Rooftop farming

Rooftop farming

Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Schaduf builds networks of rooftop farm owners, and sells their crops under the company's brand.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Schaduf tackles two of Egypt's most pressing problems: unemployment and food affordability. The country is currently witnessing unprecedented unemployment rates, and the lack of agricultural land and water scarcity are resulting in the rise of food prices. Those two problems combined are resulting in the suffering of millions that are struggling to feed themselves and their families.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Schaduf's solution is to utilize unused roofs as a source of employment and food production, by providing Egyptians in low-income neighborhoods with the opportunity to own and work on profitable rooftop farms. The owners of a rooftop farm are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the farm, while Schaduf provides them with the critical success ingredients: 1) Access to finance by partnering with local NGO’s and Micro Finance Institutions 2) Training 3) On site supervision, quality control, and support 4) Access to inputs and markets Schaduf offers a comprehensive solution that links the company’s profitability to the success of each individual farmer.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

One of our farm owners, "Omm Shaimaa", is a single mother and has been using the additional income she is generating from her farm (200 EGP/ month = ~ $30) to support her family. In a country where 40% live on less than $2 per day, and additional $1 makes a big difference in moving people out of poverty.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Schaduf has conducted studies to find the reasons why the concept of rooftop farming didn’t have any long-term success in Cairo. The findings were that projects collapsed due to a lack of incentive-structures for the participants. The farms were not profitable, often there was no follow-up on technical support or training and the farmers didn’t have access to a market to sell their produce. Schaduf builds on these lessons learned and developed a market-driven solution.
About You
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How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Your Solution
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

Our "Aha" moment came when we were visiting a farm in New Orleans that was working closely with Hurricane Katrina victims. The farm was using soil less agriculture techniques and they were trying to teach people the new methods, so they can earn some money on the side by growing crops. It immediately struck us, that soil less agriculture would be the perfect solution for an arid country like Egypt, where millions of roofs are flat, and completely unused.

Select Sector(s): To which of Unilever's categories of sustainability does your solution apply?

Sustainable Agriculture, Smallholder Farmers, Supply Chain Micro-entrepreneurs.

Measurable Impact
Audience: Who have you identified as your customers/recipients and why? How will you get your solution to them or engage them in your initiative?

We have identified stay home women as our main target. For them spending 30 minutes per day to maintain the farm is very easy, and does not require them to leave their homes or travel long distances. We get our solution to them through NGOs, and we usually conduct free trainings so people can get a better understanding of the technology and decide whether this is something they are passionate about.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?

We started with 2 successful prototypes, and then expanded to 12 more. We currently secured loans from an MFI for 120 farmers, and we are expecting to install the farms within the next six months. Our goal is to fill all the unused roofs in Cairo and then move to other cities.

Growth, Finance & Leadership
Scaling the Solution: How do you intend to scale your activities over the next two years (e.g., reach new markets, diversify solutions, etc.)? What will make this possible?

We are working with a cluster model, where we copy everything exactly in different neighborhoods. Each cluster has 25 farms and is managed closely by a team of agricultural and logistics experts.

A main limiting factor was the availability of financing for the loans, but the success of the model has drawn MFIs to us lately. In terms of crop sales, we are working on agreements with large exporters to ensure a steady stream of demand for our products after scaling our business.

As long as financing for the loans is available, we can expand as much as needed. We are planning a financing round for our company in February to grow our internal resources

Financial Sustainability: What is your business model to ensure financial sustainability?

Each rooftop farm is financially sustainable for its owner, and they repay the loan they took within 12 months, while making $15/ month during the loan repayment period.
The same applies for Schaduf. Each farm generates profit to the company through the sale of the crops.

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

This is the largest initiative I pioneered, but I believe my previous experience as Deputy General Manager for the first wastewater treatment Public Private Partnership project in Egypt will be invaluable. For that project I was representing my Egyptian company in a joint venture with a Spanish partner. I built the team with the Spanish General Manager from scratch and we succeeded in implementing the project despite all the challenges.