Former BoI MD seeks support for Farmcrowdy, other agritech firms

CEO of Farmcrowdy, Onyeka Akumah

Nigeria stands to move towards food security faster if agritech companies are given the necessary support, a former managing director of Bank of Industry has said.

Mr Rasheed Olaoluwa spoke on the occasion of the one year anniversary of Nigeria’s leading agritech company Farmcrowdy recently.

“Farmcrowdy has changed the lives of about 100 farmers. They’ve worked with and have the capacity to extend that impact to about 1 million farmers,” Olaoluwa, who himself has invested in the company, said.

He decried the omission of the agritech sector on the list of companies granted tax holidays due to their pioneer status. But he noted that agritech companies can and should still approach the government to be accommodated.

“Even if the sector [agritech] has not been included in that policy, they should still make a move to get that incentive,” he said.

Since the launch of its website 12 months ago, Farmcrowdy has recorded close to 1,000 unique farm sponsors, aggregated a combined 4,000 acres of farmland in Nigeria for farming purpose and grown over 150,000 organic chickens to date. Having worked with close to 2,000 small-scale farmers in Nigeria already, the vast majority of Farmcrowdy sponsors are based in Nigeria, whilst 10% are located in the US and UK.

With the recent launch of its mobile app, the company said it was poised to take on more farm sponsors and thereby enhance its capacity to work with more farmers in more states. The app would also help Farmcrowdy provide real-time updates on the farms being sponsored.

“We have launched the Farmcrowdy app to provide an accessible, real-time platform for people on the go, who do not want to miss out on empowering their own communities,” said the co-founder and CEO of Farmcrowdy, Onyeka Akumah.

“Nigeria is a mobile-first society and we had feedback from our sponsors who said they wanted improved access to our farms. They spoke and we listened; we have now built a platform that suits Nigerians’ preferred means of doing business – a mobile app. We expect that, with this move, we will continue to stay at the forefront of innovation in Agritech across Nigeria and scale our activities into more states in Nigeria while attracting more farm followers and sponsors to engage our farmers.”

Akumah added that the app provides a safe and reliable platform for agriculture enthusiasts to participate in this growing sector from a knowledge stand-point to making informed decisions about exploring opportunities in farming.

Speaking to The Guardian, Farmcrowdy’s vice president of operations Tope Omotolani said that the success the company has enjoyed in the last one year “is a wake-up call and that there is more work to be done.”

The company won the Agro-Innovator of the Year 2016/2017 award at the Nigerian Agriculture Awards and emerged one of the 10 global startups in TechStars Atlanta in 2017. It was also listed on the 2017 BusinessDay Top 25 Most Innovative Companies and Institutions list and featured in the Rockefeller Foundation Food Loss and Waste Africa Report.

But it was not all rosy for Farmcrowdy at the beginning. It had to grapple with illiteracy, the dearth of best practices among farmers, access to land, fluctuating prices of farm inputs occasioned by volatile forex market and limited internet coverage on some farms.

“Most farmers were not literate and knowledgeable about best practices. They were not up to the standard we had in mind,” Omotolani said.

“So we had to do a lot of training, a lot of educating. It was not easy bringing them together to do things the way we wanted to do.

“It was tedious to get real-time updates from farmers. We had to deploy our people to go on the farms because we promised our sponsors. We also hired people from the community to send us updates.

“But eventually, we had to finetune our model,” she added.

Omotolani said getting the required personnel to different posts was, perhaps, the biggest problem the company faced initially. She put this down to Nigerian youths not being interested in farming.

But Olaoluwa said this problem can be solved if Nigerian youths can be made to see agriculture as not just farming but as agribusiness.

That campaign, he said, needs to be intensified.



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