The HPN Story
The Harvest Protection Network (HPN) is the result of Ian Bennett’s 2009 meeting with the President of Senegal. The President told Ian that the members of his farming community were losing 25% of their annual peanut crop as a result of inadequate storage facilities. The Director of the Agriculture Department for the IFC office in Lagos told Ian that number was conservative. He said that annual spoilage losses for fruits & vegetables in the sub-Saharan farming community were between 40% and 60% and annual grain losses frequently approached 30%.
On a drive from Abuja to Makurdi (Benue State, Nigeria), Ian watched roadside vendors throwing away spoiled tomatoes. Behind the vendors, piles of rotten tomatoes had accumulated. Ian was riding with a banker who asked Ian if he knew how much tomato past Nigeria had imported the previous year. Ian said, ”No” and the banker said, “Three Hundred and Sixty Million Dollars” and together they watched as the discarded tomatoes continued to accumulate.
In 1973, Ian was asked to serve as the Financial Director of a joint venture between the Government of Senegal and National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to build a fertilizer plant. The joint-venture partners were looking for an individual with an MBA in Finance and fluency in French and Ian moved with his family to Dakar. It was this experience that served as the catalyst for Ian’s interest in sub-Saharan agriculture. The job required travel to numerous West African countries meeting with Ministers of Agriculture to pre-sell the fertilizer which the governments would resell to the farming community at twice the cost.
The difference between 1973 and today is that post-harvest spoilage losses are a problem Ian knows how to solve. Based on his studies at Wharton, he has established a mathematical formula that starts with the elimination of building storage fees and the complete removal of bank interest expenses. The formula establishes a balance between the cost of the waterproof pest-proof steel buildings and the new revenues resulting from the sale of crops previously lost to spoilage. Ian has described the critical ingredient for his program to realize success is finding farm cooperatives with the administrative discipline to assume direct management control of the HPN building operations at each site. The “Business Model” link on this site provides additional details. Stated concisely, these buildings are self-funding.
Ian is the founder of Harvest Protection Network, a program to eliminate crop spoilage losses in the sub-Saharan farming community. Ian was previously CEO of The Finance Network providing international trade finance services to help US-based small businesses pursue international trade (1996–2006). Ian participated in the Rockefeller Foundation conference on Food Security as a Guest Speaker (feedingcities.com). He received his MBA from Wharton in 1967.