Fertilizer prices are skyrocketing. African farmers find it hard to compete if their governments do so much as put a micro-tax on imported fertilizer.
Some numbers from Zimbabwe:
"So using a conservative fertiliser application rate of 250kgs per hectare for Ammonium Nitrate(AN)
and 300 kgs per hectare for Compound D basal fertiliser for the 2008/09 maize crop, only 24 000 hectares of maize will have adequate fertiliser at a cost of US$1083.00 per tonne. The average world price for one tonne for 34.5% AN fertiliser is US$425.00 per tonne and for Compound D (8:14:7, N-P-K) is US$500.00 per tonne. These prices are from Harare depots, transportation to rural areas can increase this price.
A farmer in Zimbabwe this season will pay U$$ 1.08 per kg of fertiliser. Therefore, to plant one hectare of maize the farmer will fork out US$594.00 per hectare, assuming the rains are good, the seedbed is perfect and germination is within the acceptable 95-99% range."
The Zimbabwean farmer gets paid only $50 per ton of maize, and average maize yields are 1.5 tonnes per hectare. So very few farmers can even come close to breaking even.
The situation is much better in neighboring countries, but still, high fertilizer prices are a serious pain.
So here's the plan:
-there are loads of elephants in Southern Africa (see stats below)
-an African elephant can eat up to 300 kg of plant matter per day, of which he only digests 60%
-on average he drops between 60 to 100 kilograms of dung per day
-stats for different countries in Southern Africa:
:: Tanzania: 120,000 elephants
:: Mozambique: 20,000
:: South Africa: 20,000
:: Zambia: 35,000
:: Zimbabwe: 60,000
:: Botswana: 120,000
Okay, loads of excellent manure there. Thousands upon thousands of tonnes.
Say: 350,000 elephants producing an average of 50kg a day = 17,500 tons of organic fertilizer per day. We're not going to harvest all that, because the dung spreads seeds, which is very important for the ecology of the savannah. But harvesting a fraction of it can help, and won't do damage.
-elephants can travel great distances every day. Tens of kilometres. So we need a way to follow them - or at least their poo - around.
-we design a simple elephant dung tracking device: a solar powered GPS tracker is connected to a poo-detector. The elephant wears the device.
-the poo-detectors are attached to the elephants' anii. A simple sensor will do the trick. As the annii open and the turd falls, the sensor notices it.
-so each time our pachyderm friends give us a dump of their precious fertilizer, we get a signal.
-all signals are plotted on a map.
-we then use a simple algorithm to calculate where it is economically feasible to gather the huge turds.
-once we have traced our route, we send out our Afro-Siberian Soviet Monster [link] to collect the stuff.
That's it. Sell to farmers.