Business research, planning and development at SME & supply-chain levels

“Developing competitive agro-industries is crucial for generating employment and income opportunities.  It also contributes to enhancing the quality of, and the demand for, farm products.  Agro-industries have the potential to provide employment for the rural population not only in farming, but also in off-farm activities such as handling, packaging, processing, transporting and marketing of food and agricultural products.  There are clear indications that agro-industries are having a significant global impact on economic development and poverty reduction, in both urban and rural communities.  However, the full potential of agro-industries as an engine for economic development has not yet been realized in many developing countries, especially in Africa”.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

Central to Fullwell Transform’s Theory of Change is the belief that the processing of raw agricultural materials by SMEs in developing contexts has huge potential to generate growth and development and reduce poverty.  The impact of this sector, however, is way below its potential in many developing countries, partly because opportunities for value addition are being overlooked and under-supported by various actors, but also because many existing agri-processing SMEs have insufficient entrepreneurial and business management skills.  This is compounded by the technological revolution of mobile and digital technologies, which as it sweeps across the world can leave many small businesses struggling to keep up or pass them by completely, leaving them further disadvantaged.  All this affects their competitiveness.

Entrepreneurs in charge of these businesses face daunting challenges.  They need to ensure that their product or portfolio of products adapts to the environment to meet market needs, reaches the required quality standards and gains access to markets.  They struggle to source affordable capital and are rarely capable of planning and budgeting to a level that really enables them to be sure that their business always has the cash-flow it needs.  They need to have a solid business plan as well as good market intelligence to be able to adapt the course of their business as the environment around them changes, yet many such business do need even possess a basic business plan.

SMEs and the numerous actors that have a role and responsibility to support them respectively need solid business and strategic plans, developed as a result of informed and comprehensive research.  Whilst it is fine for the thorough processes that go into the development of these plans to be undertaken every year or few, the reality is that SMEs and supporting actors need to be adapting their operations to the environment based on good business intelligence.  Good business intelligence includes research to inform the development of new as well as existing products and markets, as well as of the SME as a business more generally.  Solid plans coupled with good market intelligence and the ability to adapt will ensure that SMEs and supporting actors can stay relevant and competitive.


Business planning to boost incomes for coconut farmers in Kerala

Supported Indian Fairtrade business Elements to develop a business plan for its coconut processing facility that will see a 10-fold increase in its raw material purchases from its farming partner Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK) in around 5 years.

Identifying value derivation opportunities that can address the big cashew apple challenge in Burkina Faso and beyond
(2016 – present)

Carrying out research and development as part of a Comic Relief funded project being led by Fullwell Mill to develop the Fairtrade & Organic cashew supply chain in West Africa.

The R&D seeks to identify opportunities to derive value from cashew apples that presently in the main go to waste in cashew producing nations the world over. Work is focusing on energy generation as well as new product development.

Identifying opportunities to derive more value from mangoes in Burkina Faso

Carried out research for Gebana Afrique to identify new product development opportunities utilising fresh mango waste streams and lower grade dried mango.

Business planning support to SMEs linked to the innovation of healthy & exciting new Fairtrade juice products from Senegal
(2016 – present)

Providing business planning support to Zena Exotic Fruits, Baobab-des-Saveurs and Traidcraft as part of a project to develop a series of innovative Fairtrade juice products from West Africa.

Building capacity and maximising outreach for the dried fruit & nut sector in Northern Afghanistan

Provided support to USAID’s Regional Agricultural Development Program-North (RADP-N) via ACDI/VOCA, with a specific focus on the grapes/raisins and nuts/dried fruit value chains.

We worked closely with the in-country ACDI/VOCA technical team in order to achieve maximum outreach and to build their capacity to successfully implement market driven programming.  We also developed a plan to support other institutions such as sales institutions and testing labs to alleviate additional constraints along the value chain.

The collaboration increased project understanding of market demand, and of how to enable beneficiaries to meet that demand through training, technical assistance and awareness raising on production, post-harvest handling, standards and other requirements.

Identifying opportunities to innovate Fairtrade fruit juice products from West Africa
(2014 –2015)

Carried out research thanks to funding from the Fairtrade Foundation to identify opportunities for the development of innovative Fairtrade fruit juice products from West Africa.

The research was received with great interest by Traidcraft especially, and we helped form a consortium including leading fruit based ingredient supplier David Berryman.

This in turn has led to the development of a project to develop a series of innovative Fairtrade juice products from West Africa, which is being funded by Comic Relief and receiving some technical support from us on as detailed further below.

Strategising for the dried fruit & nut sector  in Northern Afghanistan

Supported GIZ and others with the development of an overall strategy to promote the growth of the dried fruit and nut sector in the Provinces of Balkh, Takhar and Samangan in Northern Afghanistan.

Assessing the viability of solar dryers for communities in Cambodia

Assessed the viability of using a solar dryer technology for Bayer Material Science’s Social Business Initiative, to help communities dry shrimp and pepper in Cambodia to reduce food waste and improve food quality and hence income, and all in an environmentally friendly way.

Planning for the growth of a women’s-focused mushroom social enterprise in Uganda
(2013 –2014)

Made a successful application to Sida’s Innovations Against Poverty programme to help the Mushroom Training & Resource Centre (MTRC) in Kabala, Uganda, to build its technical capacity, conduct market research and develop a business plan for diversification and growth.

The project was considered hugely successful by local entrepreneur Peace Byakatunda who described it as “the most useful assistance MTRC has ever had”.

Thanks to a grant from The Ashden Trust we have also been able to advise MTRC on how it can be more energy efficient and generate energy from renewable resources.

Additionally we sell some of their dried mushrooms under our Tropical Wholefoods range, and hope to be able to support them further as they grow.

Strategising for food drying in Jamaica

Advised GVEP International (now Energy4Impact) and developed a strategy document to guide the development of Caribbean ESCO, a Jamaican energy SME, in its plans to develop a food drying business.

Helping bring palm oil back to West Africa and on a Fair Trade & environmentally sustainable basis
(2010 – 2014)

Helped Traidcraft assess the viability of using a Fair Trade palm oil produced in West Africa. The Oil palm is indigenous to West Africa, where it is cultivated more commonly on smaller farms with less damage to primary forests. Therefore West African palm oil tends not to cause the environmental damage seen in cultivation in South East Asia.

We used the research to form a consortium with American organic body-care company Dr Bronner’s and UK fairtrade business Traidcraft, and led a successful application to DFID’s FRICH programme.

The resulting project culminated in the development of Traidcraft’s Clean & Fair range, as well as the inclusion of Fair Trade & Organic palm oil in some of Traidcraft’s other products.

Identifying opportunities to increase exports of pomegranates from Afghanistan
(2010 – 2014)

Assisted a number of people and organisations including Plant for Peace and DFID to assess and develop the pomegranate supply chain in Afghanistan, including the development of new related products.

This included research work for DFID undertaken in 2010 and 2011 with a view to identifying opportunities to increase the export of Aghan pomegranates to the UK. This work included extensive market analysis, reviews of volumes and values of different product segments in the UK markets and analysis of potential for growth and penetration by Afghan products.

The early years
(1990s – early 2000s)

We worked on numerous development projects alongside international funding partners such as the Natural Resources Institute, Commonwealth Science Council and DFID from the 1990s in countries including Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Guyana, Jamaica, Cambodia, India and Indonesia.  These projects touched on work with a wide range of agricultural products including coffee, tea, chocolate, vegetable and essential oils, spices and honey.