Controlled Curing in Tanzania: an update on our journey

Juan Guardado

MD, Natural Extracts Industries Ltd

Moshi, Tanzania

Tanzania is on track to triple its production of vanilla in the coming few years.  Several factors make this an important origin to bolster the global supply, including having the capacity to produce pods with 2-3% vanillin content, having multiple growing regions that can mitigate climate risks, and offering unique “terroir” branding opportunities (Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, etc).

In the last few years, the company, NEI, embarked on a journey to make the traditional “Bourbon" vanilla curing method more consistent and efficient to manage.  Furthermore, in Tanzania the harvest season happens at the onset of the cold season, when the long rains may linger and the days will often be overcast, limiting the effectiveness and efficiency of traditional sun drying.  This talk provides an update of our journey to scale the controlled curing method we presented in 2019, which began with a 10-ton capacity pilot and has now reached 100MT per year capacity.

Juan Guardado co-founded NEI Ltd in 2011 and oversees all aspects of the company, bringing to bear his diverse background from multinational blue-chip companies in roles including engineering, management consulting, agricultural financing, and technology-enabled operations.  He founded NEI Ltd as a value-adding manufacturer with the purpose of bringing economic development to rural communities, and has since focused the company on becoming the leading integrated vanilla producer (producing, purchasing, curing, extraction, and marketing) in East Africa. He has lived on five continents, having first moved away from El Salvador at the age of 4.  He spends his time playing with his son, Hugo, and their dog, Moshi, while his wife, Dorothy, tries to keep them all out of trouble.  He holds a BEng from McGill University and an MBA from INSEAD.