Agrowayu, "when tasty becomes nutritious"
Agrowayu is a Peruvian winner initiative of the Rural Youth Innovation Award in the promotion and inclusion of vulnerable groups category. It was born four years ago, in 2016, when Gian, Maickol and a group of colleagues, all students of Industrial Agriculture Engineering at the time, were participating in a yearly innovation and product development fair. Since Peru is the country with the third highest malnutrition rate in South America, they decided to focus on creating a new concept, the gelachia, to combat this global issue which is also a priority for the IFAD.
Gelachia is a fresh gelatin for immediate consumption with highly nutritious ingredients, such as chia and quinoa. It is worth mentioning that gelatin is the most popular dessert in Peru and many other countries in Latin America. “We looked for the best version of a product consumed most by children” said Gian, CEO of Agrowayu. To his team, this “best version” represents a meal rich in protein and vitamins, with scientific backing and low sugar, sodium and fat content.
Although gelachia is fit for diabetics – since it is made with stevia – celiacs and athletes, Agrowayu has focused its efforts on children ages 2 to 11 and even mothers in rural areas, where malnutrition and poor eating habits have a foothold. The lack of nutritional habits is the main reason why this disease still prevails in the countryside. “At Agrowayu we are aware that the solution isn’t just offering a product, but also a service. This is the reason why we train mothers, because there is no point in children eating our products if they still don’t eat well at home”, said Gian.
For this reason, in addition to disseminating the gelachia, the team at Agrowayu also provides nutrition workshops two to three times a month in public and private schools in the Libertad region or in school fairs. These events enable a bond with the mothers of students and begin an exchange focused on the nourishment of rural families, especially indigenous people. The feedback was very positive: “The moms keep saying: how has this never occurred to me? It’s funny, because they want us to show them our formula, but that’s not how this goes. What we want is to give them alternatives”, said Gian.
In the same vein, Agrowayu is beginning to diversify its production: in addition to gelatin, it recently developed a variety of nutritious gums and jams made from local fruit, like passion fruit, watermelon, kiwi and pineapple, as well as grains like chia and quinoa, and also cereals such as purple corn. It procures its raw materials at a fair price from small farms in the region. Every product is then subject to a rigorous metric of sensory acceptability, determined through tastings offered at schools. “Because having an extremely nutritious product is useless if children won’t eat it”, stressed Gian. Results from the research were beyond satisfactory: 97.92% of children enjoyed the nutritional products Agrowayu is making for them.
Although gelachia’s success is undeniable today, it is worth mentioning that the struggles were also numerous. “Usually it isn’t your first product that leads you to success”, Gian reminded. A year prior to creating gelachia, the group of young students had developed a nutritional product that didn’t meet expectations. “It turned out terrible, even visually”, he said. However, they didn’t despair. “It’s a little like when a musician writes a song: what inspires us to keep on working is the idea that we’ll leave a legacy behind. A legacy that inspires some change before the issues that ravage our country and Latin America”.
Gian is thinking big, and he’s right. Currently, Agrowayu’s has a craft production, but is already looking to industrialize it. In addition, its team plans on growing and reaching out to the most remote rural areas of Peru. The demand exists already. They built it up by following the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in their training program, detailed in the 2030 Agenda. “Agrowayu was born from the impetus of young dreamers. We dream with our feet on the ground. Because dreams aren’t enough if you don’t take steps to achieve them”. Today, Gian and his team are achieving their dream, which is also the dream of many others: acting to end hunger and malnutrition.