particularly affected, with high post-harvest losses resulting from the use of inefficient traditional methods such as sun drying, which takes between two and three weeks. This extended period of drying increases the risk of contamination by foreign material, both organic and inorganic, leading to spoilage and reduced quality, which in turn makes it difficult for farmers to sell their products at premium prices. Additionally, farm-gate level storage infrastructure is either non-existent or limited, further exacerbating the losses.
The Innovation: A Heat Disinfestation Process That Dries Grains Within Hours
CropSafe has developed a groundbreaking method for drying and preserving grains that prevents infestations during storage for up to three years. Using a heat disinfestation process, CropSafe’s dryers can efficiently dry grains within just seven hours and preserve them for five hours before bagging for storage or transportation. This cutting-edge approach stands in stark contrast to traditional methods that can take up to three weeks for drying and lack adequate protection against infestations.
Why We Invested: Reducing Food Waste and Increasing Incomes
“Acumen’s interest in CropSafe came from the company’s strong impact potential and its ability to provide insights into models that improve the lives of smallholder farmers, including over 20% of whom we know are youths,” said Adekemi Ajayi, Director of Acumen West Africa. “Post-harvest infrastructure and providing market access for farmers could be transformative for thousands of families. This is in line with Acumen’s mission of solving poverty problems and its strategy of investing in businesses that create access to the elemental needs of smallholders.”
“Acumen’s investment enables us to participate in the transformation of Nigeria’s cereal sector towards being more responsible, collaborative, and quality focused,” said Osagie Azeta, Co-Founder of CropSafe. “CropSafe’s mission is to improve the cereal value chain in Nigeria by offering grains of the highest quality to buyers in the local and international market.”