Health starts from the table: everybody knows how important is to have fresh and healthy food in everyday meals to guarantee wellness. A fundamental need that too often takes a back seat in our everyday lives, but that deserves much more attention.
That’s where our Ghanaian entrepreneur Mark Tutu Sarpong takes action with his company NAANfields Farm Ltd, which started off as an experiment, but become a real business after a good yield from the research trial.
The company produces and provides, from field to the table, world-class fresh fruits and vegetables to promote people’s quality of life and well-being in Africa. In particular, Mark addresses to local processing companies and importing companies offering them a professional service that supports the long-term sale of fresh fruits and vegetables; at the same time, he promotes important consumer-supplier partnerships. The company also sells dried fruit.
The entrepreneur joined our Global MBA in Impact Entrepreneurship in Accra (Ghana) in 2022, to improve his business and acquire new knowledges.
“The E4Impact MBA provided me the opportunity to ameliorate many aspects of my business, like the financial planning, the governance, the approach to marketing research, sales and negotiation skills and strategic planning. It boosted my confidence, pushing me to do more and to realize my full potential” he stated.
But let’s learn more about his entrepreneurial journey.
1. How was your Business Idea born?
NAANfields started off in 2012 as a research field for my MPhil thesis work about diseases and pests of pineapples. This saw the production of pineapples for two growing seasons (3 years). Prior to this, I had worked for a fruit exporting company, where I had the chance to oversaw fruit production supervision and sourcing. The interest in setting up a business had been nursed for some time, until the harvest of the fruits from the research field gave very encouraging results and good sales. So, in 2013, the land was acquired to start the production with pineapples, that still goes on today, with the addition of other crops like coconuts, papaya, and vegetables especially. NAANfields was officially born.
2. Could you tell us, respectively, the most satisfactory and the most challenging moment that you had in your entrepreneurial activity?
The most satisfactory moment has been when I fully realized that I’ve had the ability to nurture the business from its embryonic stages till now, creating an activity that serves as a means of employment for others. The most challenging moment was, instead, the lack of adequate financial support for agribusiness in my country; that’s because financial institutions usually see farming, especially crop production, as a risky venture to support. This meant for me to fund my farming business solely from personal sources and that’s the reason why expansion has been slow.
3. How long did it take for your business to scale up, best adjust and be ready to access international markets?
It took about 6 years to scale up. At the moment, the production volumes could serve buyers for a 52 week/a year supply with pineapples. Our GlobalG.A.P certificate, which is the foremost demanded food safety standard, makes us ready to access international market. Our first business connections with foreign buyers for export took place around 2014, the same year we started to sell to local processing companies. We want to become one of Ghana’s leading fruits and vegetable farm brands on the global stage.
4. When creating such synergies, which main challenges, if any, did you need to address in the process?
The main challenge was to adapt the production in order to meet the high standard of the international market.
5. Could you tell us more about your current business partnerships and export activities?
Currently, we have buyers in Austria and France, with whom we are gradually developing the partnership. The volumes of the order we receive from them are below what we can supply right now, though, so we meet an excess of fruits that can still be supplied to any potential importer. In addition, we supply to other local fruit processing companies in Ghana.
6. Which are, in your opinion, the main elements that might contribute to further enhance your business growth?
The main elements are connections to expand the export market and to be able to ship more fruits; technologies that could enhance and speed up our value-addition drive, machinery to speed expansion drive, idea exchange, technical know-how, and interested parties willing to partner and expand further.
7. Have you ever took part in any other initiative, event or B2B moment in Italy and/or abroad?
I’ve been in Italy twice: once at EIMA in Bologna, as a visitor, in 2021 and at Macfrut in 2022 in Rimini, as an exhibitor.
8. Could you tell more about the impact you saw in your entrepreneurial environment and the one you are making in turn?
In my entrepreneurial environment, I’ve seen a more sustainable production approach and a livelihood enhancement for people from my community. Speaking about the impact I’m making and I wish to make in the near future, I think we could say that it includes empowering women and youth to be micro-entrepreneurs, by providing marketing avenues for them and supporting them to own their farms. Also, it includes employing more women and youth in farms and, by consequence, it enhances girl-child education.
9. In your opinion, what are the main qualities an entrepreneur should have?
A good entrepreneur should be versatile and cultivate a lot of qualities. He/She should be a problem solver and a risk taker, but also be strong-willed, creative and he/she should have good leadership, managerial and communication skills, as well as have an innovative and open mind.