Releaf is a tech-enabled producer of crude vegetable oil in Nigeria.
Releaf buys palm kernel nuts locally and crushes them into palm kernel oil. Palm kernel oil is the primary ingredient used in vegetable oil. Releaf works directly with traders and local farmers to secure the goods. Now operating profitably, Releaf focuses on increasing the supply chain of direct farmers and experimenting with alternative approaches to create more efficiency.
Releaf was started in 2015 by Isaiah Udotong, an MIT undergraduate majoring in mechanical engineering with a concentration in international development (expected 2018), and recent graduates Ikenna Nzewi ’17 from Yale University, and Uzoma Ayogu ’17 from Duke University. Inspired by their Nigerian heritage, the founding partners immediately began working on their venture within just a few months of coming up with the idea as a way to help drive sustainable development in Africa.
At MIT, the team sought advice on incorporating from the BU Law Clinic, a resource they learned about through the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, and simultaneously began building out their business plan with the help of the Venture Mentoring Service. At the beginning of fall 2016, they started working with D-Lab to conduct primary market research.
Over the 2017 January Independent Activities Period, Isaiah traveled to Nigeria to further his research efforts and returned with a renewed focus on agriculture and a mind to scale after being advised to pivot to a more viable business model. Funding and support through MIT Sandbox helped the group better define their market.
In addition, Releaf launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for research-based travels and growth. The founders were also accepted in YCombinator’s 2017 Summer batch, to enable them to continue their mission of industrializing Africa leveraging talent and technology.