Our vision is to reshape Africa’s economic destiny by using aquaponics as a tool to catalyze food sovereignty across the continent.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small company (under 50 employees)
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Conakry, a capital city on the coast of West Africa,
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
My time in Guinea began as a Community Economic Development volunteer with the Peace Corps in 2012. Since completing my service, I have lived in Guinea for the last 8 years fighting unemployment through developing and investing in entrepreneurial ecosystems. As co-founder of the largest business incubator and accelerator program in Guinea, I have worked closely with youth who are hungry for change. Despite the absolutely gorgeous landscape, incredibly fertile land and impressive natural resources, with a 71% of youth unemployed, youth are largely the most underutilized resource in the country.
Guinea is a small market where you have the leeway to build competencies. In terms of product development, Guinea is excellent because you can build relationships and solicit intimate customer feedback in your prototyping. Because of its size, everyone knows everyone in Guinea, whereas in larger markets you don’t necessarily have that luxury. With my work in Guinea, I have built a large network allowing AFA to more easily capture clients and use local resources and partnerships to reduce our prototyping costs.
Guinea also has relatively cheap labor costs, lack of competition in the urban food production space, encouraging macro-economic trends, and a restaurant scene that while small, is increasingly becoming sophisticated and metropolitan. Guinea is also in some ways the ultimate testing ground for the AFA business model given the relative under-development of the country. Being one of the most underdeveloped countries in West Africa, there are so many opportunities because so little has been done. Especially in the capital Conakry, which has been coined as one of the worst capitals in West Africa. However, I have fallen in love with the challenge of finding diamonds in the organized chaos that is this city. Practically speaking, if AFA can be successful in Guinea, the company will likely be successful in most African markets.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Guinea is located in West Africa. It shares boundaries with Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mail, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote D'Ivoire. Our project was launched and runs out Guinea’s capital city Conakry.
Conakry is a large bustling city. The main method of transportation is by motorcycle. As a religious nation, you regularly hear the muslim call for pray 5 times each day. Due to globalization, you can see western influences in clothing among younger generations, as the older generations hold on tightly to their traditional style of dress and interaction.
Agriculture is a foundation within Guinea culture. The color green used in the national flag was chosen to represent the agricultural wealth and opportunity of the country. Rice and produce are grown here, although may farmers compete against imported goods and foods. Guinea’s staple dishes all incorporate the making of a sauce, whether made of peanuts, cassava leaves, or sweet potato leaves, to eat over rice with a side of the culturally loved spice called ‘piment’.
Guinea has two seasons, Dry season from December to May, and wet/monsoon season from June to November. Out of it’s four major regions: Basse-cote, Fouta, Haute, and Forest, Conakry is located in Basse-Cote, along the coast. Its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean makes the city hot and humid all year around.
The major ethnic groups found in Guinea are Pulaar/Fulani, Malinke, and Susu. Within the Guinea’s forest region, many other smaller ethnic groups can be found as well. Although each ethnic group has their own language, French, the national language, is widely known and spoken in Conakry and is used in AquaFarms Africa’s day to day operations.
As commonly found in many economically developing nations, Guinea’s rural population is rapidly decreasing as youth seek to move to the cities in hopes of finding jobs. It is this urban pull that contributes to the unemployment of urban youth AquaFarms Africa hopes to combat through job creation. So the general feel around Conakry is a feeling of longing for more. This longing is what called me.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
As Conakry faces many issues around climate change, limited access to resources and youth unemployment that will only continue to threaten the livelihoods of the population. My approach to 2050 is focusing on climate adaptation: How do we effectively start to adapt to climate change and its affects now so we can survive the harsh conditions of 2050?
Conakry is found on the coast, surrounded by mangroves, beautiful beaches and forests. However, Basse Cote, where Conakry is located, has over the last several years become increasingly hotter. The deforestation of the mangroves and the forests have contributed largely to climate change. In 2050 the climate will no longer be able to support stable and continued food production. Climate change coupled with a lack of access to improved agricultural techniques and technologies hinders the ability for farmers to produce to their full capacity all year around, which would give them access to the most lucrative markets such as hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and corporations as well as allow urban populations to have access to nutritious foods at all times of the year. How might we design a food production system that allows us to produce high quality produce year-round in a climate-controlled environment?
The beginning of 5 major rivers in West Africa find their source in Guinea. The land is extremely fertile and there is access to water almost everywhere. However, being that Conakry has an archaic public water system, many homes have dug wells in order to supply themselves with water, coupled with the continued deforestation, there will eventually be a water crisis, which will certainly affect 2050 food systems. Even though Conakry’s energy supply is entirely hydroelectric and given the sources of water in the country, there is limited access to power sources, with blackouts occurring for long periods of time. 2050 is only going to find greater strains on energy use as the urban population continues to grow. How might we bring food production technologies to Conakry that can be productive in harsh environmental conditions yet conserve water and use minimal energy?
Conakry’s population is 80% between the ages of 18 and 35. As of now, 71% of Guinean youth are unemployed. With political tensions rising, idle youth represent an increasing risk to the stability of the city. Although agriculture is often lauded as Africa’s greatest potential for job creation, urban youth are often left out of the equation despite being the largest unemployed population.
Investment in agricultural value chains is also very expensive for a young agripreneur. Conakry lacks capital markets. The government is not currently investing in ag value chains. And at the same time exists a large diaspora population that is excited about investing in their home but have no idea where to start. If we do not work together to provide opportunities to these youth it represents the biggest risk to the growth and stability of the city and the country for 2050. How might we use agri-tech to make agriculture attractive to urban youth? And How might we creatively attract investment capital guinea to invest in agricultural value chains?
