• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Lessons from Wells Hosa: Nigeria’s biggest Greenhouse farm

Greenhouse Farm

“For me people are seeing tomatoes, I’m seeing more than tomatoes, I’m seeing jobs for the youth, I’m seeing empowerment for our people, I’m seeing food security, I’m seeing exports and foreign exchange to support our GDP. So, it’s more than tomatoes first harvest but its something that we can replicate around this country.”

The above inspiring statement was made by the billionaire Chairman of the Wells Hosa company, Captain Hosa Okunbo, when on September 6, 2018 the first harvest of the high technology-driven Greenhouse Farm were unveiled to the public. So, what are the features that mark it different from the rest? The answer is not far-fetched. History was made back in March 2016 when a $750million (about N150 billion) farm, designed to create 25,000 direct and 6,00 indirect jobs in Edo State, was unveiled by business man, Captain Hosa Okunbo, at Government House, Benin City.

The Edo state-based farm happened to beWest Africa and Nigeria’s biggest hydroponic farm with 28 greenhousesand having the potential to produce 4,800 tonnes of bell pepper, tomatoes and cucumber. Specifically, there are high quality varieties such as Red Habanero Peppers, Habanero Peppers, Red Bell Papper, Red & Yellow Bell Peppers, Beef Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes and Habanero Peppers.

The brilliant minds behind this project who happen to be members of the Advisory Board include Capt. Idahosa Wells Okunbo as the Chairman, Bright Okunbo as the CEO. And Mnenena Bara-Hart as the Secretary. Others are Nosa Okunbo and Adesuwa Okunbo. So far, so great. What is significant are the noble values it has brought to the table of Nigeria’s food and nutrition security.

Wells Hosa enables local production of farm produce to nourish local communities with safe, nutritious, and delicious food. Interestingly, their fruits are picked at the height of freshness. It is therefore “on a mission to transform agriculture in Nigeria by building and operating environmentally -responsible farms”.

Furthermore, its Mission statement goes on to emphasize that: “We have been charting this course toward a new standard for totally-controlled agriculture since 2016. We defy traditional growing seasons by enabling local farming at commercial scale all-year round and we set a new standard for traceability by managing our greens from seed to package’’.

All these are made possible because the fully-controlled Greenhouse farmsare well positioned to control and perfect every aspect of the color, texture, nutrition and most importantly, flavour of their produce. The hydroponic systems use a mineral-based nutrient solution to nourish all the farm produce in a soilless environment. That means that the farms use less waterthan conventional agriculture and there is no agricultural runoff.

What these mean is that the farms keep producing various fruits irrespective of the unpredictable and freaky weather conditions. Though they are locally grown, they are pesticide- free and ensure food safety from harvest to storage. Good enough that the state-of-the-art greenhouse farms are designed with hydroponic systems that allow for water recirculation. Let us take a closer look at the unique features of the farm.

The Layout has a total surface area of 27 hectares. The packing house is 1400 square metres with enough space to install two sorting machines, a harvest boxes warehouse, and two cool chambers with 82 pallets capacity (three 40 feet container per week).

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As for the Service Module it has accurate nutrition control, automatic filtration system, computerized control for the irrigation system, and fast relief valve to protect the irrigation system. The Nursery has an area of 600 square meters, 1,000 trays to allocate 128,000 seeds producing seedlings for cycles of seven greenhouses at a time. These allow the farm to offer products the whole year round.

The Tropical Greenhouses are specially designed for the humid tropic weather with double windows on the top help to remove hot air from the greenhouses. These are buoyed by the hydroponic substrate system with accurate irrigation system and air circulatory fans.

The benefits of hydro-ponics system include the facts that it is extremely land and water efficient. It has very high yields with consistent, high quality produce and no agricultural run-off pest management.

Apart from food and nutrition security the N150billion farm project Wells Hosa has the potential to generate 85,000 jobs direct employment while indirectly employing thousands of youth and women. This is high commendable for a country groaning under the weight of high unemployment rate and several job losses. Such features gave Captain Hosa the confidence to pay a courtesy visit to His Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin and present the first tomatoes harvest for his royal blessings.

Going into history, the 9,000 hectares of land was acquired in 2006, for the dream project. Hosa has partnered with his Mexican partnersto achieve his dream which he said was as something very special to him. Said he back then: “I am doing this not because of money but because of what we can give back to the society, it is a legacy project.”

It would be recalled that the Director- General of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council,(NEPC), Segun Awolowo, explained: “We started as a facilitator. The idea is to bring investment into manufacturing and industry in Nigeria and this is a perfect example of that, partnering with Wells and Carlos Farms. Our soil is very fertile and very good. We can capture the European market. This is a wonderful investment that will be the envy of other states and countries in Africa”.

So, what are the lessons to glean from this first-of-a-kind project in the Sub-region? It has come at the right time when the current President Muhammad Buhari-led administration is harping on the importance of agriculture to diversify the revenue base away from agriculture. What more, it has appealing features to lure our youth back to the farm, but this time with modern agricultural practices.

Wells Hosa has inadvertently shown that given the right environment Nigerians can dream big and bring such to fruition. The governments at both the state and federal levels should therefore, ensure that such big projects as this are supported with stable power supply, tax incentives and of course solid security. It would be painful, for instance, to learn that some hoodlums or herdsmen make their way into the farm to traumatize the farmers in one way or the other.

It is BIG kudos from us to Wells Hosa, as it marks two great years of highly successful production. We pray, as the Chairman has indicated that soon, this would be replicated all over the country.