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NjordFrey - Aquaponics for Developing Smallholder Farmers.

Provide advanced farming solutions to developing farmers, to reduce malnutrition while increasing sustainable economic growth.

Photo of Faisal Razzaq
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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?

  • 1-3 years

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?

Bugesera, near Kigali is region sized 1,288 km², as our starting point to build our flagship farm solution.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Lars Hededam, NjordFrey CEO has been working in Rwanda since 2015 in various roles in the development and food sector to utilise his Bachelor’s in International Development Studies and Master’s in Global Studies. 

During that time, the mass levels of poverty (~60% live under on less than $1.25 PPP, FAO) and malnutrition is evident as you travel around Rwanda. It is clear that new solutions and technologies need to be adopted if the country is to tackle this national problem, and there is a clear desire to do so, which is why NjordFrey has selected Rwanda as its place.

This is acknowledged by the Government, where it has set aggressive and progressive national policies to bring new industries into the country and support new advanced farming solutions. The Governments Strategic Plan for Agriculture Transformation 4 (PSTA 4) 2018-2024 solidifies this by including the use of aquaponics within its strategy.

Rwanda is a small land size, which means it is easy to travel across. With the introduction of road networks, you can drive across the country within 0.5 to 1 day. Additionally, there are plans to build roads and railways to neighbouring East African countries and there is a new airport being built in Bugesera within the next 3 years.

Though Rwanda is a developing country, it has made massive strides in developing the country over the last two decades and continues to do so through its national policies and ongoing stable economic landscape (e.g. 8.16% average year-on-year real GDP growth rate from 2007-2011, stable inflation and exchange rate, 

As a result Rwanda is a stable and secure place to invest in the East African reason, allowing for greater impact for its ~12.3m citizens to be made.


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.

What are the signifiers that are unique to your Place?  

The aftermath of the mass genocide in 1994 has long had an impact on the citizens of Rwanda. In that moment generations of knowledge, experience and culture were lost, leaving behind a country traumatised and in need of rebuilding. 

Over the last two to three decades, Rwanda has made significant strides in doing just that. Putting in place infrastructure, economies, education etc. to allow citizens to feel secure. As security is put in place, it allows for people to focus on the future. 

This understanding and strong link to a relatively recent traumatic past while living in and striving for a prosperous future defines the feeling of the country.

- The feel of the Place (e.g., who are the inhabitants, transitions that are impacting the community, traditions) / The urban/rural breakdown

Kigali is the capital and largest city in Rwanda. As it has been developing, building new commercial and academic buildings, it has been drawing more people to the city. Therefore there is a transition to larger population centers happening at various points across Rwanda. Outside of the main city, the country has several large population centers i.e. 10's of 1,000's in size. Outside of these, the rest of the country is filled with small towns and villages, with traditional ground floor mud buildings.

- The role of agriculture, farming and aquaculture, and dominant crops

Over 70% of the population work in agriculture out of those ~7.3m, 1-2m are smallholder farmers with an average of 0.5Ha of land (FAO). Agriculture plays a big part of the countries work force and contributes up to 33% of the countries GDP (FAO). The main crops it grows are potatoes, onions, herbs, chillis, coffee, tea, cassava to name a few. As a result of the limited food culture and reliance on imports for other crops, Rwandan farmers have a tendency to mono crop i.e. stick to one/limited number of crops, which ultimately reduces variety on the market and limits the nutritional content of peoples diets.

- What are the hopes of the People here?

There is a large amount of hope for Rwanda. As there is a growing middle class and continual increase in long term stability, additional infrastructure, increase in tourism, progressive outlook e.g. Rwanda sponsored Arsenal football team to increase awareness and tourism, there is a continual increase in optimism within the people. This is an ongoing challenge, for a population that is typically reserved compared to its East African neighbours like Uganda and Kenya, however the change can be felt year on year. This results in Rwanda being a stable and optimum place to implement new solutions that can have large positive impact for the people that need it the most.

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.

The key challenge faced now:

In Rwanda, 1-2 million smallholder farmers (FAO) looking to have a nutritious protein & plant-based diet for their families and surrounding community while increasing economic growth (currently the avg €110/yr (One Acre Fund Report 2018)) are limited by:

• High upfront capital costs of high yield profitable solutions

• Low/no access to finance from financial institutions due to insufficient collateral, plus interest rates equal 18% default in Rwanda

• Lack of food security (rainfall dependent) and limited harvest seasons with typical traditional farming solutions

• Lack of transparency and routes to market between farmers and different regions of Rwanda

• Falling into a dependency trap with competitors i.e. they don’t gain ownership or ways to significantly grow due to limited product lines

These problems are an interconnected series of problems that farmers i.e. the end users are not in a position to address alone and therefore missing out on a variety of opportunities. Various stakeholders e.g. NGOs, government etc try to act as a facilitator to connect and address they issues, however currently no one can successfully manage this there is no sustainable business model behind it. This is where NjordFrey has the advantage and opportunity to succeed.

If unaddressed then the rate of growth and adoption of new technology will stagnate and not improve at the rate required to feed a population estimated to double by 2050.

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

NjordFrey gives smallholder farmers, minimum 40 grouped together in cooperatives for maximum impact and efficiency, access to sustainably designed advanced farming solutions in the form of fully sourced aquaponic starter kits, seasonal input product line e.g. seeds & fingerlings secured in country and operational training to allow farmers to become independent, as part of a four-year (max) payback outgrower model.

Our solution will include a Digital Health Monitoring System that will eventually use machine learning and automated analysis of non-invasive sensory data to return results and initiate actions that improve efficiency, yield and pre-empt failures.

NjordFrey sales team also stakeholder map the full value chain of product lines offered and facilitates tailored routes to market (local, commercial and export) for farmers; we work with farmers to make them aware of the different markets available, facilitate relationships with buyers and feedback information we receive from national buyers e.g. grow crop ‘X’ as it is growing in demand within Rwanda.

Overall, this facilitation and immediate access to technology and advanced farming solutions, supply chain and market, provides developing farmers with increased knowledge and opportunity that would have taken over a decade to develop independently.

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.

How solution links to 3 key SDG's in particular that will improve the lives of people in Rwanda:

GOAL 2: Zero Hunger: Our advanced farming solution is designed to allow the involved farmers to increase their calorific daily intake from the country average of 1950kCal to at least 2500kCal. This is due to the significant increase in crop/fish yield (30-100% increase depending on the item, due to increase in growth rate and number of harvests available with this technology. This is supported through numerous literature examples such as “Small-scale aquaponic food production” (FAO: 2014) and “Design and Operation of the UVI Aquaponic System” (Rakocy, Bailey, Shultz, Danaher: 2004)).

GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being: Our solution produces organic fish and vegetables and introduces a vital source of protein and variety of nutrients that is not consumed by these end users otherwise.

Through our customer discovery journey process (through the EIT Seedbed funded) we have also confirmed with existing cooperatives that banding a group of farmers together to work on a farm is extremely beneficial to mental well-being compared to farming their own land individually. This is because it allows them to support each other with challenges in and out of the farm e.g. providing childcare while working, giving advice on farming etc. .

GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth: Our solution changes the production model for farmers from consuming 70/80% of produce to selling 70/80% of produce at market by changing the mindset of farmers. This is a result of the significant increase in yield (200 times more production) using the same average space of 0.5-1Ha of land in Rwanda. As a result, farmers using our solution will be able to increase their annual income from 110 euro (One Acre Report, 2018) to 1000 euro a year.

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

For more information please see

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Sajeev Erangu Purath Mohankumar

Good to see you here Faisal. Best of luck!