LishaBora is a scalable and sustainable social enterprise using hydroponics to introduce an alternative feed solution for smallholder dairy farmers’ cows in Kenya. Hydroponic barley fodder is grown in a low-cost greenhouse system where barley seeds are germinated, planted and grown for nine days. LishaBora owns and operates the systems while farmers buy the fodder in amounts based on their buying power. The systems are based close to the farmers, reducing last-mile distribution costs. The fodder is picked up at the greenhouse or at ‘drop points’ in nearby surrounding areas.
LishaBora’s fodder is a nutrient-rich product that surpasses the quality of the current staple feed, dairy meal. By operating in a low-cost environment we are able to sell a more nutritious product at a lower price point than current feed solutions, selling at 15 KES a kilogram vs. 30-45 KES a kilogram for dairy meal.
LishaBora’s unique business model eliminates the need for the customer to buy an expensive hydroponic system that requires technical work and large time commitments to continually operate. This moves a product that was previously available only to the wealthier segment of the dairy farmer population to the lower income population.
LishaBora is creating a ripple effect in nearby communities by word of mouth of increased milk production. Our scalable, off-grid system’s design can be constructed in nearby communities, increasing the reach and depth of LishaBora’s social impact. This business model incorporates an ongoing revenue stream that covers the cost of operation, and creates profits for greater expansion into the overall cow health sector. By lifting the yield of smallholder dairy farmers’ cows by 20%, LishaBora can raise the incomes of the 1.8 million smallholder dairy farmers in Kenya and millions more abroad.
Measure of Impact
LishaBora is improving the livelihood of 1.8 million smallholder dairy farmers by increasing their cow’s milk production by 20% through nutrient-rich barley fodder and reducing the feeding costs they incur. Most of these smallholder dairy farmers own 1-3 cows and make less than $2 USD a day. Women are typically the owner of the cow and responsible for its feed as well as the income generated from milk sales. Since women will be the primary beneficiaries, the additional income will feed into household benefits and development. Since the fodder will both increase milk yields and reduce costs, we expect farmers to increase incomes by 3-5 times, approximately $6-10 USD per day. Our social enterprise model is possible by keeping our system costs low and maintaining ownership of our systems, giving us the ability to charge 15 KES per kilogram and maintaining our quality over current feeds and a price point high enough to make a profit. Concentrating production and having a two-year payback on investment of systems allows us to offer our healthier product at a lower price point than current market feeds and reach farmers of all sizes on both the formal and informal markets.
We measure the impact of the milk production by using dairy cards used by the dairy co-operatives that collect the milk from small holder farmers. By measuring how much milk each cow produced before we start feeding the cows our product, we can compare how much milk each cow produces one week, one month, and beyond after initial product use. As we conduct lab tests on our fodder and current market feeds, we will be able to add nutrients and other necessary components of the cow’s diet to our fodder. LishaBora is a new company, just six months old; however, within the year we hope to have a complete health product for cows servicing 100 customers.
LishaBora is currently in the pilot stage of business development. We have one low-cost greenhouse in Central Kenya constructed using locally purchased materials that produces 80 kilograms of fodder a day servicing seven regular customers, reaching the capacity of our pilot system. Our system employs two local women. Data collected from customers has shown a 20% increase in their daily milk production per cow. The intention is to increase the scale of our next system to be 4-6 times larger than our current system in a new community.
Much of the milk collected by the 1.8 million smallholder dairy farmers in Kenya is used for sustenance or sold through informal channels. LishaBora has scaling opportunity because it seeks to provide a solution for low milk yields, the large market size offers great opportunities for emerging businesses, and our product has the ability to lift farmers out of poverty. Our business model is scalable because we are using local infrastructure and social systems to grow. We have also used local materials for our hydroponic systems which can be replicated for large-scale production. In two years, we hope to have 10 systems producing 500 kgs of fodder a day. Each of these systems will have two local employees managing the greenhouse. This solution is not only applicable to Kenya, but it can be replicated for many East African countries. LishaBora’s scalable, off-grid hydroponic system makes it possible to replicate systems in new areas, expanding our reach to increase milk yields across Kenya, East Africa and beyond.