• Friday, May 24, 2024
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Aisha Raheem: Transforming Nigeria’s food system with artificial intelligence

Aisha Raheem

Aisha Raheem is the founder of Farmz2U, a start-up that employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimise and address issues of food waste and nutrition.

“Our USP is the use of consumer data—not limited to end-consumers and distributors— to provide trend analysis in supporting a farmer’s production planning,” she says.

Aisha was inspired to establish Farmz2U owing to a personal healthcare scare, and desire to address societal issues around food and nutrition.

“After discovering a lump, I changed my lifestyle with greater focus on nutrition gained mainly from food,” the young entrepreneur explains.

“Through this journey, I became aware of the challenges in the food industry, and the interrelation of poor nutrition and food waste,” she adds.

To address these societal issues, Aisha was prompted to establish Farmz2U in 2017.

Her entrepreneurship journey started in 2014 but became a business model that was incorporated in 2017.

She started the business small and has invested about $85,000 since starting. The business has been funded through her private funds and grants.

Her business has continued to grow owing to its adoption of technology to drive food sustainability and address society’s problem of food waste and malnutrition.

She currently has three full-time employees and three freelancers.

On the business expansion plans, she says that Farmz2U in the short-run plans to scale its solutions to more farmers in Nigeria by the second quarter of 2020.

“The Farmz2U solution is currently available to a select few farmers through our closed beta testing exercise. However, we aim to provide this solution to more users through our soft launch with a target date in Q2 2020,” she says.

“We will have a staged release to more users over time through a waiting list system,” she notes.

“Similarly, we are working with local and international agricultural cooperatives and extension systems to provide Farmz2U’s services to farmers,” she adds.

Evaluating Nigeria’s agricultural sector, Aisha says poor technical expertise, fragmented markets and low use of mechanisation have continued to limit farmers’ productivity.

She notes that it is very vital for Nigerian farmers to embrace innovation and technology if they ever want to grow enough food for the population.

She identifies low awareness and cost as the major factors hindering farmers in the country from adopting technology.

She notes that with the solutions Farmz2U is providing, farmers can get a flexible pricing structure to address some of their challenges while getting evidence-based case studies on how technology can boost their productivity.

Aisha tells Start-Up-Digest that inadequate funding and farmers’ low knowledge on the importance of technology in boosting their productivity remain major hurdles to cross.

She notes that the business is trying to overcome the challenge by regularly conducting training sessions for farmers.

“With limited funding, we have managed this challenge by operating a lean cost structure and bootstrapping. And in managing the knowledge gap among users we regularly conduct training sessions,” she says.

She urges the government to encourage the adoption of innovation and technology in the country’s agricultural systems.

“There is an incentive to increase Nigeria’s agricultural output for the government and the people. Apart from reducing the food import bill, there will be more revenue through exports,” she says.

Aisha’s business – Farmz2U- is a recipient of several awards and grants such as recognition as a leading African and Diaspora-led SME by the African Union; Changemaker for the EIT Food; Code of Good Scholarship from Cambridge Consultants, and recognition as a leading female-led innovative start-up by the Royal Academy of Engineering among others.

On her advice to other entrepreneurs, Aisha says, “The world has many problems and too few solutions. If you want to start a business, make sure it is solving a problem and be clear about what that problem is.”

“Be resilient and committed to the positive impact you wish to create. Everything else will follow organically,” she adds.

 

Josephine Okojie