YAP proposal #67: Nigeria’s first Agribusiness Innovation Centre (Oluwajoba Ayo’ Okediji, Nigeria)

dream_reality

Don’t be surprised when next you visit Lagos, Abuja or any other part of my country Nigeria, if our airports and road paths are filled with cassava and maize plantations. Our oil boom to doom story is sending us back to the farm.

Sadly, we are not prepared for this, the recent global drop in oil prices has caused a glitch in our economy and we are diversifying from oil to other sectors, with agriculture as the main focus. We have all been asked to go back to the farm in order to save our economy to farm our way back to prosperity. The only solution to this challenge is the need for innovation to be actively involved across the agricultural value chain if the present efforts will not at the end be a pipe dream.

30 years ago, I was born into a smallholder farming family, raising livestock, catfish and farming crops. As a young boy, farming was a drudgery venture and I was chastised severally while trying to avoid the herculean task that comes with raising livestock and weeding the ridges. I lived the first 2 decades of my life as the first son of smallholder farmers with my other 4 siblings.

My parent’s involvement in agriculture encouraged me to study Animal Health and Production Technology and later Agricultural Extension and Management. I also took classes in Graphics design and Website development. This formed the foundation of my passion, looking for ways to transform agriculture and transform the lives of smallholder farmers using Information and Communications Technology. I have been involved in other ventures to raise a meal ticket to fuel my passion; in 2012, I founded AgroInfoTech Africa to pursue my passion of redefining agriculture in Africa using new technologies.

Over the years, working with smallholder farmers, agricultural research scientists and agricultural businesses using ICT, every challenge I encountered gives birth to new solutions that needs a platform to grow out as a startup venture. From providing access to market for farmers, technology transfer, information dissemination for quality extension service delivery, there were so many problems that needed urgent attention and I continually see the need to transform agriculture and redefine it as a business creating innovations powered by ICT.

Recently, the President of the African Development Bank and also the immediate past Minister for Agriculture in Nigeria, Dr Akinwumi Adesina recently wrote “Agriculture is not a way of life. It is not a social sector or a development activity, despite what people may claim. Agriculture is a business. And the more we treat it as a business, as a way to create wealth, the more it will promote development and improve people’s lives……. One way to treat agriculture like a business is to get the private sector more involved in it.”

So, I was looking for how to bring everyone on board, from private sector players to research institutes, to redefine how we practice agriculture as a business which will need incubation, acceleration and innovation. In my pursuit to achieve this I started looking for ways to acquire the needed structure to promote my solutions in agribusiness. I searched and couldn’t find any. I contacted some business hubs in Lagos, but they are majorly concerned about the replication of Silicon Valley innovations on the African continent and what they are looking for are software developers with western related solutions and not a “tech farmer” like me.

I believe incubation and acceleration centers should be industry-focused. I realized that agricultural incubation and acceleration is different, especially in Africa and I was out to look for a center that understands agricultural innovation, but I was disappointed.

I further researched and I discovered a project under The Forum Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) Universities, Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN) supporting incubators in Africa located in countries like Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Uganda, and Zambia. UniBRAIN pioneers a new approach to promoting agricultural innovation and improving tertiary agribusiness education in Africa. They also promote innovation by improving the flow of technology and knowledge by removing barriers between actors in the value chains.

“Eureka!” (I have found it).

This is what I have been looking for but sadly, none of these centers is ICT based and none is available in my country Nigeria. I decided to brave up and take the lead and pioneer Nigeria’s first Agribusiness Innovation Centre after brainstorming with friends, mentors, clients and agricultural research scientists.

I proposed the idea to an agricultural research institute in my community, it was approved and we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with The Institute of Agricultural Research & Training, IAR&T, Obafemi Awolowo University, Moor Plantation Ibadan, Oyo State and AGRO INNOVATION HUB (AgroHUB) was birthed!

A spacious facility has been given to us within the institute where the hub is been established and we are presently putting the structures in place. I contacted UNIBRAIN’s facility coordinator and I was impressed with the willingness to support the new center and i was also invited to join the African Agribusiness Incubator Network, AAIN.

The center is presently developing in-house solutions and we are working on some innovations in agriculture that will transform farming in Africa, with focus on Research, Technology and Entrepreneurship. The center will be driven on public-private partnerships, working with other relevant stakeholders to build our solutions, and create innovative ventures across the value chain. We will work with educational institutions in agriculture and raise graduates that are passionate about ICT for Agricultural development as interns who will become entrepreneurs and further champion different innovative solutions from the center. We aim to further collaborate with those who can help us achieve our goals and fulfill our objectives, and successfully run a model that can be further replicated across Africa.