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
How might we design a food production system that allows us to produce year round in a climate controlled environment? Our AquaFarms are 12x12m climate controlled green houses, completely using renewable energy to replicate the conditions necessary to produce niche products that are normally imported year round while also
How might we bring food production technologies to Conakry that can be productive in harsh environmental conditions yet conserve water? Aquaponics technology saves resources by reducing space, eliminating waste and eradicating the use of traditional machinery. The system removes the use of dirt and the problem of pest, yielding the highest quality organic vegetables. Aquaponics uses less energy and has a smaller carbon footprint to grow 5-10 times the volume of food with only 5% of the water used in traditional farming.
How might we use agri-tech to make agriculture attractive to urban youth? How might we creatively attract investment capital guinea to invest in agricultural value chains? Our AquaFarms make farming sexy for young people! They are new for Conakry, its different. Each of our AquaFarms comes with a packet of ag-tech apps allowing AquaFarmers to check and anayze the vitals of their Farms from their smart phones. And most of all it's genuinely lucrative and can attract investment. Our business-a-box social franchise model provides young entrepreneurs with an opportunity to have a truly lucrative business, which is a win for potential investors who also appreciate the model as it is transparent and takes away the guess work.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
Young people can now fully participate in the economic development of their city and country. Restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and corporations are purchasing products locally rather than importing, making them genuinely a part of local economy and creating opportunities for youth. There is more nutritious food in wider varieties and affordable costs available year-round in local communities. Diasporans are regularly investing in their city and country and receiving a return on their investment which begets further investments in the city and participation. There is a sense of hope, that an innovation can come to Conakry and succeed and can be lead entirely by youth. There is hope that opportunity can thrive and survive.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
AquaFarms Africa’s mission is to address the problems of food security and food sovereignty across Africa by making urban agriculture broadly accessible through a unique social franchising model, unlocking the wealth opportunity in the food space for local entrepreneurs and reducing carbon imprints from food importation and logistics.
The AFA solution combines aquaponics technology with efficient logistics chain management to increase access to healthy and sustainable food, despite rapid urbanization
Aquaponics, the combination of fish farming and soilless agriculture, is generally considered more efficient than traditional farming for several reasons. It is more productive per square meter, making it particularly suitable for urban farming, and requires 95% less water than traditional agriculture and uses renewable energy to create a controlled environement. Aquaponics is also completely organic thereby reducing toxic runoff and minimizing harmful environmental effects.
In addition to efficiency, AquaFarms' systems allow for climate-controlled farming thus facilitating year-round harvesting of normally imported niche products. The ability to sustainably offer speedy farm-to-table delivery of these high-value products to our target customers – hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and corporations – allows young urban farmers to obtain greater incomes, repatriating monies spent in international markets to serve the Conakry economy and contribute to the GDP.
AquaFarms are also 5-10 times more productive than traditional agriculture. Every 12x12 AquaFarm produces approximately 2.5 tons of food products per month, allowing farmers to serve this niche customer base with the first quality of product while also providing the second quality of nutritious vegetable and fish product, which have nothing but cosmetic defects, to their communities and families at affordable pricing.
Africa is home to the youngest population in the world with over 600 million under the age of 25. As of now, 72% of African youth are under or un-employed 11 million youths are expected to enter the labor markets every year for the next decade. Although agriculture is often lauded as Africa’s greatest potential for job creation, urban youth are often left out of the equation despite being the largest unemployed population on the continent.
Our adaptation of the social franchise model allows us to build food sovereignty through local ownership of the value chain, thereby creating jobs, sharing wealth and reducing youth unemployment in urban areas. Our concept gives new entrepreneurs a business-in-a box opportunity allowing them to focus on production, while AquaFarms Africa manages other areas of the operational value chain such as site selection, procurement, marketing, sales and logistics to end buyer. Our AquaFarms are also locally made and cost efficient.
We provide access to capital to young AquaFarmers through our investors. We have 3 different types of ownership structures: active, passive and financial. Active ownership requires the franchisee to directly manage an Aquafarm. Passive ownership allows for the franchisee to invest in an AFA franchise while AFA directly manages production. This type of ownership is particularly appealing to diaspora investors who while sitting in London or New York can invest in a transparent, profitable, and sustainable business that contributes to African economic growth. The financial ownership model provides larger scale institutional investors with the opportunity to make sizeable investments into the AFA franchise vehicle in the form of loans to franchisees. The financial ownership model is particularly effective because it empowers almost anyone to be an aquafarm owner, therefore creating a win-win scenario for both investors and aspiring African entrepreneurs.
In the Guinean market, each farm achieves break-even at 30% of production capacity. AFA aquafarms can achieve a 40% margin at 50% of production capacity and as high as 55% margin at 100% of production capacity. We remain price competitive in the Guinean market compared to imported goods since localized production in proximity to customers allows for additional costs borne from supply chain inefficiencies and importation to be bypassed. Nowhere in Conakry, nor Guinea, does this kind of opportunity for support, security and access exist for youth. We are providing a holistic systems approach.
In my work, I have watched young people struggle to find capital, markets, inputs and other resources and services to launch or sustain their companies. It’s often impossible without systems support. By introducing innovative farming techniques in an urban environment, we include urban youth in the agricultural conversation and transform our cityscapes. The problem of youth are such a huge portion of the population and their unemployment presents such an incredibly huge risk to security and future of the country and Conakry; any food solution must consider youth employment.
AquaFarms Africa not only addresses accessibility to healthy and sustainable food for urban populations, but also the need to boost youth employment, both major issues when facing urbanization across the continent.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?