This week, I will be explaining the business model for Nannofood. Because the target market is underdeveloped and impoverished areas, the production and distribution model make waves in terms of the feasibility of the project.
In general, the business model will follow something similar to a product in India and Bangladesh called Shokti Doi. Shokti Doi is a yogurt product made for children who are missing certain nutrients inherently common in milk products, and is also used as a bacterial supplement to help in digestive health, which is especially important in places such as India and Bangladesh where clean water is scarce but dysentery surely is not. The reason Shokti Doi is relevant, though, is the business model. The development team quickly discovered that distribution for yogurt is no simple task. It must be refrigerated every step of the way, from the production facility to shipping, then stored in a refrigerated area. Distribution also had to happen rapidly as yogurt goes bad quite quickly. Realizing the problems with distributing pre-made yogurt, the model was changed to set up small factories in villages with local workers running the factory and producing and selling the yogurt. Shokti Doi has become a successful branch of Grameen Creative Lab, which you can learn more about here.
Following Shokti Doi, my phytoplankton product will be produced in farms in small villages. To keep costs down, the farm will be quite simple. It will be a series of hoop houses, likely constructed with local materials instead of imported metal frames and covered with an imported clear plastic tarp (which will be much easier to ship as it comes in rolls). Within the hoop houses will be a large pond with a defined volume of water. While I did consider shipping out pre-formed ponds, the more economically and environmentally friendly option would be to instead dig out a pond and lay down a liner which comes in a roll similar to the hoop house tarp. Each farm will have its own circulation system powered by some form of renewable energy depending on the local availabilities. Every day, approximately one fifth of the water will be sent through a special filtration system that will remove suspended phytoplankton from the culture solution for collection. Growth formula will be added back into the processed water, and it will be recycled back into the system, using surprisingly small amounts of water. The harvested product can then be sold by villagers to villagers.
There are several reasons I have chosen to go with this model. One is cost and food miles. While all of the phytoplankton could be grown in one central facility, more product would have to be shipped. Organisms on earth (including humans and phytoplankton) are composed of mostly oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. Oxygen and hydrogen come from the fact that most organisms are largely composed of water, and carbon is the basis of life on earth, hence the term “carbon-based lifeforms.” To ship out phytoplankton would mean to be shipping out the water and carbon dioxide it has accumulated over time in addition to the trace elements it uses within its cell. Water and carbon dioxide are present and available in most parts of the world, so shipping those would be pointless. It is cheaper and more sustainable to grow the phytoplankton where it is needed, and to instead ship out the trace elements not found in water and air, which weigh considerably less. In addition to economic and environmental reasons, having locals growing and distributing the product helps build trust within smaller villages and helps the reputation and success of the product. The locals are more likely to accept and adopt ideas presented by people they know and trust rather than people from different cultures that they have never met before. In addition to the other reasoning I have provided, growing phytoplankton locally will also help create jobs and build up an economy in small villages that may not have been present before, and helps avoid removing money spent on the product completely out of the local economy.
So, that is how the business is going to operate. It won’t be a giant facility out in the middle of nowhere producing literal tons of phytoplankton, but instead will be individually run farms producing local food. If anybody has any questions, I absolutely welcome them in the comments below. Before I finish up, today’s quote is inspired by the way my project is unique to my mind. Nobody has ever really tried to implement phytoplankton as a food source, and not having multiple Ph.D. degrees in areas such as microbiology, phycology, and human nutrition makes this a bit more of a challenge. However, a challenge is not always bad, and there is no harm in trying something new.
Until next week,