Ready to help the country of Nigeria grow its very own delicious tomatoes, two Harvard alums, Mira Mehta and Shane Kiernan, launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter this week to raise $50,000 for their company, Tomato Jos.
Although Nigerians love fresh tomatoes and tomato paste, the country has a hard time growing the crop, and most of their harvest rots before it reaches the consumers in the big cities. Since Nigerians are unable to get their tomato fix locally, they have become the largest importer of tomato paste in the world and reportedly spending almost $500 million each year.
Tomato Jos, which apparently means “cute girl” in Nigerian slang, “because the tomatoes from Jos, Nigeria are especially sweet and juicy.” is said to believe in the power of local food production for local consumption. The company is a for-profit social enterprise that is based in Keffi, Nigeria, a small town located a few hours outside of Jos.
What the Tomato Jos is aiming to do is to reduce the stress for farmers and ultimately deliver a delicious product to hungry tomato lovers everywhere. To achieve this, the company is going to make the first homegrown paste to hit the shelves in the country.
Explaining how to make this difficult process easy, the Tomato Jos team stated,“The first step to great paste is great tomatoes. Farmers learn best practices on our model farm, and then we support them back on their own farms with high-quality seeds, fertilizer, and on-site advice when problems crop up. We also guarantee to buy their tomatoes, so they know they’ll get a fair price once its’ time to harvest. The farmers we work with can make up to five times more income.”
During a recent interview with Bostlnno, Kiernan shared, “Transplanting is a stressful process for tomato plants. They’re much more likely to survive if they’ve had a chance to develop strong root systems, which they can only do in a highly controlled greenhouse environment.”
With the funds, the startup will be able to purchase $30,000 worth of tomatoes in its first month alone. The rest will be used to buy better equipment and have a greater impact in Keffi. Since its launch on Thursday (October 16th), the project has so far raised nearly 18,000 from close to 200 backers. It is set to close on the crowdfunding platform November 16th.
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