For most farmers in Nigeria, the use of traditional farm tools to cultivate is the most tedious part of the business. Some privileged farmers like Modupe Oyetosho can afford to use machines to grow their crops.
The 35-year-old graduate of Computer Science cultivates maize and cassava on a 5000-acres farm in Edo and Oyo States. Ms Modupe started farming seven years ago as a side hustle while working as a programmer before she resigned and focused on her farming.
Before she became a farmer, she considered Nigeria’s importation, hoping to help solve hunger in the country. As a technology person, she decided to bring technology into agriculture. Ms Oyetosho says farming is quite interesting.
She started with two acres of land which she got from my dad and she later got access to lease about 500 acres and now she has about 5000 acres.
Currently, she has about 25 core staff and almost a 100 casual staff.
Her success story did not begin immediately. The first three years were a failure until a friend came to her and explained an investment plan that would improve her business.
Ms Oyetosho agreed to crowdfunding idea after which she created an online platform to help investors, “and that’s how the crowd funding started. Which I used to grow and expand,” she said.
Ms Oyetosho supplies the producers of the popular noodle, Indomie, with cassava and also poultry international.
She also produces soybean for flour mills and that makes it easy for her to pay people back after selling their produce.
She is the CEO of Anchor Farm but the platform is called smart farm which is the online part.
Ms Oyetosho said she uses devices like drones and satellite imaging to have clearer pictures of her crop to know their health status.
Drone has a multi spectrum camera that makes you know the health status of the crops. The problem with agriculture is until probably the leaves are yellow before you know that there’s a problem there.
“If you can predict some things ahead then you can prevent it and prevent loss. We came up with software to manage the farm and its resources,” she added.
Aside, drones and satellite imaging,she uses software for her farm record to coordinate the farm operations.
“Running a commercial farm is like managing a project. How do you manage all the workers, resources and other things on the farm so that there won’t be clashes in operation?” she said .
“On my farm, I do not use drones only, satellite imagery also is employed where I could easily detect where there is an infection and contain it immediately. I also have a weather forecast but a more precise one. Like the exact forecast for the farm which can guide the operation on the farm,” she said.
Her seven years experience has been bitter sweet. Apart from the farm challenges, Ms Oyetosho lost her fiance on her farm in 2020 but she feels close to her vision of becoming a farmer.
“The most spectacular thing that has happened negatively within the past seven years was my kidnapping and the killing of my fiancé last year while I was on my way from the farm, while positively it’s the growth since we are making an impact and we are now able to serve international organisations looking for local substitute,” she said
“For example Indomie imports wheat flour which is their major material but now they substitute using cassava flour. We are still far from where we want to be but in seven years we have made good progress,” she added.
For sustainability in Nigeria, the rate and way of food production has to change because by 2030 the population will rise to 450 million.
“We are about 200 million and we are depending so much on importation. Just imagine what will happen when we are 250 million. We need more young people to come into farming. We need to switch from smallholder farming and commercial farming,” she said.
She compared the population of people farming in the United States of America and Nigeria, and said Nigeria needs to step up her game in the sector.
“In the U.S., 30 per cent of their population is into farming and they produce not only what they eat but also what to export while in Nigeria, 70 per cent of the population are into farming and we can’t even feed ourselves talkless of exporting,” she said.
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“So it’s not about the number in farming. We need to maximise the yield per acre and we need more young people to be able to adopt innovative practices in agriculture to produce the food we are going to eat. And it’s not just farming, it’s the agriculture value chain. For example, yam,” she added.
She harped on the importance of using technology on the farms. She said aside those who studied agriculture, other fields can also be useful in the farm.
“When you see crops that are indigenous to us we hardly have machinery for them. We need our agric engineers, economists etc, to come to the farm, understand the process and come up with technology that will help farmers,” she said.
Ms Oyetosho for example studied computer science and used that to create softwares to help in farm management. So whatever it is, there is always a role that every professional can play in the agricultural sector.
“Some aspects include logistics, tractor and other machinery repairs etc. Imagine we want to ship our goods to the factory. We can’t find a company to do that,” she said
“I recently wanted to buy a machine that has satisfactory features which included IT features but didn’t because there is no means of maintenance or repair when needed. So, there are so many areas in the agricultural value chain that present lots of opportunities to the youth just in the primary production,” she said.