Nyandarua County, situated in the former Central Province of Kenya, is renowned for its agricultural activities. Small scale farmers fuel the agricultural sector in the county which is the predominant economic activity.
Julie Gachiku, like most Kenyans, spent her long holidays on her grandparents farm, where they farmed potatoes. It was their main source of income. She witnessed her grandparents and other small holder farmers experience avoidable losses caused by middle men who dictated prices and sizes of the products they would take to the market. They also experienced flooding of the market due to oversupply of produce, rejection of small or ‘ugly’ potatoes among other factors.
The farmers would use the rejected potatoes as seedlings but with time they became useless. Another alternative was to use them as animal feed. Both options did not mitigate the financial losses that the farmers experienced. They would only get 40% of their invested value.
Having first hand experience of the difficulties of farming and selling potatoes, birthed Yummy Pot, an agribusiness and agri processing venture that sells instant mashed potato and raw potato flour to households and businesses. They get their potato supply from their own farm and also buy excess supply from other farmers.
Julie, an actuarial science graduate from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, left her formal employment in Insurance to start Yummy Pot. First she conducted research on the uptake and issues concerning the farming landscape in Nyandarua County.
Their aim is to increase the shelf life of perishable fresh produce. Their signature product is the instant mashed potato mix and the mashed potato flour that can be used to make soups, a variety of baked goods as an alternative to wheat flour. A major benefit of the flour is that it is gluten free and thus has multiple health benefits as compared to regular wheat flour.
In addition they supply dehydrated vegetables such as carrots and cabbages, which they sell to restaurants and hotels for long term use. This prevents wastage that is experienced with the particular products due to oversupply and transportation limitations.
Some of the challenges they have experienced in their venture is changing the mindset of consumers. With the current GMO wars in the country, most consumers believe that processed foods would not contain the necessary nutrients available in fresh produce. By giving samples to family and friends, and external consumers has enabled them to gain traction in the market with the positive feedback they have received. The instant mashed potato is quite popular with parents of infants and toddlers as it is an easy meal to prepare.
“Yummy foods aims at changing the food industry by offering nutritious value addition farm produce to the Kenyan consumer. Our goal is to strengthen food security in the country and mitigate the high famine occurrences currently being experienced”, states Julie.
In addition they aim to impact the lives of farmers by regulating the industry prices, firstly by making brokers redundant. They will also educate farmers on how to plan their farming seasons to avoid having an oversupply of produce in the market.
They are working towards gaining additional machinery to increase their supply and reduce production difficulties. Through the O-Farms program they are enthusiastic that they will benefit immensely from the trainings, networking and market linkages that will be developed.
By Michelle Mung’ata
Communication & Marketing Lead
E4Impact Entrepreneurship Center – Kenya