To attain Food Security in Africa, alternative and innovative means of farming is required to scale. Urban Farming is one of the way forward; African Harvesters had agribusiness conversations with Samson Ogbole, a hydroponics expert on the journey of the acceptance of Hydroponics and vertical farming, entrepreneurship journey at Ps Nutraceuticals International ltd, food security and others.
Question 1: Tell us about yourself and your Agribusiness?
I am Samson Ogbole, a firm believer in agriculture as a means to secure a healthy nation. The agriculture I believe and practice is one that must be healthy for the farmer, the consumer and the environment, one which is sustainable. To this end we push soilless farming not as a means to replace soil but rather to compliment soil, which would help ensure the limitations of soil and current agriculture in the nation are circumvented.
In addition, our agriculture brings to fore the BIG B, that is breathe, we understand that breathe is the foundation of life but having life is only but a start point and thus not enough, so there is more needed for life to be truly meaningful, we are creating farms which is able to create the 3Bs needed to give the BIG B a value. On our farm we provide
- Bread: We give every of our farmer FREE basic food stuffs, this is not a part of their salaries
- Bed: We provide free accommodation for the farmers, for most youths, on graduation, where to stay is a big burden but being able to provide this for free is always a big leap in choosing any profession
- Bandwidth: This is called so for lack of a better word, we provide free 24 hours internet, water, electricity and e-library on the farm.
With the value of breathe, the farmers are able to think different and better.
Question 2: How is your business participating in the development of Food Security in Nigeria?
We have been able to reduce the wastage as our soilless farms are able to remove the stumbling block of transport and storage. Our farming ensures food production is not seasonal, like I always say hunger is not seasonal so food production cannot be seasonal.
We are able to use our lands better, there is a soilless farm in Lekki, Lagos managed by Gartner Callaway which is only 2 plots yet gives the produce equivalent of 15 acres! The vertical farming takes advantage of the vertical space
There is reduced use of fertilizers, elimination of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides making it healthier for the farmer, the consumer and the environment.
Question 3: How has the Agribusiness entrepreneurial journey being?
It has been a learning curve, I have had to adopt ABCD, Asset Based Community Development – I have had to endure being called names ranging from wizard, diabolic, genius, smart, insane but it has all been worth it as more and more people are accepting this form of agriculture we preach
Question 4: To attain Food Security, Urban Farming is significant to boost food production, what are your efforts towards promoting Hydroponics in Nigeria and Africa?
We have been able to push the soilless farming ranging from hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics, bioponics, foggaponics, peeponics.
We have organized both paid and free seminars, training sessions etc. It is a day at a time and we are willing to take it easy, information cannot be rushed, there is always the space for process, a time for people to question, understand, and accept before thinking of investing or exploring the technology
Question 5: What are some of the challenges you face in your Agribusiness and how do you overcome those challenges?
First will be the information gap, and we had to spend a lot putting information out for people to understand what we do! While a lot of people complain about finance, we had to leverage on knowledge, started from where we were. The policies and our culture also was another challenge but with negotiations, explanation we have overcome this. The issue of power – we had to revert to solar panel, fuels and this has not been cheap especially with providing 24/7 power
Question 6: Where do you see your Agribusiness in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
Smart Agriculture, farmers who care about the health of the consumer before profit, an agriculture of the future that is technology driven and not just man power dependent. Have tissue culture labs where we can be sure of clean seed quality for the farmer, as a company we are set to build our tissue culture lab, we are already working towards complete farm automations and introducing farm hands (robots working on our local farm) etc
Question 7: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start an Agribusiness or invest in Nigeria?
Take your time to study, know what you want and start from where you are. There are many investors out there, but you need proof of what you can do as you cannot come out talking about what existed 10 years again. You cannot be a non-reading farmer and be successful, yearn for knowledge, and keep researching, farming is the oldest profession, it has been since man has existed and will continue! It is more than food production, so understand it well, read wide about what you want and if need be (most times it is), partner with others.