Food technology company wants to optimize underutilized plants
On August 22nd, 2013, Co-Founders Mary Beth Wilson and Lacromioara Schulte auf’m Erley visited the Ministry of Agriculture & Animal Resources to express Innovesca’s interest in Rwanda’s agriculture sector and producing highly nutritious food products.
Innovesca is a platform-technology company that develops, produces, and sells highly nutritious food products using underutilized plants grown in developing countries, with the idea that “every bite counts.” Their technological processing methods unlocks and maximizes nutrients found in indigenous vegetation that would otherwise go to waste.
They came with the hopes of learning more about the indigenous amaranth plants, particularly the “dodo” plant, and what kinds of markets are exist locally already. Amaranth offers high levels of calcium, pro-vitamin A, and iron, among other nutrients. Currently in Rwanda, it is culturally viewed as typical weed, with no particular qualities for taste.
Minister Kalibata was able to provide them with an idea of what the landscape is like in regards to amaranth and indigenous plants. Although mostly locally produced and sold, there is a cooperative named Imbaraga in Northern Rwanda sells seeds of indigenous vegetables. Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) also holds research on inidigenous plants and have categorized them for classification.
Innovesca will be pursuing temporary on-ground testing for proof of concept and feasibility.
This could be an opportunity for widely common, underutilized plants to be used to address issues of food security as well as provide for wide and emerging markets in both East Africa and western markets for processed food products.
Products such as energy and nutritional bars, baby food products, gluten-free products are highly popular within western markets and poses a window for Africa to enter the same markets for profitability.