All stakeholders in the agricultural industry need information and knowledge through each stage of the supply chain, providing great opportunities for tech start-ups to flourish.
In an interview with AppsAfrica.com in Ibadan southwest Nigeria, Oluwajoba Ayo Okediji, Founder and Director of AgroInfoTech explains there are numerous opportunities for startups to fill in the country’s agricultural sector. These include information dissemination, access to market, farmers’ education on new farming technologies, improved interaction amongst the relevant stakeholders, data and a lot more.
“Tech can fill a lot of spaces, the problems across the value chain need urgent solutions and only new technologies can solve that. For example, agricultural extension has suffered over the years, and the ratio of extension officers to farmers is just too wide. How do you expect an extension agent to attend to 3000 farmers with little or no resources to work with? Only ICT can proffer solution. Information dissemination is important to agricultural development anywhere and the extension agents are responsible for this” explains Okediji.
“Farmers find it difficult to transport their farm produce to the nearest market; they are left at the mercy of middlemen that rip them off their toil. Tech can be helpful in this regard and reduce the acts of middlemen in agribusiness transactions. Farmers will know when, how and where to sell whatever they cultivate when new technologies are involved,” he told AppsAfrica.com
Tech adoption has been slow
He admitted that the pace of adoption of tech in the country’s agricultural industry has been slow over the years. However, he noted that compared to its status 5 years ago, the rate at which smallholder farmers are embracing technology now is increasing and encouraging.
“A higher percentage of farmers in Nigeria own a mobile phone, it wasn’t like that 4-5 years ago and even a growing percentage now uses the internet for their transactions. They own smart phones and they use mobile messaging apps,” Okediji said.
Noting that Nigeria’s past administration became popular with a lot of programmes that revolves around agricultural transformation – from using the e-wallet system to distribute fertilizers and the growth enhancement program, he said the effect was short-lived because of a lot of factors thus suggesting that tech, ICT in this context, have not been so effective in Nigeria.
“There is a need to build agro-based models and work with the major stakeholders in order to understand the space. For every challenge farmers face, there is a solution to it using new technologies – and there are a lot of issues. So the space is big but the players are few,” he said.
“A model will have to bring all the stakeholders together before you can solve problems – from agro researchers, specialists and even the farmers’ community. This is where agribusiness innovation comes in – a model that will catalyze inclusive growth through acceleration of pioneering enterprises.
“It will necessitate public-private partnership and active engagement of industry, financiers, government and farmers. The engagement of all ecosystem actors around a notion of shared value can increase the competitiveness of the agro-business sector.”
He added that there is the need for platforms that will help startups to better understand the market they are venturing into.
“There are some agribusiness innovation centers in Tanzania, South Africa and other countries in across Africa but none in Nigeria. My company AgroInfoTech Africa has seen this need, and we are starting Agro Innovation HUB (AgroHUB), which is Nigeria’s first agribusiness innovation center,” he added.
AgroInfoTech Africa is an organization involved in the design, development, evaluation and application of innovative ways to use Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) within the continents domain.