To address two pressing global issues – post-harvest loss and carbon emissions, Aisha Adamu, an innovative entrepreneur, has set up a cost-effective cold storage facility to support the storage of fresh farm produce.
These ground breaking initiatives are not only helping to combat food waste but also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Aisha is the chief executive officer of Danwawo Innovation Hub (DIH)- a Nigerian-based renewable energy start-up that reduces post-harvest loss and carbon emissions in the Sub-Saharan African agricultural sector.
“Our product, Wakanda Preservator is a microclimate storage solution that can extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables between five to 30 days, while also reducing carbon emissions in the agricultural sector,” Aisha says.
“Our mission aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of zero hunger, food security, clean energy, climate action, good health, and well-being.”
Aisha was inspired to establish DIH in 2020 because of the devastating impact of post-harvest loss on the lives of smallholder farmers and market women and how it affected their income, children’s education, and the health of consumers.
Since then, the company has evolved through extensive research and development to create a smart and affordable solution that addresses the challenges of post-harvest losses,” she says.
Aisha says she borrowed N25,000 from her friend to register the business and used her savings, funds from organisations, and contributions from her family and friends to kick-start the business.
“After registering my company and putting in some effort in implementing the idea, we received funding from the Nigerian Climate Innovation Centre (NCIC) and All-On as a grant to push our business further,” she says.
Danwawo’s approach to post-harvest preservation differs from traditional methods by providing a microclimate storage solution that inhibits pathogen growth, delays ripening, and regulates the activity of antioxidant enzymes, she says.
“Our innovative solution, Wakanda Preservator makes use of ethylene oxidizing and near-sterile microclimate in an insulated chamber that creates a controlled atmosphere to help the produce stay fresh for longer,” Aisha says.
“The concept behind the design is to also make it portable, can be mounted on hand carts, trucks, and pushed like a wheelbarrow, and it comes with a battery that lasts for a whole day on a single charge.”
Post-harvest loss has a significant impact on the agricultural and environmental sectors. It affects farmers’ income, and food security, and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), sub-Saharan Africa loses about 30 percent of its fruits and vegetables due to post-harvest losses. This translates to a loss of over $4 billion annually.
On the challenges she faced starting the business, Aisha says access to funds, navigating complex regulatory environments, and building a team with the necessary skills and expertise, were major hiccups.
“We overcame these challenges by seeking out mentorship and guidance from experienced entrepreneurs, leveraging technology to streamline our operations, and building a strong team culture,” she says.
To ensure a deep understanding of our customers’ needs, Aisha conducted extensive market research, engaged with farmers and market women directly, and collaborated with agricultural stakeholders.
“We also use data analytics and feedback mechanisms to improve our Innovation continuously. We have a team of experienced agronomists and engineers who work closely with our customers to provide tailored solutions that meet their specific needs,” she says.
“So far, we have established partnerships with local distributors and cooperatives and implemented training programs for farmers and market women. We have also received recognition from various organisations including the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the African Development Bank.”
Contributing to the reduction of unemployment in Nigeria, Danwawo has employed a team of ten full-time staff members, including agronomists, engineers, and business development professionals.
Speaking on the business plans, Aisha says, “Our plans for Danwawo include expanding our product line, scaling our impact across sub-Saharan Africa, and continuing to innovate and develop sustainable solutions for the agricultural sector.”
In her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, Aisha says they should focus on their mission, be persistent in pursuing their goals and build a strong team.
“Seek out mentorship and guidance from experienced entrepreneurs and build a strong network of supporters. Do not be afraid to take risks and try new things and be consistent because there would always be setbacks and letdowns,” Aisha says.