It’s the beginning of 2022 and as always, we like to reflect on how the last 12 months were for us. So see below the highlights of 2021 for Aggie.
First up, thank you so much for making 2021 another huge year for Aggie Global. Without everyone’s support we wouldn’t have been able to double our farmer network or quadruple the number of people Aggie was able to impact through the last 12 months. So a huge thank you and vinaka vaka levu to you!
We had so many big announcements and impactful achievements within Fiji in 2021, so this is longer than we’d like, but lovely to recap on our wins.
In February 2021, we held a Goats Milk Workshop (the first of its kind!) with over 400 attendees online and 23 attendees in person. From this we helped establish Fiji’s Goat Milk Industry, with 1 attendee being the first to commercially produce 20 litres of goats milk every week, 6 months after attending our workshop.
Being able to work with farmers to help them meet the demand for new products, is a huge driver and motivator for us at Aggie Global. So to see the success of this workshop has been very rewarding.
During March we finally got to meet some of you wonderful customers in person, by holding 3 meet-and-greets across Viti Levu. For many of our repeat buyers, it was lovely to finally put a face to your name (and order), so thank you for making the time to come meet us, including the new farmers we got to have chats with. Along with these meet and greets, we also attended markets, with one including a Talapia tasting to promote the new, and very sustainable, seafood product. One taste tester loved the Talapia and her photo is one of our favourites, with her beaming smile and messy hands!
In the same month, Elizabeth represented Aggie Global on Fiji TV, in an episode of Farming Fiji series by FBC TV! As terrifying as this was, Elizabeth did so well, and talked all about our food boxes as a way to support Fijian families and farmers during COVID. Since this time, we have had many people stopping us on the streets to say “AGGIE! I saw you on TV!” which is really lovely.
As word spread about Aggie, we received more inquiries from farmers looking for support after Cyclone Yasa and during COVID. One such farmer produced honey, but his hives were badly damaged by Cyclone Yasa. However, he had had a big honey harvest the week prior, and at the same time we just connected with a buyer who need bulk volumes of honey. So we supplied this food manufacturer with 65kg of honey, which we were able to immediately supply to support our farmer.
In April, Fiji had their first outbreak of COVID (previously COVID had been impacting Fiji by essentially shutting down tourism causing devastating unemployment). This outbreak led to a 6+ month lockdown, creating some very difficult times. Aggie adjusted by offering our fresh fruit and vegetable boxes to people in quarantine to both support local farmers and get fresh food to those who couldn’t collect it themselves.
In response, one of our partners sponsored 20 food boxes to feed families in need. With all of our sponsored food boxes, we delivered these food boxes to a range of recipients, many of which had been unemployed since the start of the pandemic or had chronically ill family members and were struggling to make ends meet. The families, including the children, were lovely to meet, many of which were incredibly grateful to our community for thinking of them before themselves, especially those whom were complete strangers. Being able to address food security by ensuring those with a low income, or in remote areas of Fiji, could access fresh food during this time, was a direct way to deliver on some of our core values at Aggie and reiterate why we founded the business (to address food insecurity).
These acts of kindness and thoughtfulness from the sponsored food boxes, led us to start our Crowdfunding Campaign, where others could buy a food box to be send to a Fijian family in need. This was launched in June, and by the end of the year we gained 8 monthly subscribers, which has allowed us to provide 4 families in need with a food box every month plus train 3 Fijian farmers under pro-bono work to improve their on-farm systems and sustainability.
In July, we sold over 30 food boxes in 2 consecutive weeks, which was a big win for us. Concurrently, we helped a farmer establish his bongo chilli farm by supplying over 500 bongo chili seedlings to their farm on an outer Fijian island. This was a logistically complex order, working with delicate seedlings, compounded by the pressure of the pandemic to limit inter-Island travel with the uncertainty of shipping times, we felt we didn’t do as well as we could have but with so many other factors out of our control, we did the best we could.
We also expanded our service offering and expanded to weddings! Well, supplying locally grown and arranged Fijian flowers for the bride and bridal party including the flower girl. Another product offering we attempted to kickstart was a collaboration with FitChefFiji to cook meals for those in need (similar to food boxes, but ready made meals). With this we were again featured in Fiji Sun, which highlighted our impactful work of our Crowdfunding Campaign and food boxes.The next huge reward we gained for Aggie and our team was when a sponsor reached out to pay for 40 food boxes of fruit, vegetables and staples to feed an entire village!
This was huge and our team delivered all 40 boxes to families in an isolated village just outside of Ba. This was done during lockdowns and on the owners birthday in July and we couldn’t have asked for a better present. The gratitude, joy and openness from all recipients was very humbling. Vinaka vaka levu isn’t enough for this supporter.
In August, we won the Secretary General’s Commonwealth Innovation Award for Sustainable Development in Prosperity. This was a huge win and morale booster for the team, where we finally had our FIRST Aggie Party (all COVID permitting, via zoom with cheese and wine). Elizabeth and Sava were stoked (as were Lisa and Zoe of course) with the achievement, and continue to care for our award, which stands proudly on their office desk.
In September, we supplied our first set of 150kg of bongo chillies to a food manufacturer making hot sauce for the US, which had been in the works for a long time 3 months. Around the same time we exported our first batch of ginger samples to New Zealand for a researcher looking into the medicinal properties of ginger. So too, we supplied enough local produce to make over 600 jars of chutney!
As restrictions eased across Fiji, we were able to host a few more Meet and Greets over November and December. However, a highlight for us was attended the Youth Symposium in Ba, where Elizabeth and Sava gave 3 presentations to the audience over the 2 days, and met with many young people interested in starting a career in agriculture.
We also attended VegFest Fiji in Suva, where we met some of our Suva customers and family. It was great to meet some of our regulars in person after such a long time.
Then, just as we were preparing for our break over the holiday period, tourism opened up again and we were inundated with orders from hotels. This was a great turn of events and we are so grateful we are able to help the tourism sector recover AND support local easily.
Overall, 2021 saw Aggie double its farmer network from 98 to 220. We delivered a total of 80 food boxes to families in need in Fiji, including literally feeding an entire village. Of these recipients, 54% didn’t have an income due to COVID-19, whilst 14% of these families had a disabled or chronically ill family member. We also had 78 farmers attend our workshops and meet and greets in Fiji.
With all of our work combined, we have impacted approximately 1400 people throughout the year, which is insane!
Although our work can be hard, seeing the impact and scope of our work makes it worthwhile.
Although Fiji is where Aggie started, we also work in Australia creating positive social impact in the Native food space. If you want to learn about what we got up to in Australia, have a read here: Crowdfunding, Certification and Meaningful Conversations; 2021 in Review.