Zambia’s first locally produced multi-crop threshers.

  • 15th May 2020
  • by secretary
Fabricators build a multi-crop thresher using the skills
and training from the FirstWave-hosted SIL thresher
fabrication workshop. Photo credit: Anson Knausenberger

14 May 2020. The majority of agricultural production in Africa comes from smallholder farmers. Yethave access to a thresher. 
for a crop like soybean, traditional labor and threshing methods end up leading to as much as 10 percent post-harvest loss, as compared to as little as 0.2 percent loss when farmers

In addition, threshing soybean by hand is not just primarily driven by women and children who inhale soy particulate matter, but it can be up to 40 times slower than using a Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL)-designed multi-crop thresher.

Reduced product quality from breakage and contamination introduced during manual threshing further minimizes demand for local supply for farmers already at the mercy of an opaque supply chain, which forces them to take low prices offered by “briefcase buyers”. In the end, farmers are less motivated to grow a crop that should transform household incomes, and more conscientious buyers are forced to pay an unnecessary premium on the product that ends up in the market.

Thresher manufacturing
SIL’s multi-crop thresher is an innovation designed to address the gap between output and labor. With training from the Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL), FirstWave Group (FWC) was able to set up an operation with a local manufacturing partner, Tanelec Zambia, to create dozens of threshers in the coming months.

FirstWave Group hosted a thresher fabrication workshop
in Nodola, Zambia in early March 2020.
Photo credit: Anson Knausenberger
In just 3 weeks, FWC, SIL and Tanelec manufactured 17 multi-crop threshers, which FWC has already begun to field test, modify and deploy to smallholder farmers. The goal is to manufacture and deploy 100 threshers by the end of the 2020 harvest season.

As FirstWave begins to piece together the challenges of scale, to get this product – multi-crop threshers – that they know people need to advance productivity, and make it simple and affordable, they will procure grain and other commodity feed from smallholders to meet the significant demand for soybean that makes up nearly 50 percent of fish feed for Yalelo Zambia. Their target by July 2020 is to source and secure 10,000 tons of soya from over 800 smallholder farmers in concentrated areas through an efficient operation.

This efficiency begins with threshers, continues through to the utilization of the latest technology to aggregate supply, secure farmer payments before and during harvest, and moves towards greater digitization of the agricultural ecosystem so as to provide visibility from both a business planning and risk management perspective.

FirstWave Group.
In 9 years, FirstWave Group has built and operates the largest, most technically advanced, vertically-integrated aquaculture firm in Africa. They have over 1,300 dedicated team-members across Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Europe, and were founded with the distinct purpose to sustainably provide an abundant supply of affordable protein to the growing African markets.

And this mission isn’t just driven by the convenient fact that the feed-to-protein conversion ratio for fish is up to 10 times better than beef, and almost 1.5 times better than chicken.
Their activities are currently comprised of four operational companies. In Zambia, Yalelo fish farm, Aller Aqua aquafeed factory, and FirstWave Commodities (FWC), an aquaculture input company designed to procure grain and other commodity feed primarily from smallholder farmers.

Driving greater efficiencies across this value chain will, from a commercial operations perspective, allow FirstWave to achieve its mission of becoming the lowest cost producer of animal protein globally and the largest producer of animal protein in Africa. Central to achieving that vision is moving far beyond the simplistic notion of corporate social responsibility, and instead developing a sustainable approach to corporate strategy through a lens of achieving total societal impact.