It’s laborious to think about Malaysia and Southeast Asia with out rice, however what’s tougher to think about is how a lot waste occurs in the case of farming it, particularly from a median shopper’s perspective.
About 3.66 million tonnes of rice husks (the outer layer of the rice) are left within the discipline yearly, and this quantity is forecasted to extend to 7 million tonnes yearly from 2020 onwards due to agricultural developments that may improve yield.
Rice husks account for 20% to 33% of paddy weight, and are often left to decompose or are burnt, which creates extra wastage. Moreover, the normal manner of drying rice in itself is additionally wasteful, which we’ll contact upon later.
Lincoln, Kisum, and Zheyi not solely realised this was a downside, however they needed to do one thing about it.
Tilling The Soil
The trio met at University College London, and began this undertaking of their second yr. Both Lincoln and Zheyi are Malaysian whereas Kisum is from Hong Kong.
They got here collectively in a competitors known as the HULT Prize, which is a global annual competitors for aspiring social entrepreneurs that works in partnership with the United Nations.
Their group gained in 2018 and had been awarded US$1 million (RM4.1 million) to understand their work of decreasing rice wastage and making certain truthful commerce for farmers within the rice farming business. They had been additionally the primary Malaysian and Southeast Asian group to win that award because it commenced in 2010.
Rice Inc. is at the moment primarily based within the UK however is doing work in Myanmar and Malaysia, and is seeking to develop bodily into Malaysia quickly.
Now, that they had 2 issues to sort out in rice farming: farmers who weren’t being paid pretty, and the crop losses they generally bore too.
To guarantee truthful commerce for rice farmers, they’ll join them on to high-value markets for fairer costs. For occasion, they’re at the moment bringing artisanal rice from Sabah to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and in addition promote rice within the UK by their rice model, Paddi.
As for decreasing crop losses, they launched agritech for drying rice which utilises the by-product of rice harvests, AKA the husks, as biomass power to run this machine and dry rice evenly. Lincoln likens the drying of rice with their agritech to that of a “laundromat”.
Problems With The Traditional Way Of Drying Rice
“Rice is usually dried under the sun. This is a manual process, which requires a lot of labour and usually takes much longer. It takes up to 5-6 days, compared to 5-6 hours using a machine,” the group shared with Vulcan Post.
Compared to that machine, this conventional manner of drying rice is additionally rather more imprecise, therefore leading to rice being too dry or too moist.
“Rice needs to be processed at a very specific moisture content, around 12%-14% and any deviation from this will result in breakage, and thus wastage.”
Moreover, there is additionally the danger of contamination from the environment, climate modifications, and animals invading the drying house. Hence, making certain a extra environment friendly and fewer uncovered surroundings in drying rice is necessary in decreasing crop losses.
As talked about, the rice husks are used as biomass gas and energy these dryers by producing warmth which is then funneled by way of a fan into a chamber the place the rice might be dried.
The Rice Inc. group put in a dryer of their beneficiaries’ villages that the farmers can entry by bringing their moist paddy to them after harvest and dry it for a charge.
At the second, they’ve 2 websites in Letpadan, Myanmar, with a processing capability of over 3,000 tonnes each year and want to convey this agritech to Malaysia quickly.
Let’s Talk Numbers
On common, putting in these “laundromat” rice drying machines prices US$10k per unit. From that US$10k, US$6k is used to purchase the machine and US$4k is the price of organising.
“By simply providing a dryer, we can increase the farmer’s income by 15% due to the price difference between wet and dry paddy,” they defined. One session can dry as much as 5 tonnes of paddy, and can price a farmer round RM165.
According to the group, 5 tonnes of dried paddy quantities to a rise within the farmers’ common income by RM820, permitting them to earn about RM8,204 over the usual RM7,384 for that quantity dried historically. By paying RM165, this implies they get 5x returns in comparison with the fee.
Farmers can even count on a 15% improve of their promoting worth due to the rise of their dry paddy yield.
Now, farmers don’t receives a commission by the month like the remainder of us, as a substitute they receives a commission throughout April and November that are the harvest seasons. Hence, they often take up odd jobs for the remainder of the yr.
“From our research, we found that most rice farmers are in the B40 group, and have a mean household income of RM2,527 per month as of 2016, according to this research,” they shared.
However, they clarified that they’re working with artisanal rice farmers to start with (jasmine, basmati, sushi, and so forth.), therefore the upper retail pricing for this rice is already there which helps to pay them higher. Their function is to make sure that many of the last sale worth is channelled again to the farmers as a substitute of going to middlemen and miscellaneous prices.
“How we’re doing this is to assist them with marketing and promotion as well as optimising logistics and marketing the price of the rice which will be decided by the community.”
Their farmers can resolve how a lot they wish to earn when working with them, they usually’ll simply advise them on a appropriate pricing level for premium rice and the way a lot Malaysians could be prepared to pay for it.
Challenges With Running The Business
“When negotiating deals or conducting interviews, we always need to have a translator, which makes every conversation take twice as long because we can’t communicate in Burmese,” they shared with Vulcan Post.
When the coup occurred, additionally they needed to halt operations in Myanmar for a whereas and adapt by persevering with their work in Malaysia.
On prime of that, after they had been getting adequate traction within the UK already with a quantity of 100 to 400 tonnes of orders, many of those shops closed because of COVID-19.
“Similar to how Fairtrade Coffee worked together with big brands like Starbucks, we’re currently still looking for our ‘Starbucks’.”
Hence, what the group is attempting to attain now is to leverage this demand for Paddi with main retailers and meals chains to have the ability to convey extra kampungs onto their direct commerce platform, and permit extra farmers to profit from connecting on to excessive worth markets.
- You can be taught extra about Rice Inc. right here.
- You can learn extra agritech-related items we’ve written right here.
Featured Image Credit: Lincoln and Kisum, co-founders of Rice Inc.