The Sun Barter

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The Sun Barter: Establishing a food network with dried fruits and vegetables, to curb food loss

Netherlandskaduna, Nigeria
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

The Sun Barter combines two simple already existing technologies to proffer solution to food loss of fruits and vegetables in tropical developing countries. These technologies are solar drying and the use of mobile text/SMS platforms. Less energy is used, seasonality of food and poverty is reduced.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the sun can be the key to poverty alleviation and food security in the tropics where it is most abundant?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

It is estimated that every year, globally, one out of four calories produced is lost before it reaches the consumers, either at post-harvest, or wasted at the end of the supply chain. 44% of the loss are fruits and vegetables by weight (wri working paper, 2013). In developing countries, this happens mostly at the post-harvest and distribution phase because of poor transportation, preservation and lack of market information.

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

The solution makes use of solar drying and an SMS based market platform. The very ripe products which would have wasted via transport, and excess on the field are kept for drying after harvest. The drying is done using a mixed mode solar drier. Farmers exchange with each other in different climatic zones of the country (trade by barter) or trade with retailers by sending a text message, whether to offer or inquire for a product. This message (either in its initial state, translated, or otherwise manipulated) is dispersed to those users that have access to this platform. This will keep farmers informed about possible markets and give security for their products as they can monitor the distribution of their products without middlemen.


NWO Battle of Ideas 2014
Impact: How does it Work

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

Drying is not a new idea to people in sub-tropical zones. Therefore, the concept of solar-drying is easy to introduce without requiring specialised training. The materials used to construct the driers are easily accessible to farmers in rural areas (mainly wood) and the use of the SMS system, expands the network of farmers to consumers, empowering farmers. The drying of fruits and vegetables at the post-harvest level, reduces their losses (35-100% loss in Nigeria) from the start of the food chain compared to transporting fresh products. Therefore, this percentage otherwise lost when dried, creates a new profit market since dried products cost more than fresh products. And this reduces seasonality of these products for the general public.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Introduction of a new product that has longer shelf life than fresh fruits and vegetables, with lower water content (lighter, compact) and efficient for transport, will open new market opportunities for the farmers outside the window period of the season. This tackles the lack of storage infrastructure and market opportunities for small farmers and seasonal farmers. Therefore, they will be able to diversify their market (fresh & dry products) as well as reduce food loss. This will improve the income of the farmers and reduce pollution. Also, with an alternative distribution network through the SMS-based system, farmers will be at least partly enfranchised from middlemen. We expect that better income and the availability of the dried products will improve, directly or indirectly, the nutritional state of the farmers and their households; as well as the society as the years progress.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

1. Begin a test phase within two states in the country to establish a proof of concept for the idea. 2. Scale up using 100 farmers after test phase is successful and meet necessary regulatory requirements. Alongside, the project's website will be updated on the activities in addition to local promotions on radio stations within the country and social media (promoting the stories of farmers who have adopted the idea and have gained profit). This is aimed to increase the local market between farmers and local retailers. 3. Inclusion of food industries and international retailers.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Farmers pay for the set containing driers, solar panels, hand sealer and weighing scales in instalments. All stakeholders: farmers, retailers and industries pay to access the SMS platform by subscribing for a given duration of time. In the area of exporting the products, revenue is generated to sustain the project. However, crowd funding, investments by partners and seeking for grants will also be a means to sustain the project

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

Reel fruit (snack and beverage company). They function by getting supply of the fresh fruits from farmers, which they dry in their own facility, brand and sell. However, in this project, the farmers are empowered with the skills to preserve and package the products in a manner that they can sell it themselves. Also this project removes the monopoly of middlemen in the market because the farmers can control their markets and have direct link to major buyers. In addition, the excess fruits and vegetables on the fields, which cannot be utilized during peak harvest times are taken into account.

Founding Story

As part of the celebration of their 50th anniversary in 2014, NWO-WOTRO, the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research, organized a competition, calling bachelor and master students’ ideas about global developments. The challenge was to form a multidisciplinary team and develop a social innovative solution or bring forward ideas, in challenging areas such as personal safety, sexual and reproductive health, food security and food waste, or energy supply. The team of four strangers was created, two of which were from developing countries. The goal was to win the competition with an idea that would make a difference and yet simplified enough to understand. After winning, the project was born.


Oluwaseyi Alalade is an MSc graduate Biotechnology (Wageningen University). Experience in process engineering makes evaluation of food chain processes (energy and mass balances) from producer to consumer possible. The quality of products can be ensured with knowledge obtained as a quality control intern during undergraduate years. As a native of one of the countries of interest (Nigeria), first-hand experience on major issues – whether policies, lack of elements for technology implementation or attitude of the people related to food loss within the country is known. Camilla Ponte studies anthropology of development, focusing on the social and technical dimensions of technology transfer (Wageningen University). Her major interest is on agricultural innovation as a means toward global food security and sustainability. While in Tanzania for an internship, she got in touch with a few initiatives regarding the use of fruits drying methods: these inspired the group to use similar techniques transferred in a new context, for the current project. She also brings into the project her MSc thesis experience with the evaluation of sustainability interventions among an oil palm farmers community. Marisol Amador has a background in Local Environmental Management with a bachelor’s thesis focused on low cost techniques that could help smallholders of coffee plantations to reduce wastewater. This knowledge helps ensure environmental standards are met. With a MSc. in Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation (University of Twente), the knowledge and experience to design systems and tools for the acquisition, analysis and distribution of data can be applied for the current project. Lavinia Plataroti is currently an intern at Global Center for Food Systems Innovation at Wageningen University. Has a background in sociology and economics of development with focus on impact evaluation of food security interventions. Experience in qualitative and quantitative data collection on the field, provides this project with insights on Monitoring & Evaluation techniques, as well as the production and coordination of surveys and economic assessments. With the current composition of the team, the major roles to achieve the project's goals is available since it begins on a small scale, however as the project expands, other expertise will be sort by employing new members and consulting with other established individuals.