In February 2019, I was invited to postgraduate training in Ibadan, Nigeria. In the middle of the training, two ladies were discussing about another training opportunity coming up in Benin Republic later in the year so I asked them about it and one of them gracefully promised to send me the link. She thoughtfully sent two, the other one being a link to apply to the IUPAC Next Generation Programme. I opened the link and thought immediately “this is my kind of competition”. Ideas rule the world and I saw in this particular competition an opportunity to compete with other young minds across the globe, not necessarily about our academic achievements but on how we can think and use our ideas to make positive change about sustainable crop protection in our immediate society . I loved everything about this competition and sent in my application and my project idea of a Mobile Plant Clinic in Nigeria.
On 4th of April, I got a mail which gave me some of the best news of my life. I was selected among 50 young people to be sponsored to join the IUPAC conference and the Next Generation Agri-Summit in Ghent, Belgium. Most importantly, I also emerged as one of the 5 Next Generation (N-GAGE) Champions who would receive a seed grant to implement my idea and additional training and mentoring for one year. Eureka!
This was my first trip to Europe and to attend the IUPAC Conference and the Next Generation Agri-Summit with 50 other young agri-preneurs was a dream come true. The Agri-Summit was like a smaller version of United Nations as young people from different countries came together under one roof to be tutored on career development, personal branding, uses of social media, sourcing for funds, the importance of mentors, working with a team, among other important topics. We also had the privilege of having a ‘question and answer’ section with the 2016 Nobel laureate in Chemistry Prof. Fraser Stoddart, who was a keynote speaker at the Conference. The highlight for me was the opportunity to network among the conference participants.
After the conference, the N-GAGE champions were sponsored to join a summer school at Ghent University where we learned more on how to become an entrepreneur. The training also gave us the opportunity to know what it takes to run a successful business. It was exciting when jurists with business backgrounds listened to us pitch our projects and give words of advice.
With the seed grant of €5,000 and the learning experiences being offered in the N-GAGE Programme, I have started my Mobile Plant Clinic project. The training I received has helped me in selecting a team of people with a similar vision to work with me. Together we have planned on how to approach our audience, the look of the website, who to partner with, criteria to use in selecting consultants and government policies we can leverage.
So far, it’s not been without some challenges. Distance and other commitments (work, career etc) has been a challenge. Sometimes, I will schedule a meeting and have to postpone it when others are not immediately available. I have also learnt that running a business requires absolute commitment (no part-time efforts) and I have to keep up to date with national news that is relevant to my project. An added bonus has been the tremendous support I have received from my fellow N-GAGE champions and from the coordinating team of IUPAC Next Gen. I feel I’m on track to have my mobile platform available for relevant stakeholders in agriculture in 2020.
I look forward to sharing more of my progress with you over 2020.
Apalowo Oluropo Ayotunde