Project Everest

Proposed PROJECT

Skipping the Middle Man

Felix Zerbib
Felix Zerbib | Feb 5, 2018 | in Ideas Box

In Week 2 Belinda, a fellow trekker, and I caught a minibus towards Bila Levu with the intention of meeting a farmer named Umesh Ram ,who had been sold a consultancy report a year earlier to discuss the issues that had caused him to not implement it, as well as to gather vital data for the Field Dev team who had been working on coming up with an ideal companion cropping blueprint to trial at the Sigatoka and Renandi plots.

Although we did not meet up with Umesh we made some interesting discoveries regarding the disparity between native Fijian and Indo-Fijians’ farming, at least in the region of Sigatoka Valley, of whom the latter seemed to be much more established.

The Indo-Fijian farmers along Bilu Levu told us that almost all of their crops were destined to the export market, and consequently most of their farms were growing Hawaiian Papayas. We were told that a local transporting company was outsourced to pick up produce directly from farmers and deliver to ports of exit of the country.

However, they expressed a clear interest in selling their produce to resorts in Fiji as according to them it was common knowledge that they would yield much higher returns. Additionally, they explained that the remainder of their crops were destined to the local Sigatoka market where prices for papayas and eggplants go for around $2-$3 per unit. Indo-Fijian farms were also quite large and there was a large presence of machinery such as tractors. We also noticed that the owners of these farms were employing native Fijian labourers to help with the farming.

On the other hand, Fijian farmers we spoke to in the Nambaka region told us that they sold the totality of their crops in the Sigatoka market. The farmers would catch the minibus with their produce in the boot to Sigatoka a few days of the week ($4 return trip) where they would spend the entire day selling their produce. These farmers would also grow a larger variety of produce, probably to cater to the Fiji diet. Occasionally a middle-man would come through and purchase their best products to re sell to resorts at a very high profit margin.

Fijian farms were smaller (4 acres according to most of the locals), probably because they did not outsource any labour and were thus unable to adequately manage larger plots. When I mentioned the idea of building a supply chain that would involve outsourcing the same delivery company used by the Indo-Fijians, and then marketing their produce to local resorts and hotels they were thrilled at the concept of achieving much higher returns for a smaller effort (as well as sticking one to the middle man). One of the women I spoke to, named Emma, told me that she would love to have us come to her plot and invite all her local friends, so we could pitch the idea to all of them.

These findings lead me to believe that there is a very large potential for all FarmEd branches to collaborate to build a model in which we would bring local producers’ (of any farmers who showed interest) crops directly to hotels, effectively granting them a higher level of income. On behalf of Field Dev, the companion cropping blueprints could be tailored and automated to take a blank canvas of the farmers’ plot, examine hotels’ projected produce demands (a planting and harvesting period ahead) and consider seasonal data to provide a planting recommendation for farmers that would guarantee them to meet demands of high paying consumers. If this is applied to a large group this may provide soaring benefits for both parties as it is likely that hotels may be able to reduce their 70% import quota, which would surely do wonders for their public relations, and farmers would be able to increase their revenues.

There are obvious drawbacks to consider, such as a reduced supply of produce on markets such as Sigatoka’s, which may actually increase living costs for non-farming locals. Additionally, this will likely foster unfriendly relationships with the “middle men” who would no longer be able to achieve their relatively strong revenue, but these may be mitigated as PROJECT EVEREST APPROACHES WORLD DOMINATION.



edited on 5th February 2018, 09:02 by Felix Zerbib

Zoe Cahill Feb 5, 2018


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Liv Hendy Feb 5, 2018

This is super interesting, Matt has been looking at the internal operations of the Blueprints and what can and can't be automated, just tagged him below he has worked through this info in the last week and can give some insight :)

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Felix Zerbib Feb 5, 2018

Thanks Liv! might be cool to have a chat with him as I have some experience in programming as well :)

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Matt Allan Feb 8, 2018

While the presentation of these supply chains (the flowcharts / charts) can be standardised across regions, the processes are so unique.

Happy to share learnings, but the cultural differences are increasingly important to our execution.

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Wade Tink Jul 1, 2018

This post here forms the basis of a new project we are building out on a direct producer to consumer model.

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Wade Tink Jul 1, 2018

Status label added: Proposed PROJECT

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