Setting up the center has been fully funded from personal savings and with the support of friends and family. The $5000 grant will go a long way to assist our present status. We will use :
$1000 to register our center with the African Agribusiness Incubator Network,
$1200 to purchase laptops, a digital camera, basic office equipment and stationeries. We intend to use
$1200 to finish some of our pending software solutions,
$600 to install an inverter as a backup for electricity supply to the center, and
$1000 as working capital to manage day to day activities of the center.

I will be pleased to take your questions and suggestions in the comments section below.

Blogpost and picture submitted by Oluwajoba Ayo’ Okediji (Nigeria) – okedijiayo[at]gmail.com

Illustration courtesy: AgroInfoTech Africa

The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.


This post is published as proposal #67 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.

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378 thoughts on “YAP proposal #67: Nigeria’s first Agribusiness Innovation Centre (Oluwajoba Ayo’ Okediji, Nigeria)

  1. This is a remarkable idea which if diligently pursued will define a new perspective to agricultural innovation in Nigeria and bring to bear the anticipated development for our economy.

  2. This is a welcome development,a trot in the right direction,but can this solutions be replicated in the animal sectors of agriculture.if yes what are the steps and procedures

    1. Thank you tolulope. The innovations can replicated across the agricultural value chain. For example, Livestock farmers need to access the market to sell, we can link them to prospective buyers through their featured mobile telephones. If they need a veterinarian around their location, we have a solution that can connect them and many more.

  3. i hope this center help make agriculture palatable to the youth, because the average Nigerian youth despises the acronym “I am a Farmer”?

    1. Thank you John for the comment. As regards Cassava; LOL. That was just meant to describe a state we might find ourselves…. Our long vision is to prevent this and ensure that the rural areas are much more comfortable for the dwellers….. Regards.

  4. Great idea my friend. May God bless you with all the required help to make this a great success

  5. Hmmmm, am so excited knowing this is happening in my own country. I will like to meet you and discuss further on many ideas and the most important thing we need is research and research and research. We need to encourage individual from different field of Agriculture to come together as a group and embark on different aspect of research but to do this, you will need fund. Am a researcher, I know what it takes to do this and I will like to join in this kind of campaign. We need to strategies new ways of solving problems faced by farmers in terms of storage and availability of farm product in time. Please if you don’t mind to give me appointment. Thank you very much for creating this ideas.

    1. Thanks Prince. I appreciate your comment and identifying with our goals. You can contact me via email: okedijiayo(at)Gmail.com and we take it up from there. I will like to meet with you. Best regards!

  6. What laudable Concept from our potential minister of Agric. May God grant d grace to actualise your dream IJN.

  7. This is a good ideal. i think by linking farmer to the digital world it will divert the ideal of people investing to the oil sector to farming which i believe will encourage most youth to develop interest in farming.i dont like farming before but with this ideal i want to be involve in sloving the problem our Agriculture is facing and i pray you get more hand in funding it.

  8. Ayo, you simply nailed it! We need graduates who have confidence to start of their own, and whose confidence will not sag in a matter of months. To get those kinds of people, they must be handed skill sets that buoy confidence. Our schools are not offering that now. It’s a great idea for people like you to fill that gap. And I assure you; the need won’t go away for as long as there are students in our schools. Kudos! Keep the flag flying.

  9. This is a great one, and also an eye opener to youths who are bent on going in search of a white collar job without success…May d good Lord crown ur efforts

  10. This is a great one, and also an eye opener to youths who are bent on going in search of white collar jobs without success…Job well done, may d Lord crown ur efforts.

    1. ICTs application in agriculture will not make it expensive. It will help the stakeholders become more smarter and make their enterprise more rewarding.

  11. Just as I said earlier,you’re greatly applauded for this great concept,going through this article again brought another concern of mine up,are these innovations mainly for learned farmers?what will be the faith of our conventional farmers with the emergence of technology?

    1. This innovation is targeted at every stakeholder across the agro-value chain. Smallholder farmers and that are not learned can make use of their feature mobile telephones. We have them covered.

  12. This is a good Initiative. My prayer is that God will see you through in this competition.

  13. Just being curious on a lot of things mentioned in these article Mr Ayo, what will be the drive for youths to go back to the farm? Are these “Innovations” coming with cash for the youths?

    1. What we are into is to create an enabling environment using new technologies to drive farm innovations, by making the sector attractive for youth engagement. We provide platforms to help them access the basic and necessary details they need to operate a good enterprise. Thanks

  14. A nice presentation today and a clerarer picture into this innovation center. My restrictions is you can’t offer what you don’t have. I will like to know if you have a track recod towards an enterprise that you have gone through the pains of getting this basic neccesities for establishment like funds and co. If you can’t fund an innovation, you must have a ready financier that will finance such, what is the reputation of such and if you don’t have, how do you want to go about it. This cuts across all aspect of enterpreneurship and not just finance alone sir.

