7th September, 2016
‘Direct Fresh: Farming for the Next Generation’
Bangladesh has a food adulteration issue. Excessive use of pesticides and chemicals (like DDT and Formalin by farmers) has become a matter of major public concern when purchasing fish, fruits, vegetables and milk from the market.
Direct Fresh is a new agribusiness that has emerged as one of the leading suppliers of fresh and safe agro products for households, wholesale markets, major grocery retailers and institutional customers in Bangladesh. In a short span of three years, Direct Fresh (“DF”) has developed a loyal customer base of 20,000 households who rely on safe and fresh DF products delivered to their doorsteps.
Besides the loyal customer base DF also supplies to discerning institutional clients like Apollo Hospitals, The Westin, Radisson Hotel, a number of international schools, clubs, and restaurants who want to ensure food safety for their employees and consumers.
“It has been quite a journey to get where we are today. We set out with the mission to deliver unadulterated and chemical free produce to the market not really knowing how we would do it but ended up being one of the leaders in producing and selling safe produce in the country”- Sam Bretzfield, Co-founder and Chairman of Direct Fresh Limited
The unique value proposition Direct Fresh offers to its institutional customers is that using Direct Fresh as a supplier ensures food safety, but does not actually cost more.
Direct Fresh works closely with farmers, providing training and technical support to increase harvest yield and then purchase the produce at fair trade prices so farmers intrinsically benefit from working with Direct Fresh.
“We partnered with Direct Fresh because we wanted to invest in improving the livelihood of farmers in Manikganj by connecting them to the Dhaka market directly and by developing their capacity through trainings and technical support provided by Direct Fresh, so they could see real improvements in their lives through commercial gain and increased efficiency” –Mr. Gupta Bahadur Banjara, Head of Sectors, Swisscontact-Katalyst, a Market development project funded by DFID, SDC and DANIDA.
The Direct Fresh sustainable business model and work with the farmers of Manikganj was noticed by the ‘Business Call To Action’ [BCTA] global team. BCTA a United Nations Development Program [UNDP] initiative recognizes companies that have successfully implemented innovative and sustainable business models that help improve the lives of individuals at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’. Direct Fresh has recently been asked to be a member of BCTA and is part of a global network of similar organizations all over the world.
“The Direct Fresh inclusive business is exactly the type of innovative model that the Business Call to Action global platform seeks to showcase. As one of our newest members, Direct Fresh will be participating in the BCTA Annual Forum in New York, held in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly, to share their experience with other leading companies that deliver unique solutions to low-income communities across Asia, Africa and South America, thus enhancing the quality of life at the base of the pyramid.” Paula Pelaez, Head of the Business Call to Action.
Going forward the company is expanding rapidly and launching a MODEL FARM using advanced agricultural techniques, technology and practices which will serve as a benchmark for Bangladesh. Some of the latest advancements and discoveries once adopted on wider scale in Bangladesh have the potential to change the landscape of farming.
The Direct Fresh Rajendrapur Farm plans to introduce the use of Azolla instead of grass which grows six times faster and can be fed to cows, goats and chickens instead of grass decreasing feed cost by 85%.
The Rajendrapur farm will be one of the first farms to introduce Multi-Layer farming on a commercial scale allowing 300% more to be produced from the same square meter of land. In a densely populated country with limited land, one can imagine the benefits of maximizing farming yields from the same land mass.
“From the very beginning we have succeeded because we used ‘out of the box’ strategies to implement things others failed or found difficult. We took on challenges, often failed at first but tried again and again till we found the right approach. We launched some compelling business models that delivered results, getting us the traction in the market we see today” – Mishal Karim, Co- founder and Managing Director of Direct Fresh Limited.
Vermicompost will be used as the primary organic fertilizer and natural bio-pesticides will all be created from animal waste from the cattle, goats, chickens and other animals kept on the farm. The farm will also house the first commercial scale Hydroponics Green House growing multiple types of lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, strawberries and capsicums completely stopping the import of these items from India and Thailand in the near future.
For the general public, Direct Fresh will be launching a second online store, www.epbazaar.com in the coming months, which will deliver the best retail value for good quality vegetables, fruits, fish, chicken, beef and other essential grocery items to the general public delivered to their door step. The new store will start by aiming to deliver across Dhaka city and expand in to a nationwide service over time.
The Direct Fresh vision for the future is a unique initiative has been made possible through the capital funding received from RSA Capital, the lead investor in Direct Fresh and other investment partners.
“It is rare to find investment opportunities that look exciting from a commercial perspective, delivers value to the farmers and to the consumers. RSA Capital sees DF as a unique opportunity to invest in an innovative company while it scales up its reach.”- Sameer Ahmad, Chairman of RSA Capital
Other investment partners were Business Research International Corporation Inc. (BRIC), a global public and private equity investor and Razor Capital, a Bangladesh focused, recently launched private equity fund.
“My family has been engaged in the Agriculture business for decades. I see potential in a company that produces and sells directly to the market owning the own the entire warehousing, storage and distribution so it can cut out all middle men in the business. Delmonte adopts the same strategy and we have done well from doing so” – Ousamah Gillah, Managing Partner of Razor Capital.
We are also happy to announce some of our new esteemed members to the Direct Fresh Board of Directors. Mr. Sameer Ahmad, a pioneer investment banker, Mr. Mahmood Sattar, one of the most renowned bankers of Bangladesh and Mr. Zarif Munir, the first ever Partner at the Boston Consulting Group currently looking after BCG ASIA and Mr. Ousamah Gillah, Managing Partner of Razor Capital.
“A big vision needs to be nurtured. I see the potential of what Direct Fresh is trying to achieve and want to assist them at every step that will truly define whether they will reach their end goal of being one the largest regional ‘farm to table’ food suppliers in the region” – Zarif Munir, Partner at the Boston Consulting Group.
“Companies set for rapid growth and expansion will need to pay close attention to how they handle their finance. They will need guidance and advice along what can be long journey to becoming financially self-sustaining” – Mahmood Sattar, Chairman, RSA Advisory Limited.
Still in the process of building a strong and dynamic Board of Directors, Direct Fresh is set to be a company that will lead the way for nutritious, safe and affordable agriculture produce reaching the market benefiting all the residents of Dhaka city and eventually nationwide.