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Internet of Fruits

Rebalancing diet through consumer behavior and digitalization for affordable and nourishing fruits in the South East of Nigeria.

Photo of Charles Ikem

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Broot Consulting

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Razon Eastern Farm Consult (small company), HOUSE OF LOGIC (small company)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.brootc.com

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Just beginning now

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Lagos

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Nigeria

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

South East of Nigeria

What country is your selected Place located in?

Nigeria

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I was born in Onitsha in the South East of Nigeria. I grew up here with deep family and cultural ties. I speak the native language and enjoy the cultural identity associated with the region, the tribe, and the culture.

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.

The South East of Nigeria is home to the Igbo tribe in Southern Nigeria. Made up of 5 states known as the ‘Igboland’ with common cultural and linguistic identity. Geographically, it is divided by the lower Niger River into two unequal sections – an eastern (which is the larger of the two) and a western section. Igboland is surrounded on all sides by large rivers and other southern and central Nigeria indigenous tribes. It is primarily situated in the Lowland forest region of Nigeria, with parts in the Niger-Delta. Here the Niger River fans out into the Atlantic Ocean in a vast network of creeks and mangrove swamps on the Bight of Bonny. It covers a total area of 40,000 (Km Sq.), a population density ranging from 140 to 390 inhabitants per square kilometer (arguably one of the most densely populated areas in Africa) and with a total population of about 40 million people. The absence of drought and high soil fertility may contribute to high population density. The population is characterized by the diverse Igbo culture and the language is Igbo with slight variations differing from state to state. So also are the customs and traditions. The South Eastern Nigeria is of the wet tropical type climate with mean annual temperature in the range of between 27 ∘C°C and 34 ∘C°C and has an annual average of 1744 mm. The temperature of the area is highest around March–April when the overhead Sun passes through Nigeria latitude. The region is fertile for arable farming with the absence of drought and high soil fertility. Trade-in palm produce was a dominant feature in the economy of Eastern Nigeria. The palm tree provided fronds for roofing of houses in the villages, palm wine for drinking and palm kernels as a source of foreign exchange income. The region is rich in agricultural products such as oil palm, rice, vegetables and cassava and mineral resources such as crude oil, natural gas, limestone, coal, lead and zinc. Economically, the South East region is one of the most economically vibrant regions with the lowest poverty rate and a per capita income higher than the national average. It is described as the trading hub of Nigeria. With many of its indigenes involved in commerce, trade, and industry. It is has been noted that the Igbo apprenticeship system is the largest entrepreneurship incubator in the world according to Robert Neuwirth in his 2018 TEDTALK. This system is rooted in the culture of trade dating back to the early days of colonization. The average Igbo man and woman has a vision, wants to provide for his/her family. The culture of home is so important to us. So, every year, people invest in traveling from all over the world to go to their villages and celebrate festivals such as new yam festival, Atilogu festival, Christmas and New Year with their people. This is an important union that is filled with pomp. And of course, traditional food and drinks are the main starters.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

40000

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

40000000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

The Igbo culture is deeply rooted in food. The local markets are run by women who sell via wholesale supplies from Northern Nigeria or the local smallholder farmers. But many of the fruits do not reach the market or wasted. Transport costs are high due to poor road conditions, limiting access to credit, and output markets. 

Fruits and play an important role in health as they contain substances that regulate digestion and pH. There is a mention that a Nigerian eats a fruit once in 2 months. Not because it is not accessible or affordable but within the culture and eating habits, fruit is not part of the menu- at home or at the restaurants. So, there is little motivation to consume fruits. Although many modern retail shopping concepts exist with exotic fruit meals, new products don’t necessarily create new consumer eating habits. 

Very few large scale fruit processing industries abound in the region. With challenges like inadequate knowledge and technology of production, land tenure, and post-harvest facilities. Many entrepreneurs don’t thrive that long. 

