The many problems of agriculture in Nigeria have already gotten enough coverage in the Nigerian media space. With issues like acute lack of funding, lack of access to information, limited access to markets, transportation and logistic problems, the Nigerian agricultural sector does not lack for problems.
However, I believe that one of our problems in this part of the world is that we focus too much on problems without shining a light on, and amplifying the positives. One of the brightest beacons of hope in the agricultural industry in Nigeria right now is agricultural technology otherwise known as agritech.
Agritech simply means the use of technology in agriculture with the goal of bolstering the efficiency, sustainability, and profitability of agricultural processes and businesses. Agritech can be deployed to better the funding, planting, rearing, storage and sales of agricultural produce to mention a few.
Wikipedia defines agritech as “ the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency, and profitability.”
Seedstars, a funding platform defines agritech as “the use of technology in agriculture with the aim of improving sustainability, efficiency, and profitability.”
It is important to note that agritech solutions could be any of services, applications or products aimed at specific aspects of agriculture in order to improve processes.
In Nigeria, there has been a recent explosion in the agritech sub-sector to the extent where it feels like there is a new agritech solution on the market every other day.
But are these solutions really agritech that provide solutions on a large scale or are they just agriculture entrepreneurs using tech to make their own business processes?
To answer that question, we must first agree on what qualifies as agritech. For a solution to be considered as agritech, it has to solve specific problems in the agriculture sector.
For context, these are the major problems in the Nigerian agriculture sector today:
- Lack of information
- Insufficient financial support
- Market access
- Transportation challenges
With that understanding, it is easy to see that there are many agritech solutions which are actually acting as a panacea to Nigeria’s many farming ills.
Tech entrepreneurs have seized the opportunities that abound in the Nigerian agricultural sector and they have actually create solutions that have bettered the lot of farmers.
There are many agritech that have been founded to help solve the problem of farmers not having an access to financial support. Many of the solutions in this space seek to connect willing investors with farmers who need access to funding to either improve or expand their farming activities. We have also seen many cases where the agritech solutions provider owns farmlands and farms on behalf of the investors with returns on investments ranging from 20% to as high as 50% in many cases. The agritech startups innovating in this space include the following
Market Access and Transportation challenges
Many tech solutions abound today in Nigeria that are providing Nigerian farmers who had hitherto been struggling access to the market. These agritech solutions mainly buy up produce from farmers in the most remote parts of the country, then sell the bought products in Nigeria’s urban centres. Some good examples of agritech solutions pushing the needle in this regard include the following:
Lack of information
Nigeria has a problem with keeping data generally and the agriculture sector is not spared. Agriculture around the world is now being driven by data in order to improve farming processes and yields.
Agritech solutions in Nigeria are now leading the charge in helping provide solutions that will help the farmers get data, and other important information like weather forecasts, tips etc.
At the forefront of this drive is Verdant Agritech. Verdant Agritech gathers data by offering farmers appealing services like weather forecasts, and financial advice. To access these services, farmers have to buy an access pin, then text a command to a shortcode provided by Verdant. Afterwards, Verdant validates the request, then contacts the farmer to schedule a visit where the farmer will be profiled.
After the profiling, Verdant thereafter provides reminders, advice and tips periodically to the farmer. This access to information helps farmers in no little way.
With the points addressed above, one can easily agree that agritech is a recognisable panacea to the plenteous ills that farming has undergone in Nigeria. The truth is that agriculture is a strong part of nation building and in Nigeria, it has not been given the due attention that the sector deserves. Howbeit, with the emergence of agritech solutions, one can only hope that there is a better tomorrow around the corner.