In this interview, Mr Francis Eke-Metoho, the Chief Technology Officer of FarmAgric, a subscriber-focused agritech company linking farmers with investors speaks about the importance of youth participation in agriculture, the future of agriculture and the dynamics of running an agritech company in Nigeria.
Risks are unavoidable in businesses, how do you cope in a case where there seems to be no return on investments?
It is true that every business has risks and agriculture is no exception. It is dangerous to go into any business without carrying out proper research, which is why we have a team of specialists who carry out research on crops and the economies of them based in their seasons. With findings from these researches, we are able to decide the ideal period to carry out each cycle of farming using a worst case scenario estimation of each situation. This enables us to minimize risks and be prepared for any eventualities. In addition to that, we have a partnership with Leadway Assurance to help secure our farms. We do all these to mitigate against such situations as you have mentioned.
How have rural farmers adopted the use of technology?
The use of technology hasn’t been fully implemented in a number of local communities. Most of the farmers are aware, but they don’t have access to it neither do they have the technical know-how. When our team approached some of them about the training organised on use of mechanization and how they can increase their yields and minimize cost, most were eager to learn, while others were a tad sceptical, which is understandable and expected.. We provided some training on how to go about it and also helped practicalize during farming. They are happy to achieve more with less work.
What made you start FarmAgric?
FarmAgric started off as an offshoot of Eme Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited (EFCL). In the course of carrying out our business activities in EFCL, we came across a number of farmers who had arable land but could only cultivate a small portion of it as a result of lack of inputs and being financially handicapped. In a bid to address this need coupled with other reasons, FarmAgric was born and in order to give it a life of its own we separated from EFCL, the parent company.
You mentioned other reasons in your previous answer, please expatiate?
As a youth who grew up in Nigeria, and have been privileged to travel across the West African zone, I have observed the rapid growth of the teeming population of Africa and come to the realization that there are 3 major problems that will really affect the next generation if not addressed. One is unemployment, the second is access to hassle-free finance and the third is food security. I have always seen agriculture as a solution to two if not all three of these problems. This is another key reason for the creation of FarmAgric. What we are doing with FarmAgric is two-pronged – empowering farmers by giving them access to finance and technical know-how, and showing youths that they too can be a part of agriculture. This is important because we are the next generation of farmers who will sustain agriculture profitably in Africa.
What is the future of technology in Agriculture?
A number of global trends are influencing food security, poverty, and the overall sustainability of food and agricultural systems. Future agriculture will use sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology. This is why as youths, our interest and participation in agriculture is very crucial. These advanced technologies for precision agriculture and systems will enhance profitability, efficiency, safety, and environmental friendliness. We still have a long way to get to this point in Nigeria but we are well on our way. I like to refer to this as Agriculture 4.0.
What are the best qualities you think an entrepreneur should have?
The ability to lead (leadership skills), strategic decision-making, an insatiable quest for knowledge, ability to network and nurture relationships, ability to work with a team – listen to and accept constructive criticism, customer management skills amongst others.
Where do you see FarmAgric in 5 years?
In five years, we foresee a major expansion across Nigeria and Africa as a whole as a key player encouraging youth participation in agriculture whilst also reducing food insecurity. Part of our international expansion plan is to move into the Republic of Benin and Ghana. Generally, our vision is to be a major impactful player in the sector.
What word do you have for young entrepreneurs out there doing their things?
Dreams are valid if actions are taken. Let’s move from being dreamers to action takers – achievers. There is always a solution to every problem, let’s be the ones to create it. Don’t be scared of taking on a challenge, it is a requirement for success. Just keep your head up and keep doing the right things, eventually, you’ll break even.
Mr Francis Eke-Metoho, the Chief Technology Officer of FarmAgric