Fruits and vegetables generate more jobs per hectare than staple based agricultural
produce. Women are the principal producers of horticultural crops in developing countries and are involved in the value-addition activities. But women in the east are involved mainly as resellers with little profit and access to capital. 

Land ownership in Nigeria has limited tenure security for poor farmers and women.  As poor farmers remain on depleted lands, they further degrade these resources. With prevalent subsistence farming and monocultural practices, land usage in the region is not healthy and plays into climate change, limiting soil biodiversity. 

It is estimated that post-harvest losses are as high as 50% in fruits and vegetables in the tropics. These losses occur during transportation, storage, and growing conditions to handling at the retail level. Fruits and vegetables contain a high percentage of water which can deteriorate during transit and storage, more rapid under high temperature and humidity.

By 2050, the fruit industry will see major challenges- quality and affordable fruits amidst scarce natural resources and climate change. New food production technology will put a strain on the environment with unsustainable levels of waste. By 2050, 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas while Nigeria’s population is growing at a rate of 3.2% yearly. Many smallholders will face pressure as a result to deliver quality and nutritious food. Traceability and transparency of the supply chain will become important. Industrialization will cause a scramble on rural lands of today and agricultural techniques will improve but leaving many farmworkers behind, especially women.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

On diets, the food culture here excludes fruits from the diet. This is rather systemic by design than economic or cultural. To change that, we can incentivize restaurants to bundle fruits with meals in exchange for traffic and local marketing. We need to connect food to health and health to food and work to influence policy and exchange between the stakeholders to offer dietary info and personal nutrition. 

From our conversation with food entrepreneurs they noted, ‘‘that we need not only sell food but also the recipe. There is more value from building hype around Igbo food''. In this era of social media, it is easier to fall in love with food, well presented. 

Our engagement with foodservice companies, chefs and restaurant owners revealed that they lack the creativity and knowledge required to create fruit-based meals and appealing fruit-food combinations. With cooking being mainly the tradition and responsibility of women. There is a lack of diversity and creativity in the industry and to embed fruit cooking skills across culinary educational tools. Experimenting via a community model of food lab, we can create an open-source recipe for healthy diets accessible to all and which will help in building creative skills. 

To address economic barriers and farmer income, imagine a better livelihood for fruit farmers especially women with a livable income to enable them to meet up with basic needs. This will serve as an incentive as it will focus on organic farmers and women producing rare tropical fruits. 

We can directly connect farmers and consumers to an online marketplace and enable data and APIs for entrepreneurs to disrupt the supply chain. It is possible to design new forms of green transportation around autonomous fleets and drone delivery to tackle high costs, inaccessible roads and high carbon footprints in the supply chain. 

We need a local policy for promoting environmental sustainability and regeneration. We can create a network of stakeholders and enable matchmaking between farmers, retailers and foodservice and processing companies to valorize side streams and have a waste cap and incentives for reusing waste. 

The farm to table phenomenon suggests that decentralized, distributed systems are the path out of our dilemma. Imagine a community ownership for land and shared resources like storage facilities that enable poor farmers and consumers to benefit from excesses. Finally, we are unable to answer questions regarding resilience to climate change, poverty, inflation, and the environment. We can create a platform to track and trace supply, simulate the fruit value chain and use economic, social or environmental data to better predict the future.

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.

“THE DESTINY of nations, “depends on how they nourish themselves.” writes Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, an 18th-century French gastronome.

Now, imagine if we can connect smallholders directly to consumers via an online marketplace, cutting out the middlemen. Farmers will get an advance income so they can focus on growing without bothering about livelihood and distribution. This will help the development of organic supply chains that drive healthy options for the consumer. We can deliver fruits directly using drones and autonomous fleets and bypass inaccessible rural roads and high transportation costs to deliver with less carbon footprint and post-harvest losses. 

We can build a Fruit Digital Marketplace for Side Streams and enable companies in the region to identify side streams for valorization and build a knowledge base for food making in the regional circular bioeconomy. 