    1. Thanks Chiamaka, and thanks for attending the meet up. Every entrepreneur is out, seeking for new opportunities to bring his venture to life. Our case is not different, me pioneering a new initiative doesn’t mean I am alone. You met with my team and there a lot more working behind the scene, we have what it takes to go through this, but opportunities like this is also worth exploring inasmuch it will add value to what we do. Thanks

  15. In respect to your comment to Damar263. Do you intend to work with the federal government or on a private basis to assure of the quality of enabling environment you want to provide. Can you provide the electricity requirement for the smooth running of an establishment. I rest my case here

    1. Thanks Uchenna, we presently work with some private partners and the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, a Federal Government owned research institute, this gives us the opportunity to work with the state governments across south west Nigeria through their Agricultural Development Programs (ADPs), we presently make use of some facilities made available to us through the Institute, including electricity, we only need to back it up.

  16. had a great day with you sir. A true pcture of what the hub can do and will do was elaborated. I wish this can be duplicated nationally

  17. Thanks for the enlightenment. I wouldn’t have agreed am a total novice to how ICT can help enhance productivity across the agirbusiness valu chain

  18. For Agriculture to grow i think we need more people on the field than behind the computer in an office. so incubating ideas that is ICT based whether for agriculture or not, if it won’t get them on the field tto tiill, it is just a phase in agriculture which will not hold grounds.

    1. Thanks Shade, agriculture is more than just going to the field to till the ground, its a value chain where everyone has to play their part. Yes, most times we are behind the computer, but beside the farmers on the field, making sure the produce reach the market in good time and empowering them on the necessary agronomic practices for a more productive and profitable farming venture. Am also proud to tell you that we have a farm where we practice what we preach. Thanks

  19. First and foremost i will like to commend you sir on the meet-up, a right step in the right direction. I think there are lots of ways ICT can come into agriculture but it will need to be narrowed down to specific few that will actually be effective and just a broad scope into variance that will become a mass of inoperational ideas

    1. If I understand your question, do you mean what are we doing as regards agricultural marketing. Yes, we are presently working on an innovative solution to add value to agricultural marketing.

    1. From the word incubation, even in relation to incubation in poultry farming, it means to nurture towards growth. We nurture agricultural ideas solving real farming problems towards achieving growth, impacting the industry. That is incubation in Agriculture.

  20. Do you have the facility for field/pratical training who don’t have a slightest idea how to carry out the farming operation they have no technical know how

  21. ICT for agriculture. Despite more insight into it today, i still got reservations about the acceptability in Nigeria. We have technology incubation centers across the country that is not to operational. How do you think an ICT based incubation center will operate in a country with not steady power supply yet which is paramount to the operation of this center i presume.

    1. Every country has their special issues, and ours is not peculiar. Everyone live past those challenges to become successful. We are living past that. The challenges are steps towards finding the right solution. We can’t wait to incubate climate smart solutions that will solve our energy problems. Thanks

  22. what is an assurance that this will not be like one of the other idea consults firm in other sector that actually talk and not act in practicality?

    1. We are taking a lead role, and we are presently incubating our own ideas. You can check proposal #78. That’s one of our solutions, not just an idea. We are acting!

  23. With your indepth explanation today sir. It is a total yes for me coupled with the fact that the Nation is becoming highly internet savvy which is bedrock of the present ICT industry

  24. it was an awesome meet-up. thank you for this concept but how can my qualification as a pHD holder in aquaculture management join your team?

  25. This is a building block to the actualization of a greater agriculture in Nigeria, will the state government be part of this?

  26. This is eye-opening, there is none yet in Nigeria aside this, how will you able to gain the market like the other HUBs have?

    1. Thank you. We are not competing with other hubs, we a niche-focused, so we believe we will be a leading in agribusiness innovation in Nigeria and across Africa.

  27. ICT shold push enhance and aid marketing in agriculture and provide basics information and link to possible input providers, understandable from this writeup and the meeting with you sir, but how does the aspect of financing comes in. To get a financier here in Nigeria is more than having conatacts of this financier how will it provide the aspiring entrepreneur with the necessary requirement of this financial institutions.

