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Entrepreneur of the week

Harvesting seaweed for the production of chicken feed by Iriya Jona

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Iriya Jona holds a Bachelor of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (Hons). She’s never had formal employment. She got into business through Student Entrepreneurship Programme (SEP), that was held by the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation in 2017. She was one of the five finalists awarded by the Sanlam Namibia, together with NBII for the Sanlam Innovation Works Competition in 2018, for her idea to harvest the seaweed for exportation purposes and animal supplements. The questions from that competition prompted her to harvest seaweeds for the production of chicken feed instead. She realised that her first idea was not sustainable and was not adding value to the community. Iriya who is a social entrepreneur, wants to make an impact. She realised the gap in the market, and realised a way to ease chicken farmers to maximise profits.

Apart from the Sanlam Innovation Works Competition, she was part of the Redbull Amaphiko Namibia as a social entrepreneur, which she believes connected her to more people, she was awarded the 1st runner up prize at SME Compete; 2nd place at Startupper of the year by Total where she was also awarded Top Female Entrepreneur. Iriya is the winner of the NCRST FemBioBiz III. 

What product does Nam Oceanic Kelp Production Enterprise offer?
We produce chicken feed from seaweed. Our target market is start-up commercial farmers in order to assist them to make maximum profit out of their chickens. Currently, farmers buy chicken feed (mainly maize grains and sunflower seeds) which only cater for carbohydrate and protein and they are not sufficient nutrients to boost chicken growth, hence farmers have to buy additional supplements. This is a costly exercise as up to 60% of production cost goes to chicken feed. With our product, it will reduce the farmer’s expenditure by at least 15%, it is Namibian owned, less costly and cheaper as it is produced in the country and one package will contain sufficient nutrients and minerals.

As a start-up how do you ensure that you produce a quality product?
We’ve started testing a prototype that we’ve created on one breed, the Koekoes. We are making comparison between the feed that farmers use now against ours. We weigh the chickens after every two days to see the different growth rates. With the Koekoes we’ve ran the test for 2 months. We realised that the first prototype had a fault in that we did not desalinate the seaweed, and there is a certain content of salt that is required for chicken to feed on hence the chicken did not react well to the salt.
Currently we are working on three prototypes with protein sources from plants and mastering the desalinating process of removing the salt without stripping the product of its nutrients and minerals. Our next set of tests, we will run the test against 5 breeds. We also hope to carry out an experiment on Layers together with a university student from the UNAM Neudamm campus. We are also working on getting bigger machinery to improve the quality of the product, especially the grinding machine in order to make a finer product that is easier for chickens to digest. Hoping to enter the selling market in 2020 after the completion of the tests.

What challenges have you experienced?
It has been very challenging to obtain and apply for rights to farm at sea, as there is no assistance when you approach the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. Working space is also challenging to secure in an industrial noise zone area which is very expensive, as we are at start-up stage and are not yet making an actual profit. Lastly, funding is a struggle. Grants are not accessible, so most of our funds are obtained from competition winnings, which really helped us start off from an idea stage but the bigger part of the project is yet to start and we will need a once off grant, then we can focus better on our work. Most of our time is taken up by going from one competition to another, which is good for exposure but at some point it’s time to do what has to be done and it will only happen if we get a boost once off. Contact Nam Oceanic Kelp Production Enterprise at:
+264 81 322 8584

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