We can start early to change behavior related to fruit consumption with the national school feeding program. Students are influencers and concerned about health and the planet. We believe that students can positively influence each other, their families, and their communities for positive change. This will increase consumer trust in the food chain. 

We can nudge food companies and restaurants to make fruits a mainstay in their offerings. By working with policymakers, we can offer incentives and traffic to restaurants that bundle meals and work to provide information services and dietary advice for personalized nutrition for consumers. 

Imagine if we can track and trace fruits in the production chain. With the capacity to collect ecosystem data such as economic and environmental and predict disruptions. This will lead to the elimination of potentially hazardous products and influence public policy.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Internet of Fruits envisions a world engaged in sustainable consumption and distribution of affordable and nourishing fruits by influencing consumer behavior and digitalization in the supply chain and aims to facilitate knowledge, data, and information between consumers, farmers, policymakers and other stakeholders in the system.

Internet of Fruits is not about the internet but about leveraging digitalization, behavior change and stakeholders in the food system. We hope to influence business models in the food industry, change consumer behavior around fruit consumption, use digital technology to connect farmers and consumers. We will use innovative green last-mile delivery technology to move food from farm to urban centers and consumers and enable a digital marketplace for side streams to reduce waste and connect buyers and suppliers in the production chain. And develop a digital twin model to enable transparency in food production whilst working with policymakers to help them understand the cross-sectoral implications of policy choices and the value of preventative interventions.

The objective of Internet of Fruits will be to develop both a strategy and a platform.

The strategy will involve:

1) Influencing business model of food service companies and restaurants by advocating for policy change using incentives, model community food labs and experimenting with fruit-based meals in the school feeding program to drive healthier diets.

2) Driving consumer behavior using influencer marketing campaigns involving local celebrities and indigenous chefs through social media.

3) Enable data, open APIs and standards for data collection with agencies to enable entrepreneurs and innovators to build next-generation solutions that will disrupt the entire food supply chain (distribution, marketing, delivery, information, commerce).

The platform will involve:

1) Build a Digital Marketplace that will enable companies in the region to easily identify side streams for valorization and to catalyze match-making between suppliers and buyers.

2) Build and facilitate an online marketplace that will connect farmers and consumers to facilitate commerce and a decent income for smallholder farmers.

3) Develop a Digital Twin Management System that enables tracking and tracing of fruits in the food production chain with a vertically integrated data system that gathers data on markets, finances, climate change to simulate the ecosystem to predict disruptions in the system before they occur. And working with policymakers to help them understand cross-sectoral implications of policy choices (e.g. food on health).

In the early 1960s, Buckminster Fuller said that, ''we had the food and ingenuity to feed the entire world; we just lacked the will. Feeding the world was too hard because it involved rethinking everything''.

Our vision will involve collaboration and partnership with different stakeholders and Internet of Fruits will focus on engaging and building a dynamic network of communities involved in data collection, capital, and policy-making and then aggregating and facilitating open data and knowledge sharing about the food system in order to deliver the strategy and at the same time, empowering stakeholders and entrepreneurs to build out the platform.

We envision a future in which everyone in the South East of Nigeria has access to healthy, affordable and nourishing fruit, well-balanced in their diets and produced/sourced locally and within environmental limits and that enable healthier lives for the next generation (2050 and beyond).

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Twitter
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Spam
Photo of Simone Silotti
Team

Bom dia! Charles

Parabéns pela iniciativa!Boa sorte!

Você acredita que o meu projeto Sal da Terra (aqui na plataforma) pode ser útil na sua regiâo?
Abraços

Spam
Photo of Charles Ikem
Team

Olá, obrigado por seus comentários
sim claro. Eu acho que o projeto pode funcionar em qualquer lugar da África
Podemos falar mais sobre isso

Spam
Photo of Simone Silotti
Team

Muito obrigado Charles.
Agredido que daqui a uns 3-4 meses, poderemos aprofundar esta conversa.
Boa sorte!

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