BusinessDay
Nigeria's leading finance and market intelligence news report.

‘Food production must not be seasonal in Nigeria because hunger is not’

Farmer Ogbole Samson is the Lead Trainer at Farm lab (www.sfarmlab.com). Agriculture for Samson is more than just food production (zero hunger). It is the foundation for sustainable development, job creation (no poverty), healthier living as well as national development. He believes agriculture must adopt the business mindset, technology, automation, precision, data and be climate smart.

To this end, Samson has devoted his time and resources to building modern farms, exploring the latest technologies for agriculture, sharing and training others to adopt “the modern agriculture” to ensure together we can use agriculture as a tool to build the nation we so desire.

He believes that “food production should not be seasonal because hunger is not seasonal”.

Background

Farmer Ogbole Samson has a B.Sc. Biochemistry from Igbinedion University; M.Sc. Biochemistry, Ibadan, and a Biochemistry PhD candidate, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. Other certificates include Disruptive strategy from Harvard Business School, Boston, USA; Biotechnology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta; Introduction to Food and Nutrition from Stanford University; Introduction to population health from the University of Manchester; Greening the Economy from Lund University Sweden; Sustainable Agriculture for year 2050 from Wageningen, Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture from the University of Western Australia, and Public Health from University at Albany.

Farmer Samson is a two-time TEDx speaker and a one-time TED speaker. He was recognised amongst the top seven innovators in Africa in the year 2018 by CNN Africa. He was recognised by EFCC as one of the young and legitimate innovative minds in the year 2018. He was part of the Ogun State Investors Forum in 2018.

In 2019, he was named top 500 in food tech-preneurs by Forward Fooding. He was part of the Lagos Farmers’ Team who met and discussed with all gubernatorial aspirants for the 2019 elections to draw a Road Map for agriculture. He was also a part of the documentary – “Swallow – food security in Nigeria’s changing climate”.

Farmer Samson’s creativity and entrepreneurial drive has had him featured on CNN’s African Voices, Reuters TV, Channels TV and many others. He has also featured on every major news tabloid in Nigeria.

Inspiration

My inspiration stems from my health-related background, having studied medicine and surgery initially at Madonna University, though I didnot graduate as the school was not accredited, but I have always had an inclination for health.

While at the Igbinedion University studying biochemistry I had questions on why food was not working as it was in the laboratory such as tomatoes contain lycopene which can prevent prostate cancer in men. However, there was still an ever increasing number of prostate cancers which meant one of two things: fake tomatoes or our schools lied. Since the later wasn’t true then the former had to be. With research I realised it was down to how it was grown, and the journey began to finding ways to grow healthy food. I started in 2013 with International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.

Initial challenges

The initial challenge was the bias as it was seen as unnatural, just explanation and demonstration over time. Then there was the power issue, but today we have systems that are zero-electricity dependent through research with senior colleagues in the industry like Debo Onofowora of BIC Farm Concept and Rotimi Williams of Gartner Callaway.

Advantages of farm lab practices

It ensures food production is not seasonal because hunger is not. We can grow all-year-round at the same input cost. There is also the ability to grow on multiple layers, allowing for space maximisation, reduced use of agrochemicals (to almost zero) that saves water by over 90percent.

So, we grow healthier foods with higher levels of antioxidants and phytochemicals, appropriate input deposit levels fit for human consumption. There is also low maintenance cost compared to soil-based farming, no weeding and many more.

The first thing is to understand what you want to do and your environmental asset as we make use of ABCD – a concept. I learnt at University of Wageninghen in the Netherlands, a method of farm setup that employs the use of locally available asset (ABCD – Asset Based Community Development). The system today is cheap and for a plot of land of tomatoes we are able to achieve this with less than N4million and a running cost of less that N1million annually.

With a one-time setup fee, no weeding all year round and not having to till the soil. There are systems that cost way less, for home use you can start with less than N10,000. For a family of four with N200,000 you can have vegetables like pumpkin, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and kale all year round with a running cost of less than N20,000 every month, and zero electricity

Training programmes on soiless Agriculture

We have paid and unpaid training programmes. The paid has 3 types: We have the online (3 hours class) for N20,000 only and this is for beginners who just want to learn to grow at home. We have the Boot-Camp which is a blend of online and physical. The online is 26 hours lecture time (students can attend at their pace), and the physical is 1 week on the farm. The fee is N100,000 but for those who want accommodation and feeding, the fee is N200,000. The third is a custom class where students pick their time table, curriculum and date for training/mode of training – the class starts from N400,000.

The free classes are of two types: the business development class, especially financials for those who apply for NIRSAL MFB loans. It is free 4 hours online class on our website to help guide them (www.sfarmlab.com) and we have our Work and Learn free classes, a 1 week free training were students learn soilless farming for free and pay for it by working on the farm (farm setup including hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics, irrigation setup and nursery setup).

View on current state of agriculture in Nigeria

The state of agriculture is still not where it should be. We need to decide what we want to use agriculture for as it is a tool which can be used for job creation, food security and income generation. Our goal will determine the tools, crops to focus on, type of technologies as well as what to ignore. It is a gradual process but we need to start from having a clearly defined goal. We start by having a goal, a clearly defined goal, this we drive every other conversation.

Piece of advice to youths interested in agriculture

As we walk in and out of recession, we must realize recession doesn’t mean money is leaving the earth. It only means money is flowing from those who have to those who don’t or vice versa. Fortunately, we also know money always flow towards value, so as youths create solutions, provide value and we will become money magnets. We must also have consistency, consistency beats competence but that doesn’t mean that we have to neglect competence, and whatever we can do, let’s do it well even if no one is watching us.

Plans for the future

Well, the future is having our own tissue culture labs to produce our vegetable seeds. We are currently building that. We have fewequipment on ground in the 25m project. We are also working on the prototype of our food-making machines for anyone to be able to cook from the comfort of their phones. In another 20 years we should have our nutria-genomics lab working.

Whatsapp mobile

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.