Samuel Ekpemede, 29, is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Farmoly, a mobile-based food supply platform for farmers and retailers. He spoke with MAUREEN IHUA-MADUENYI on how inadequate funding hinders youths from investing in agribusiness.
What inspired you to go into agribusiness?
I had always wanted to be a great farmer. I hold a degree in Agricultural Science Education from Delta State University, Abraka.
About six years ago, when I graduated from high school, all I knew about farming was the subsistence system of agriculture but I was curious to learn other ways better than the conventional method of agribusiness. So, it was only logical for me to pursue a degree in agriculture to get more knowledge in agribusiness.
It was worth it because the knowledge I gained plus my ambition to be an ‘agropreneur’ boosted my inspiration. Also, I was inspired by Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, a former Minister of Agriculture and the current President of African Development Bank.
Upon graduation from the university, I pursued my dream and every challenge I have faced has inspired me because it became my passion and now it is more than being a great farmer but helping other farmers become great entrepreneurs as well.
Farmoly was born out of the idea of solving problems relating to market accessibility by farmers and efficient distribution of agricultural produce across the supply chain.
In simple terms, Farmoly is a mobile-based food supply platform for farmers and retailers. It provides farmers and retailers with a simple, consistent and reliable distribution of agricultural produce. With our technology, we collate data from retailers and farmers and we are able to match demand with supply to curb food waste or loss.
How were you able to start a business immediately after school?
The journey started during my National Youth Service Corps year in a village called Daddere in the Obi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State. I was fascinated by the farmers and the different systems they used to produce food. It became a perfect timing for me; so I joined them.
Access to land was not a hard nut to crack because I was a corps member. I raised some cash from some friends and added it to my allowance and started my first vegetable farm. It was at this period the Farmoly idea was born.
What challenges did you encounter in the course of setting up this business and how were you able to surmount them?
Some of the challenges I encountered were access to funds as well as getting the right team and other business amenities. Our business requires funding no doubt; we were able to create another means of getting funds. We looked at debt financing from friends and family to enable us to achieve our goals. It was a good step that has enabled us to work lean and small with our thoughts on the ultimate prize.
Furthermore, the need to get the right set of people to see the future of the company was a tough one. We searched for hardworking people to join us to build our company and it paid off.
Another challenge is access to basic business amenities such as power supply and a good business environment. Running a business in Nigeria is quite tough. Every six months, businesses close down for reasons I mentioned earlier and surmounting the problems is quite hard but we have stayed strong, creating different ways that will enable us to stay on track.
How has Farmoly fared in the last one year, considering that it is a mobile platform and a lot of Nigerian farmers are still largely rural?
It’s a fact that most of the farmers are located in the rural areas. We are looking at the simplest means through which these farmers communicate since they have less access to the Internet. We looked at SMS/USSD system where farmers can use their conventional mobile phone. We are still testing this technology with a small number of our farmers.
What policies would you like to see the government put in place to encourage more young people to invest in agribusiness?
One of the policies I think will encourage young people to go into agribusiness is easy access to credit facilities. The government should also make policies that will put farmers’ produce out locally and internationally. There should be good policies that will enable start-ups like Farmoly to invest more in local production.
What are your short and long-term plans for Farmoly?
Farmoly’s short-term goal is to be the largest supplier of Irish potatoes through our platform. We intend to add other produce as we grow.
In as much as we want to use our technology/platform to solve market problems for our customers, our long-term goal is to build a sustainable supply chain with efficient storage facilities and logistics support for farmers and retailers.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.