My journey into the world of being an agripreneur started in 2019 when I was selected as one of the winners of IUPAC N-GAGE Programme. My major objective then was to create an agricultural platform that could be used to render professional service to farmers as well as to create awareness about important innovations in pest management. Initially, it was a difficult task because of my lack of experience in agribusiness. Fortunately, with the support of the IUPAC N-GAGE team, I received the necessary support to become a successful agripreneur (as recounted in my earlier blog).
With the training and support, my experience so far helped me to understand that starting a business requires patience and time. I also realize that in business, no matter how good your idea is, you still have to convince people and give them reasons why your own product is the best. During my journey I learnt the importance of creating awareness for my new business. For instance, I discovered from a survey our team conducted that the respondents most interested in digital farming support are those that attended our training earlier in January. This implies that the more awareness people have about a product, the more they will be willing to use that product. Personally, all these lessons have made me a better businessman than when I started.
Presently, farmers now have access to our Mobile Plant Clinic website where we render professional assistance to them. The website was set up to attend to major areas of farmers needs i.e. pests and disease control, general crop production, cassava production and value added, produce marketing, animal husbandry and farm set up. In each area, we have a specialist who can attend to the need of the farmers.
We have now registered as a limited company (Mobile Plant Clinic Limited) in Nigeria. The Agricultural Development Program office has already given us their support which will enable us access to many farmer groups and associations. I also hope that with the business registration, I will be able to develop more partnerships with government and non-governmental institutions. Finally, I believe the registration will earn us more trust among our prospective customers.
In every journey, there are ups and down, so despite the progress made, one of the major challenges I encounter was the unplanned lockdown that was brought about by the COVID19 global pandemic. The situation became worse because the period of lockdown (March to June 2020) was a critical point in my business plan as it was the beginning of the farming season and I had hoped to build awareness in some farm settlements about the digital farming support offered by the Mobile Plant Clinic. However, with the lockdown, movement was restricted and I was not able to achieve this. Since ‘experience is the best teacher’, I have learnt how to make a contingency plan for future business plans.
Although the one-year N-GAGE program is now coming to an end, the lessons, skills and experience I have acquired will continue to guild me in better management and decision making going forward. I will want to acknowledge the support of the IUPAC N-GAGE team and Ghent University for this great opportunity. In all, the journey has been exciting, challenging and full of adventures and I have no doubt that Mobile Plant Clinic Limited will become one of the biggest agriculture companies in Nigeria in few years from now.
Apalowo Oluropo Ayotunde – N-GAGE Champion