    1. We work with different players in the agribusiness industry, from research institutions to finance agencies. We explore these avenues to the benefit of those we are involved with. Thanks

    1. From undergraduates in our colleges and the universities, to young people interested in agriculture, we help them see opportunities and explore the available ones. Thank you

  28. Sir, I love the Idea of the HUB and you presentation on the opportunity opened to masses through this concept was explicit enough for the needed encouragement agriculture in Nigeria needs

  29. Since you have started operating this on a small scale i guess, from the bit i was able to get yesterday. Is there any way i can get to be a part of this for incubation on apps development for agriculture

  30. after the meet up all that can be said is this will cause a shake in the Agricultural industry. Great work sir.

  31. Truely, there is none like this in Nigeria but will it be able to attract youth to Agriculture especially those not in the agriculture?

  32. this is a real upgrade to the agriculture system in Nigeria. The exact Business orientation we need in Agriculture according to our prestigious Akinwunmi Adeshina

  33. Should you be starting with one state. I thinking having this duplicated in each of the geopolitical zone will make it fly best

  34. Considering the rate of ignorance in ICT in the Rural areas where farming is core, how do you intend to take this there for the benefit of the downtrodden

  35. We know it is a workable idea. When the funds start rolling in as i presume, how do you intend to control misappropriation of funds and diversion of funds for personal or corporate interest

  36. WIll like to meet in person to ask you further questions because i one of the best concept i ever seen

  37. AgroHUB, is a very creative innovation with prospect of seeing youth practise agriculture with no constraint. Great work

  38. How do you intend to get you portfolio of eperts across the different fields because i want to believe you will need them at different stages of this programme sir. Due to time constraint i couldn’t get to ask this question earlier today

  39. I have a fish farm and i don’t see how ICT will enhance my operations on farm aside passing information across to my workers of which not all of them is internet complaint. unlike accounting where ICT can be used to calculate inflow and outflow of funnds. How do i use ICT for feeding, breeding, sorting excepting i want to introduce robotics which will have negative effects on the aquatic system and eventually disrupt the productivity

    1. Thank you for the question. ICT in agriculture is an enabler. It is out to help you achieve efficiency in what you do. What if you have a mobile solution that can help you check the quality of your water? What if you have a solution that helps you to keep the record of daily activities and deliver the report to you on a daily basis in real time even when you are not close? What if you can have a solution that help you forecast how the weather condition in your area can affect your farm’s productivity and more? These are what ICT can do for you as a farmer. We will keep in touch and ley you know as soon as we have solutions to help you in fish farming. Best regards.

  40. the way forward for Agric, this will encourage people especially the youth to venture in agriculture

  41. The meet up i attended is just too great, everything was broken into pieces for better understanding. Thank you so much sir

  42. “OLUUWASEUN O” meaning “THANK GOD O” That we have such a visionaire who has suddenly become an inspiration to me after just a meetup with him. More grace with this innovation sir. am a total believer in this change we are about to experience in Nigeria. Though you can’t have the total perfect idea now but i believe with time your eyes will be opened to adjustment and fine tunning of the programme till it meet it’s purpose

  43. This is more outrageous, the hubs in town are not agricultural related but this will take the lead and giant step in making it happen

  44. Havw you done a proper cost analysis of hosting such project as i want to assume it will be very capital intensive

  45. I believe this will work has it will be a private organisation and not government enabled which doesn’t work in most cases. I believe in your vision sir

  46. This is a typical using what you have to get what you want. We have ICT and it’s knowledge base is increasing by the day. Let us use this knowledge to enhance food production and put food on the table of Nigerians

  47. do you want to start training the farmers in the rural area on ICT or the market women, if they are not I.T complaint, i don’t see how you want this to grow because the number of our learned youths in agriculture is minute

    1. We are working with those you mentioned and we want to empower this “minute youths” in agriculture to cause the needed change. Rural farmers and market women are major actors also. Thanks

  48. As i said earlier today Ayo, i still don’t think Nigeria is ripe enough to handle this. This expertise is there though but to access this expertise is essential so many things are not in order yet

  49. Sir there will need to be an indepth sensitization as regards this in the Northern region must especially

  50. Yes Nigeria is blessed and you are a vivid example of the blessinngs we have. we need more of this innovative ideas geared towards agricultural growth

    1. Diversifying is the only way forward for our country and everyone understands this, and agriculture is taking a lead. But agriculture without innovation will be a futile effort. This is the role we are playing. Bringing innovation into agriculture.

  51. How will the enroll be like. will there be a fee attached to taking part in this incubation if not, how do you intend to sustain the financing, sourcing for aids?

  52. In Nigeria where power company has been privatized yet the supply is still so epileptic, sorry to say it i have lost faith in the system so i don’t see how the system will encourage to work especially knowing it will affect so many people’s meal ticket even though it is for the betterment of the entire nation. This set of selfish individual who have found themselves in position of authority will not want it to fly. that is the system i am talking about

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