CEM REPORT, AGRO-FOOD | Technological innovations that have become the spring board for other industries and sectors’ rapid development is excitedly beaming its radiance on the agricultural sector. Most excitedly, is the participation of youth in this innovative drive, thanks to the Enterprise Development Center of the Pan-Atlantic University and its partners that have continued to aggregate support for building conducive ecosystem for small businesses to thrive.
Miraco Farm, a Northern Nigeria based youth owned organization has broken ground with its technological innovation to solve a major challenge in aquatic farming. The business won the 2023 edition of the AgroHack Challenge, a youth-base competition created to seek innovative ideas across the value chain of the agricultural sector.
According to EDC, objectives of AgroHack challenge are to harness innovative ideas in the agriculture sector for job creation in Nigeria, enhance innovative capacities of youths and women in the agriculture sector, facilitate access to investors for youths and women with innovative ideas in the agriculture sector and to provide mentorship opportunities for youths and women in the agriculture sector.
The first prize winner, Miraco Farm led by Muhsin Ibrahim, developed a real time infection and disease sensor and management technology targeted at minimizing mortality usually caused by bacteria infection in aquaculture. When implanted in the pond, fish farm owner or manager gets alerted when there is an infectious disease in the water or when the fishes are sick.
According to the Director of LBS Agribusiness program, Dr Ikechukwu who was a member of the panel of judges for the pitching session, this technology has come into an industry where monumental losses have been recorded by some incomers into the business. The technology has come to save new entrants into fish farming, who because of the perceived profitability, usually invest heavily only to be hit by decease with its resultant heavy losses.
The second prize winner, Coconoto team led by Abiodun Jacob pitched about his technological innovation for dehusking and deshelling of coconuts while the third prize winner, presented its healthy juice, Cocoaly juice made from cocoa pulp.
While the winner smiled home with N1 million, the second and the third positions went home with N750,000 and N500,000 respectively. This is courtesy of Mastercard foundation which partners GEN Nigeria and the Enterprise Development Center.
In AgroHack Challenge, like other SME based programs anchored by EDC, contestants pass through a mentorship process to prepare them for the pitching session while primarily positioning the businesses to upscale after the competition.
Mr Uche Egbuna, one of the mentors in the program and who mentored the first and second prize winner, shed more light into mentorship within the EDC that has yielded such tremendous successes.
He said “As mentor, we are consistently engaging the younger generation, trying to offer our own knowledge and guidance. It’s more like hand-holding them.
“There are a lot of young people who have creative mindset, but because of inexperience, they don’t know how to get to their goal. But we, because we’ve been in the field for a long time and have been able to develop some insight and knowledge, we are able to offer those advises on decisions to allow them reach their goals.
“Mentoring is something that requires passion since it is more of impact. Today we have be able to see what the 3day mentorship has resulted into
“Working closely with the team, we were able to go through the business and clearly define value proposition to understand how the business can be viable and sustainable, most importantly, we want to scale the business.”
Egbuna spoke passionately about the missing support from government as it concerns infrastructural provision and EDC’s objectives. He commended the successes of the program and EDC’s commitment to delivering quality mentorship for SMEs especially for young ones.
He said; “In Nigeria, infrastructure is a big problem. Most the entrepreneurs don’t have the right amount of support which is what we are trying to do; creating access to market, access to finance and access to knowledge due to skill gap.”
“EDC have existed for like 20years. They started at a time when there was no much concern about the entrepreneurship ecosystem. These were people that had passion for SME space following impact it is making in other countries where SME makes 50% to 60% of their economy. Therefore, they were deliberate about building the SME ecosystem.
“One great thing they have done is that they’ve created a system where their personnel while working are also learning. They’ve been able to build the commitment and passion into personnel.
“We’ve had more than ten thousand SMEs come through this establishment and use them to achieve most of the things we do in this establishment as way to enhance their market
“Our faculty is made up of experts in different fields. We have strong hands and that’s why many have confidence to come to us. We have credible partners; banks that a supporting as well as international partners that have objective to also grow the space.
“Having the right partners, having the right employee and good understanding of the ecosystem have combined to create the standard we deliver.”
Egbuna, talking about the reigning ‘japa syndrome’, admonishes Nigerian youths to be patient and become agent of change through their innovative capacity instead of running away from their country.
“There are opportunities in this country. The reigning ‘Japa syndrome’ is very funny. Foreign investors are looking forward to invest in this country following our potential. I know infrastructure has been a major challenge but there are still private institutions that are developing the space. The word ‘patience’ is key here.
“If you run away from country, who are you leaving it for? If we don’t build our country, nobody is going to build it for us. Am of the opinion that we should focus more on building our country rather than running away”; Egbuna said.