Releaf, an agtech startup that develops proprietary hardware and software solutions that makes African farmers and food factories more efficient and profitable, has partnered with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture to improve growth and sustainability in oil palm production in Nigeria and across Africa.
The partnership will enable the startup and the award-winning research-for-development organisation to explore ways to increase oil palm yields, deploy the best intercropping mechanisms, and work with fabrication and mechanisation experts to foster further innovation and development in Nigeria’s smallholder-driven oil palm sector.
Despite having 80 percent of market share, 4 million smallholder farmers in Nigeria’s oil palm sector are unable to maximise the opportunity available to them due to relatively low yields and limited access to adequate processing equipment. Releaf has invented Kraken – West Africa’s most advanced palm nut de-sheller – which can process up to 500 metric tons of palm nuts per week to produce premium palm kernel products at 95% purity, better than the 88% industry standard. Releaf also works with farmers to improve their output by encouraging the adoption of best practices to increase their yield and supporting farming activities that are good for the environment.
In the early 1960s, Nigeria was the world’s largest oil palm producer with a global market share of 43 per cent. Today, it contributes less than two percent of total global production. IITA will support Releaf with soil fertility analysis, access to its facilities, oil palm management programmes and leaf analysis for improved productivity. The partnership will also explore how insect waste can be recycled into organic waste that can be used to fertilise oil palm or as a source of nutrition for livestock.
According to Ikenna Nzewi, CEO and co-founder of Releaf, “IITA has a long and rich history of working with international and national partners to impact agricultural value chains and we are really excited to be partnering with them. IITA also represents the beginning of the journey that led me to co-found Releaf and I am grateful for the opportunity to take this relationship forward. Oil palm is one of our most ubiquitous plants and we must continue to develop technology to improve its sustainable impact on rural communities’ livelihoods.”
IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga said, “We are really impressed by what Releaf has already achieved in such a short space of time. I recall our first meeting with Ikenna in 2015 and it is great to see what that first encounter has led to. Investing in research and development is always a great advantage for everyone and we are looking forward to working with Releaf to explore more ways to add value across the agricultural value chain.”