Young innovators attempt to link agri-business and textile industries

By: Edwin Ashimwe
Published on: 2019-10-02
Visits: 172

Amidst the current ambitions in the agribusiness and textile industries, it has emerged that minimal sourcing of local raw materials continues to threaten the sustainability of the sectors.

This, however, could turn-around as four young innovators have developed solutions to the challenge. 

Their solution was among awarded among the six best innovators of the year. 

Despite coming from different backgrounds Pierra Ntayombya, the Chief Executive of Haute Baso teamed up with colleagues from the agri-business sector to embark on a journey to address the challenge.

Haute Baso is a leading fashion design house in Rwanda.

This was with an aim to have an impact beyond the agri-business industry to motivating young innovators to think ‘out of the box’.

Recently, the team was awarded among the top six best innovations of the year in an annual competition organized by the National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA), in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Earlier this week, Ntayombya spoke to Business Times about Haute Baso’s new project.

Briefly, tell us the genesis of your solution and innovation, how did you come up with this idea?

The idea was born from various discussions around the challenge surrounding locally sourced raw materials.

After exploring several options we (our group) believe that sugar cane bagasse would provide local consumers with a homegrown green solution. We are a team of four from various backgrounds ranging from design to business development.

How did you end up with sugarcane as a raw material?

We opted for sugar cane as a raw material because of the by-product of sugar processing. Bagasse is a material that is under-utilized in Rwanda, at least according to our hypothesis.

Yet the potential for linkages between agribusinesses and textile producers would add much-needed value in both value chains.

Additionally, the eco-fiber market is a fast-growing market, making the manufacturing of bagasse textiles in Rwanda create a unique opportunity in the export market.

For how long have you been looking into the feasibility of the concept?

We started exploring sugar cane as a raw material for textiles in June 2019.

Pilot phases and exploratory stages are said to be a challenge for most projects. Are there any strategic approaches that kept you on track??

We are steadily motivated by solving the challenge of locally produced raw materials so all challenges in the research and development process are opportunities to be creative and innovative for us rather than obstacles.

Innovation, on the other hand, is always and trial and error, we are committed, resilient and hardworking and through the networks, we were able to create in the Hackathon we are optimistic that this solution will be expanded from a prototype to commercial rollout.

Let’s talk about meeting the expectations, what do you think will be your client’s perceptions and thoughts on the concept?

We have not reached the ultimate stage yet, however, from the general feedback from our stakeholders, we are very optimistic that the bagasse textiles will meet and even exceed the expectations of our clientele.

What stage is the project at currently?

We have yet to pilot this project as we are still in the initial research and development phase.

Most fashion houses claim it is costly especially finding raw materials and resources…

As a fashion business, we know the costly implications of sourcing raw materials so the goal with this textile business is to provide raw materials that are high quality and affordable.

Who is your target market?

Our target market is environmentally conscious consumers who are looking for affordable high quality and local materials.

Your project was highly welcomed, during the awards at this year’s innovation competition, what impacts do you hope to have on the sector?

As a locally-based fashion brand, our ambition is to continue to thrive to promote traditional Rwandan and African skillsets with a meaningful impact on the fashion industry in the country.

As an operator in the local fashion industry, how is the fashion industry business?

As we have entered into our fifth year in the fashion business in Rwanda, we have seen very positive growth in our business and also in the fashion industry in Rwanda.


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