I have been scouting around for machinery to automate the value addition processes in my cottage factory in order to boost production.
While I was able to identify many that suit my needs, the main observation was that they are an overkill.
The least capacity that I came across was 30–60 packets per minute. This implies that in one hour of operation, I would be able to get at least 1,800 packets.
This is more than my combined weekly supply hence rendering investment in this machine an overkill.
Willing but constrained
When you scout around the various food markets and assess products on sale, a quick inquiry on how they are processed and packaged will reveal that the techniques are similar for most of them. The difference is usually in the type and quality of packaging used.
Many agro-processors involved in value addition of produce have the desire to automate their production facilities but are constrained by the kind of investment capital.
For one to put down Shs18m to obtain the most basic of machinery with specifications like those mentioned earlier and then underutilise its capacity is a wastage of valuable resources.
The government through its various agricultural initiatives is actively promoting value addition.
This promotion is crucial and a welcome step forward as it complements the increased production efforts.
Having observed how the production facilities at the Uganda Industrial Research Institute and the School of Food Technology at Makerere University are being put to profitable use by private sector players to make fruit juices, fortified foods, packaged milk, among others, I believe there is a case in communal production facilities.
How can these facilities work?
With the various grants available to support the agricultural value chain, agro-processors dealing in products with similar production requirements and in a common geographical area, can be encouraged to associate.
They then would be required to come up with a proposal for the establishment of a communal production facility that is comprehensive enough to show how sustainable the initiative shall be.
The availed grant is then used to establish the facility and management is handed over to this association of agro-processors.
This way, the kind of equipment that is an overkill for an individual processor will meet the demands of a group and thereby boost their efforts.
Imagine a district like Kayunga where substantial amounts of pineapples, passion fruits and water melon are grown.
As opposed to relegating these producers to selling their fruits at the roadside, a machine that can process juice from these fruits would go a long way in increasing their incomes as well as reducing wastage as a result of produce spoilage.
Get a boost
The success of such an approach towards agro-processing improvement will be hinged on studying the challenges and successes of the efforts currently being undertaken at the Uganda Industrial Research Institute and the School of Food Science at Makerere University.
Without doubt, a number of agro-processors likely to participate will get a boost. This is in terms of improving their production game coupled by good business plans.
So, they are likely to wean off these communal facilities giving room for newer and younger entrepreneurs.
Some of the benefits of this communal processing and packaging approach include the following:
• Less wastage of farm produce due to spoilage.
• Increased revenue for the agro-processors
• Easier acquisition of UNBS certification
• Increased product quality due to the improved process flows
• Faster production as a result of improved technology.
The writer is an agro and ICT entrepreneur.