Two young Ghanaians have built a factory, using locally fabricated technology to produce milk drinks, biscuits, and other products from tiger nuts.
For an hour, Prince Oppong and his production team grind tiger nuts in a mill and pass it through a strainer to separate the chaff from the juice. The juice moves into a holding tank for starch extraction, then to a pasteurizer to remove micro-organisms, and finally to bottling. Within one hour, tiger nut milk drink is made available for consumption.
Tiger nuts, (locally known as ‘atadwe’ in Ghana) are said to be a source of fatty acids, fiber, vitamins and minerals. These are highly appreciated for their health benefits and nutritive value. Despite these potential benefits of tiger nuts, the crop seems under-exploited and under-utilized in Ghana, because most people only find delight in chewing the nuts for various benefits.
Prince and his course mate, Sampare Owusu Banahene, challenged themselves to change the tiger nut narrative.
“One day, after lectures at the University of Cape Coast (UCC), I saw a woman selling tiger nuts, so I asked myself why do we only sell the raw nuts and not process it into milk. I thought we could get milk drinks from it because when you chew it, it gives milk. As a science student studying BSc Laboratory Technology, I started researching into this, and this was in 2017”, Prince narrated.
So, in 2018, the 24 year-old friends started producing tiger nut milk drinks using home-grown technology. “There are a lot of challenges in Ghana and each challenge solved is a business”, Prince noted.
Excited with the potential of owning a business, Prince and Sampare decided to spend their school vacations on campus, so they could do more research. From their research, they also realized that the tiger nuts chaffs can be used for biscuits, so they started prototyping it.
With their pocket money and help from families, Prince and Sampare rented a space from their students’ Hostel Manager and renovated it into a production unit with a small laboratory and few equipment. They noted that the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) gave them approval, after inspection, to operate a cottage industry and this birthed their company, Tiger House Limited.
The Game Changer: A Philanthropist to the Rescue
Production, according to Prince, started becoming overwhelming, as people out of campus in nearby towns became aware of the drinks and biscuits and started placing orders. This meant, they had to put up a bigger factory to be able to meet the demand. Fortunately, this was a time when they were completing their first degree and really needed a ‘saviour’.
“One day, we received a call from one Professor David Kofi Essumang, the Dean of Physical Science, then at UCC. He said he bought our products and decided to look for us. He invited us to his office and asked how he could help. We told him we needed a bigger working space, and he promised to help. Truly, he put up this big factory for us”, said Prince Oppong, Co-Founder of Tiger House.
The big factory was ready in 2019 and needed to be equipped. This was when the young partners saw the Youth Innovation for Sustainable Development (YISD) Challenge, advertised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the National Youth Authority seeking to support young people’s innovative ideas. Luckily, their application was successful.
“The grant was God-sent and made things possible. We were able to complete our production line by working with a local fabricator to make a grinder, washer, separation machine, holding tank, pasteurizer, and dough mixer for biscuits. We also increased our production capacity from 100 bottles of milk drinks to 8000 bottles per month, and the biscuit from 100 to 4000 packs. Our customer-base have also expanded, and we now supply to regular customers in Tarkwa, Kumasi, Accra and Cape Coast”, Prince narrated.
For Prince, the business incubation aspect of the YISD Challenge was a good exposure, as he met other like-minded young people, from whom he learnt a lot. “The connection makes you feel like you are not alone anytime you meet challenges. Because of the YISD Challenge, Mr. Derrick Omari, one of the judges became our Business Development Manager on a pro-bono basis, always advising us”.
Tiger House currently has eight full time workers and five sales officers as casual workers. They also have 60 registered farmers who sell tiger nuts to them.
“Currently, we buy 80kilogramme bag of tiger nuts from the farmers between Ghc300 ($52)-400 ($70) depending on the season. Now, we have about 60 farmers who supply us from the Ashanti, Central, Eastern, and Northern regions”, noted Sampare, Co-Founder of Tiger House.
“We were into tiger nuts farming but selling was taking a lot of time and not profitable. Some of us stopped farming it and diverted into onions and tomatoes farming until Prince and Sampare started coming to buy”, a farmer, Mr. Kwaku Asempa, Brenu Achim in Komenda/Edina/Eguafo/Abirem (KEEA) Municipal District noted.
The company is planning to expand and produce tiger flakes, tiger yogurts and tiger spray starch, which have all been prototyped. According to Prince, 4kilogramme of tiger nuts make 50 drinks and its chaff makes 100biscuits. So, they always have excess chaffs that they have to dry-up for stock and want to start producing the tiger flakes cereal. The two young entrepreneurs are looking forward to getting more investors to be able to address their remaining operational challenges like getting cold vans to facilitate transportation of the milk drinks, and a fully automated line to extend the current two-months shelf-life of the drinks to a year.
With more partnerships, young innovators like Prince and Sampare can be supported to grow their business to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement and contribute significantly towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Footnote: Story by: Praise Nutakor and Sylvia Senu/UNDP Ghana. Photos by: Priscilla Mawuena Adjeidu/UNDP Ghana.