The African Farmers’ Stories is an initiative of Support4AfricanSMEs that aims to amplify the voices of African farmers through weekly interviews, highlighting their vital role in feeding the continent and how they are surviving through the COVID-19 pandemic. It is supported by partners like BusinessDay, MSF Agribusiness, Big Dutchman, Clarke Energy and more.
The latest edition of the tweet chat, hosted by Edobong Akpabio of Agro Centre, features Abass Olaiya, founder and CEO of the agrotech company Farmy App, and a data scientist freelancing with Data Science Nigeria as the AI+ Ibadan City Lead.
As a graduate of Mathematical Statistics & Probability, Abass worked while an undergraduate to analyse data for final year projects. This work exposed him to data from agricultural economics projects, around the same time as the 2017 tomato crisis, and inspired him to create a medium that was both beneficial to farmers and that could be used to collect data for research purposes.
Farmy App was created as a digital technology tool to help farmers have better access to the best research, collaborate more easily, access best solutions to challenges on their farms and be more productive, resulting in more income and food security for all. It is an electronic farmers’ market for buying and selling agricultural products and improving access to agriculture-based research. By connecting farmers to buyers and researchers, it aims to equip them with knowledge about the best inputs and implements to increase their productivity and efficiency and in turn reduce the market price of agricultural produce by 50% in three years. Farmy App is new but is gradually becoming relevant, making impact in the Nigerian agricultural sector, and rapidly growing. It hopes to reach over half of Nigerian farmers and go beyond Nigeria’s borders within the next ten years.
Abass affirms that agrotech will indeed help African agriculture experience greater development. Through solutions like the Farmy App, farmers will not only be able to sell their products before harvest, but will also have the opportunity to access different types of input, compare how inputs will affect their productivity based on geography, receive feedback from other farmers, have access to and render seasonal services, and receive and view product ratings. These functions will drive increases in output per farm, increase farmers’ profits, reduce market prices of agricultural products and drive better investment in the agricultural sector.
Speaking on the constraints of agricultural technology businesses, Abass notes that the major constraint is getting their solutions across to rural farmers. This is often solved by word-of-mouth advertisement however, when farmers who have benefited from the Farmy App reach out to other farmers in their network about the benefits of agrotech solutions.
Entrepreneurs can be encouraged to go into agricultural technology if more awareness is created on how profitable it is to invest time and talent to provide technological solutions for agriculture, and if more investments can be targeted at youth interested in the sector. He also notes that potential investors should not expect returns on investments in the shortest possible time, because successful businesses that have great impact take time to build and grow.
Abass believes that Africa is indeed ready for 360° development using digital technology. African leaders and other stakeholders can embrace and utilize digital technology for the continent’s development by collaborating with enterprises and private sector bodies to create awareness and develop easy-to-use agricultural technology software to solve farmers’ problems in the most efficient ways.
He hopes to use data science and artificial intelligence to constantly provide meaningful solutions for the agricultural sector, and encourages youth to seek out efficient solutions for any problems they encounter, and notes that while initially challenging, such work is immensely rewarding, because “where problems abound, more opportunities abound”.