When Natural Farm Fresh’s founder Nay Oo was first introduced to solar dryer domes, he recognized its potential to contribute to Myanmar’s agricultural value chain and became a distribution and installation partner for the technology.
“If the country does not invest in value-added processing, we will have to keep using imported products that are more expensive, even when we have the raw materials to make these products ourselves,” said Nay Oo. Each year, 35% of fruits and vegetables harvested in Myanmar are wasted due to a lack of post harvesting technology.
Natural Farm Fresh’s ambition to improve the local agricultural value chain with its solar dryers and provide aflatoxin-free spices for consumers under the brand U Sat Gyi (Mr. Spicy) was what led One to Watch Myanmar to include Natural Farm Fresh in its first accelerator cohort. Over a year after successfully pitching at the 2018 Demo Day and receiving initial investment interest from Emerging Markets Entrepreneurs, the company secured a six-figure investment from the early stage VC firm.
When asked about the investment process, Nay Oo emphasized, “Trust is very important. You need to build a relationship of trust between the investor and the investee.” Despite EME’s portfolio being heavily focused on tech platforms and services, Nay Oo found the VC firm to be trustworthy and saw that his investors were bringing more to the table than investment capital; EME also fills the business and network gaps of his company.
Nay Oo added that one of the main challenges for local entrepreneurs seeking investments is the negative perception many investors hold on Myanmar’s political and economic situation. “Myanmar is one of the last frontiers. Investing now can give investors the first-mover advantage, but they will need to be more persistent and patient.”
With an investment secured, Nay Oo is currently working on engaging over 80 new contract farmers in Rakhine State and to expand the Mr. Spicy brand to export markets. Natural Farm Fresh will also be developing two additional brands, one to distribute its aflatoxin-free spices to consumers at the bottom-of-the-pyramid and another to launch solar dried fish products.