Boosting agric through start-ups

A new development is taking place in the industry. Start-ups are growing agribusiness and providing jobs for youths, DANIEL ESSIET reports.
The agriculture industry is witnessing a revolution – the establishment of agritech startups.
One of them is Farmcrowdy, which provides an investment platform for farmers to raise  capital.  The public can invest as little as N30, 000 to support various agricultural projects, such as raising poultry and growing crops.
The firm’s co-founder and CEO, Onyeka Akumah, was  a senior employee of Jumia, which he quit to start Travel Best, a logistics firm.
In 2016, he and other co-founders established Farmcrowdy.
The  group works with  investors, who support farming.
Once investors have selected their projects and transferred funds through its e-payment portal, they can monitor the projects through the online dashboard  of the platform.
At the end of the project, the crops are harvested and the investors receive a share of the profits.
In its first year, the startup worked with 900 farmers.Today, it has 11,000 clients.
The group has established Farmgate Africa (FGA), another  platform to integrate the supply chain of crops.
He said Farmcrowdy took the initiative to establish the digital food aggregator to boost market linkages.
Leaning on the experience and  expertise of the Farmcrowdy Group, Farmgate Africa, will, in the next two years, focus on deploying funds across various markets.
It  will focus on beef processing and developing aggregation capacities across maize, soybean, sorghum and dried-split ginger for markets across Nigeria, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and United Kingdom (UK).
Akumah said: “Launching Farmgate Africa gives us huge joy with the expectations placed on us to continue to innovate and build new solutions driven by technology to finance agriculture. We have received a lot of feedback from farmers and major agro buyers who need to fund market access to agro-commodities but are constantly held back because the market place is unstructured. Farmgate Africa is our response to this need.”
Farmgate Africa is led by Kenneth Obiajulu,  one of its co-founders. It will bridge the gap between rural farmers and the market place, by providing major processors and international buyers the opportunity to purchase commodities directly from local farming clusters through technology.
The startup has identified major processors and international buyers for commodities. It has also identified production clusters and built relationships with local farmers.  The processors will also  place orders on the platform. In addition, Farmgate will deliver commodities to major processors.
Obiajulu said   growth capital and farmland resources are critical to farmers and agro entrepreneurs looking to grow into viable farming businesses.
The system, according to him, allows Nigerians fund the buying and selling of what farmers’ harvest. This will give every farmer that has produced high quality farm produce the opportunity to sell to major buyers through Farmgate Africa’s portal.
He said Farmgate Africa platform will serve to build relationships between local farmers and major processors, aggregating commodities while paying attention to the unique specifications of the buyers.
Obiajulu said: “Our business model is one that brings the farmers closer to the processors by eliminating several layers of intermediaries. By doing this, Farmgate optimises market access to African farmers and also improves their income by at least 30 per cent.”
Obiajulu explained that Farmgate would focus on four key sectors in the next two years:    beef processing over 5,000 metric tonnes of carcass beef with a major partner in the Southwest and developing aggregation capacities for over 100,000 metric tonnes of maize for onward delivery to a major processor.
Others are developing aggregation capacities for over 40,000 metric tonnes of soybeans for delivery to a major processor and for over 3,000 metric tonnes of dried split ginger for onward export to the UAE and Britain.
Vice-President, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) Emmanuel Ijewere said Farmcrowdy has a lot of potential.
As farmers face declining commodity prices and tighter farm margins, he said such startups will only succeed if they can prove to farmers that they can deliver more value per acre through actionable insights.
He reiterated NABG’s commitment to work with the private sector with the goal of improving the livelihoods of millions of farmers in Nigeria.
The Country Director of Techno Serve, Dr. Larry Umunna, said the organisation helps farmers and agribusinesses better manage their own crops and finances.
Umunna said the organisation is ready to partner Farmgate to ensure farmers are introduced to improved agricultural interventions.

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