Singapore-based WhatIf Foods processes Bambara groundnut into its signature “BamNut” flour which it uses in instant noodles, soups and shakes. Langwallner hopes to create a new market for the crop and “make Bambara groundnut part of the system”.
Planet positive noodles
WhatIf launched its noodles in Singapore in 2020, replacing the frying process used in the production of conventional instant noodles with a healthier method similar to air frying.
This is because the bambara groundnut is not grown as a primary crop, says Victoria Jideani, professor of food science at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa. Farmers grow it to help fertilize the soil, and the resulting products are eaten and sold locally, she says.
Companies like WhatIf could create global demand for this “underutilized” culture, says Jideani. “The interaction we had with (the farmers) indicates that they are looking for a market,” she says.
Jideani says she would like to see governments encourage Bambara groundnut production. “Any culture that presents itself as a solution for the future must be seized with both hands,” she says.
“A totally different approach”
So far, Langwallner and co-founder Peter Cheetham, a biochemical engineer, have invested their own money to run the company, as well as raising funds from friends and private investors. Langwallner says they are now looking for institutional investors to help the company grow.
The company is working on its first step: sourcing 1,000 metric tonnes of Bambara groundnuts from West Africa, which Langwallner says would restore up to 1,000 hectares of land by the end of the year. end of 2023. It works directly with 1,600 farmers in Ghana and builds relationships with farmers in Nigeria and Malaysia as it prepares for future expansion. Langwallner declined to share sales numbers with CNN Business.
WhatIf’s products are manufactured in its factories in Malaysia and Australia, and sold in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia. This month, they are rolling out in the US to online stores. The company is also working on regulatory approval in the EU, which it expects to obtain later this year.
By taking a “totally different approach”, Langwallner hopes Bambara groundnuts will help farmers around the world revitalize degraded lands and diversify our diets for a safer future.