Nigeria’s agriculture sector has in recent years witnessed significant growth and development, courtesy of technology. A number of agritech startups have sprung with solutions that have increased interest in agriculture and made farming a lot easier.
Probityfarms is one of the startups making it happen. The platform is a free farm management tool that helps farmers manage their farm activities to boost yields and access funds faster. In this interview with co-founder Olushola Ogunniyi, he revealed more about the startup and the solutions it’s bringing to the agrictultural sector in Nigeria.
Tell us a little about yourself
I’m Olushola Ogunniyi, Co-Founder Probityfarms, am a graduate of computer science from University of Ilorin I have MSc Info Tech, where I specialized on Internet Application and am presently a doctoral student of Business Administration at Edinburgh Napier University, Business School Miami, USA.
Before Probityfarms, myself and Ope Adelaja, my Co-founder/COO a graduate of economics jointly managed and maintained a multi-million dollar Citrix application virtualization solution for a global telco leader in Nigeria and have built software for SME accounting.
Our CMO has 7 years experience as growth and digital marketer with multiple early stage and series-A startups in Nigeria (including a Techstar-backed company – Max.NG – and VoguePay.com, Nigeria’s biggest online payment gateway by merchant size which has grown to 50,000 merchants)
Tell us about Probityfarms
It’s a free tool for farmers to manage farm operations and boost revenue. As a result, farmers can improve their yields by up to 80%. The app also provides information on best farming practices to improve crop yields, prevent post-harvest losses, connect them with off-takers and manage their business.
What inspired the idea for it?
We were driven by the need to increase youth participation in agriculture and access to capital for farmers. These help us to solve the dual problem of youth unemployment and food import deficits through agriculture.
Everyone in Nigeria is saying go back to the farm, and honestly a lot of youth including myself then do not know where to start, how much is needed and even in my own case, what should I plant, even though I used to farm with my parents when I was in school in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Secondly farmers complain of fund, government and financial institutions want to give loan but there is no record, also these financial institutions need intelligence to determine how much a farmer really needs to plant a crop and the expect revenue.
How does the platform work?
We segmented our clients into 4 buckets – Smallholder farmer, Farm Manager, Financial Institutions / Cooperatives and Investors
For the Smallholder farmer, Probityfarms starts the journey with the farmer by asking some simple questions about his farm then our advisory system helps the farmer generate a farm budget with planting best practices guide from pre-planting to harvest. Farmers also get email reminder about scheduled tasks and sms on the impact of weather on his farm.
Our platform allows Farm managers (Accountants, Agronomist, and Extension worker) to create multiple farm field and assign people to roles by adding them as collaborators and track their progress, expenses and expected return on investment. So as an investor I can see how my farm is doing and time to harvest with pictures of activities on my farms.
Thirdly, Probityfarms also helps financial institutions derisk lending through our proprietary algorithm, that calculates the cost and return on investment using best practices, so the financial institution can really quantify how much is needed to cultivate a particular type of crop and duration to harvest.
Lastly, we have a team of highly trained agronomist and farm extension service workers that can help source for farmland, manage the operations and grow specific crop for farm investors. Since most of them are either engaged with their 8 to 5 schedule or are not in the country to monitor the day to day activities of the farm, they can login to Probityfarms and review the activities being carried out of the farm and monitor their investment daily.
Since kick-off, how has the response been from Nigerians?
Since farmers can easily create a budget, capture his expenses, crop yield expectation and revenue for FREE, they are like for real, so I can see my output before even starting? I get a lot of thank you messages daily.
What are the challenges you’ve faced since launch, and how did you overcome them?
Building a solution that provides value and really simple to use was a big challenge as we know farmers are not tech people, we had to break down our first solution that was enterprise designed and will cost farmers money to use.
From the feedback we got from farmers, we were able to identify the real pain point and we started gathering intelligence to produce the first free farm advisory solution in Africa.
How do you plan to bring farmers who are not tech savvy on board?
We intend to deploy our solution on the USSD (*123#) platform. The USSD technology just like you have with the banks these days is a great way to on-board non technology savvy and farmers without smart phones.
What do you consider to be the challenges facing Nigeria’s agricultural sector?
Farming in Nigeria is unstructured and there is no single point of presence and surely a prominent under-utilization of data. An average farmer in Africa has poor record keeping facilities. There is also a lack of rallying point where farmers can effectively collate and utilize data on activities, costs and expenses from their individual farms.
This has led to a situation where farmers farm blindly, unable to share information and resources amongst themselves, are constantly exploited by farm marketers and cannot access funds and credit facilities. For example, there is no reliable figures on the number of farmers in the country and the amount of produce that will be harvest in a particular time. These are the part of the challenges our solution will solve.
What are the future plans for Probityfarms?
We are in the era of Agric 3.0 where data and access to information is king, Smart farming I will say, so we want to be the operating system for farming investments in Africa.
Probityfarms is positioning itself to be the biggest data driven agri-tech platform in Nigeria, we hope to have positively impacted the lives of over 2,000,000 farmers in 5 years, enabling them to benefit from a rich pool of data on farming practices, market prices, buying farming inputs at subsidized rates and better access to funds and credit facilities.
We intend to use this data to advice on best practice for each locality, storage services to prevent post-harvest losses and recommend marketing services per location at harvest.