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What my father-in-law teach me about Agrofood chain

Experience and knowledge in agrofood from an expert

Photo of Juan David Rozo
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My father-in-law is an agronomic engineer who dedicated all his live to pass on his knowledge in Universities, College, NGO and production farms. But his story starts exactly as anyone who wants to improve the world with better food harmless to human consumption knowing the agrofood chain

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In 1994 he started a farm by studying the offer and demand of fruits and vegetables, not all kind of food is appropriate depending of climate, temperature and access to water. But that is not all, he had to study the quality of the soil, the genetics of the product, hours of cold, hours of light and implement Good practices. He finally decided to growth Anna Apple, Peach Ruby Deux, Viena Pear, Feijoa and plum. Why not only one? as mass production will help productivity, well he wanted to function as a study farm that Universities will visit there to learn (It still happens)

Feijoa


He already did the planning, so now is the production. In this part the technology is vital, ingredients to feed the plants, watering system, prune the trees to full productivity, plague control, stage of the plants as a variable. A lot of questions are answered in the planning but is a continuous improvement because costs growth more that incomes. This helps to have crop in every month of the year (We lived in Colombia in the Equatorial line)


Finally, is the gather, that implement all the logistic to gather, collection techniques, duration, volumes, storage, internal transport, reconditioning of the food. My father-in-law tries to be exactly when prices benefit the farmer.


These three steps are essential to add value to the food, because are about quality and effectiveness. A lot of food is waste in this three stage, if you decided to growth a food without market, the harvest is going to be waste. If the planning or production arrives to the market at the same time, the prices go down and is not profitable to cultivate. If the fruits or vegetables does not have enough quality is going to be throw because is not good enough to transform to other kind of food product.


To diminish the waste, the first thing is to improve quality and desirability. This could be done in the three steps in the agrofood chain of planning, production and gather.


In this part of the story in 40 years, my father in law has succeed as a business man, also as a teacher that today a lot of Universities’s students and experts still visit him to learn about planning and harvest and sometimes work as a consultant to other farms.


My father in law with my nephew eating peaches

The rest of story is about legacy


My father-in-law turned president of a NGO called “USOCHICAMOCHA” Users Association of the District of Irrigation and Drainage Alto Chicamocha and Firavitoba, located in Boyacá- Colombia, a territory that supplies foods to the capital. This Is an association that help almost 2.000 farmers to the access of water and good use. When he turned to president (Pro-bono) the first thing he has in mind was to create a Supply center.


The farmer deals with the distributors, that also had distributors and the chain continuous to finish to the final user. The price the farmer receives are sometimes 10 to 20 times lower that in a supermarket. All this goes to the distributors and efficiency decays. It gets worst if all the harvest arrives and the same time and prices plummet.


The four step in the agrofood chain is the post-harvest. To add value to the fruits and vegetables and maintain food´s  quality and edibility. USOCHICAMOCHA has been created a Supply center since 2010. Here they receive the food, reconditioning it, washing it, controlling quality, weighting, disinfecting, packing, storing and preparing for transportation.

USOCHICAMOCHA Supply center

One of the examples is the onion. An onion from farmer to distributor can live 2 weeks until it is not sellable. But passing to the Supply Center it growth his lifespan to 3 months. But that´s not all it can be storage in cold rooms to improve that lifespan.


Right now the project is almost finished and it will help the productivity of the region.


It starts with quality and later is improved with value added to the food. The next step in the agrofood chain could be going to the market or processing with other kind of operations. Processing is to turn the food as a supply to another product. That does not involve anymore my father-in-law but my wife.


Right now she is studying the drying and the properties of feijoa fruit in antioxidants an anti-inflammatory metabolites on a doctorate phase. She is drying the fruit to optimize these variables that could be used as a food to consumption or as a supplies to other industries like pharmaceutics.

My wife with Feijoa tree

The final step is us, the final users, who need another kind of strategies to diminish the waste.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Is about quality at the beginning of the Agrofood Chain. Fruits and vegetables that are below the quality standards will be waste because there is not use even in turning it in another product. It is about the importance of innovation to add value to food to increase lifespan and quality

Tell us about your work experience:

I like to think I am a Metadesigner, a person who sees the benefits of design farther than usual as a framework to live and love.

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