2020 was a year no one could have adequately planned for. There was no guidebook on how to navigate a pandemic in the 21st century, and with the pandemic came pay cuts, layoffs, the shutdown of many businesses, economic meltdowns and a whole lot of other challenges. Nonetheless, in the face of adversity, pockets of unique opportunities presented themselves.
Here is a story of how ingenuity and foresight led to unprecedented growth – amidst a pandemic – at Farmforte.
In the first quarter of the year, we took a step towards expansion that brought about a domino effect. We kicked off the year by exhibiting at the Fruit Logistica tradeshow in Berlin and the Gulfood trade exhibition in Dubai in February. These events were crucial to our growth because they allowed us to showcase a range of our products to attendees from over 180 countries and attracted over 500,000 buyers. With these tradeshow events came more opportunities to expand and penetrate the global market with our various products.
By March, it became impossible for the world to continue running at its normal pace. The COVID-19 virus had started to spread rapidly, and drastic measures had to be taken. Several countries enforced varying degrees of lockdown measures, some borders were closed, public gatherings were largely prohibited and citizens around the world were encouraged to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.
These factors made it impossible for us to do business as usual. In the face of challenges, innovation is birthed. Thus, we made the strategic decision to look within and focus on disrupting the local market.
Automation became the order of the year. We deployed various resources to enable us to produce and sell goods locally. We expanded our beans processing plant to a fully automated system, upgraded the Sesame processing facility to a fully automated line with Laser colour sortex ability, constructed automated poultry systems that produce 960,000 chickens per annum, we also acquired a fully automated processing line with a capacity for 10,000 chickens per day complete with cold chain facilities, we built and installed a 10 tons per hour rice processing facility- this facility is amongst the largest in Africa.
These strategies brought about an immense comparative advantage in the industry. It is safe to say that we were able to accomplish many milestones in 2020.
Going Global with Orango
Another noteworthy achievement was the launch of the Orango product line for end consumers in Europe. The core of this product line is Sweet Potato. Every product from Orango comes from sweet potatoes delicately grown using sustainable agricultural practices on our farms in Nigeria. The leading product in the Orango range is our Sweet Potato Beer. Other products include Sweet Potato Chips & Sweet Potato Puree. The Sweet Potato puree has been developed and tested and is positioned to serve as input in the production of baby food.
We decided that to achieve more, and gain higher ground, we needed to form strong partnerships with organisations and institutions that shared similar goals and vision with us. Thus, we partnered internationally with Louisiana State University – the leading institution in sweet potato research- to supply ten new sweet potato varieties with different growth specifications.
We also published a whitepaper report – in partnership with HYBR Group & Matter Innovation- covering the development of, ‘Nigeria’s Agri-Innovation Revolution in Waiting.’
Launch of Freshforte
We previously operated an agricultural value chain which began from the farm, moved to our processing facilities, and stopped with retailers who then sold to the end consumers. In our journey towards expansions, we began to think of the end consumers too. How can we create more value for them? How can we build products that make life easier for them? The answer to these questions came with the conception of Freshforte: a multi-channel retail chain created to provide end consumers with fresh farm produce and other home essentials directly. By the end of the year, we successfully launched Freshforte, which has three
Freshforte: A retailtainment outlet that consists of a grocery store, a world-class restaurant, a cafe, and a juice bar.
FreshforteGO: A digital channel that allows customers to shop for food items and home essentials at their convenience.
Created to serve businesses in the HORECA space (Hotels, Restaurants and Cafes) by providing them direct access to fresh food products in large quantities for their daily operations.
On the 11th of December, we launched Freshforte’s flagship outlet in Lekki, Lagos State. The event was colourful and witnessed key personalities such as the current Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Godwin Obaseki, who commissioned the building alongside the Kingdom of the Netherlands Acting Consular General, Arie Plieger.
At Farmforte, impact is one of our core values. Education is an effective way to directly impact any society, which is why we renovated a Primary school in one of our host communities in Evbolekpen, Edo State.
We believe that education will help facilitate the development and empowerment of young minds in our society. We created ‘Farmforte Foundation’ to deploy this project with proceeds gathered from a percentage of profits made from our consumer products. This project has immensely impacted the lives of children and families that live in the community by providing them with the necessary teaching and learning resources that they need.
Subsequently, the Farmforte Foundation will run all Farmforte Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives across the country and beyond.
To Greater Heights
All in all, 2020 turned out to be a great year for us. We formed incredible partnerships, automated our systems, launched remarkable products, created value and were able to give back to our community- albeit while navigating a pandemic.
We are almost halfway into the first quarter of 2021 and we have set ambitious goals that would surpass last year’s achievements.