Vertical Optimization, LLC, was born out of a deep sense of frustration - and a palpable fear of failure. The year was 2004. I had just moved from the U.S. to Nigeria to start a new manufacturing company, Aquada Development Corporation. Aquada was formed to transform low value agricultural produce into high-value shelf-stable products - for domestic consumption.
Our first manufacturing project was the design, fabrication and commissioning of a facility to produce "garri flour" from cassava ('tapioca' in North America, 'manioc' in South & Latin America). Garri is a staple food consumed in most of littoral West Africa. It is made by fermentation of the mash from the cassava root. The result (after fermentation, dehydration, and roasting) is a dry, granular, starchy product that has (somewhat) the consistency of grits (or fine oats). It is typically consumed with a soup or stew that has vegetables and the proteins, by cooking and gelatinizing the granules into a "meal".
Garri is made in virtually every rural backyard in Southern Nigeria. Most farmers grow cassava, then make garri from their cassava. The excess garri made by farmers is what is sold into the local food chain. Given the very large number of farmers that grow cassava, AND the ubiquitous nature of domestic (as in every household) garri production, this "excess inventory" is sufficient to feed the nation - and neighboring countries.
I "knew" we could make a fantastic gluten-free flour which would change the way people consume garri. I had worked on the design and development of the product for a long time (while "working my day job"). Our product would be a flour (literally) that could be used for "swallow" (the term used for consumption of the carbohydrate - formed into a ball - with a soup or stew) as well as for baking and other culinary applications. But it would have the same familiar taste that people associate with garri. Our market surveys indicated a very positive response to the idea of the product. So we set out to build this facility. We designed the process, erected the structures, fabricated and installed the equipment, ran the pilot tests, and commissioned the facility. And out came our first set of products. We did it.
We were right about designing and building a (first of its kind) facility for the production of garri flour. That was an engineering problem. We had solved it.
We were wrong about everything else; just about.
I was wrong.......