How a Port Harcourt-based agritech startup is digitising operations for Nigerian farmers

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By most standards, Gbolagbo is already living the dream of most “wannabe” poultry farmers in Nigeria.

At 27, he runs two poultry farms; one in Ikorodu with 300 chickens and a bigger one in Ogun State. He later sold half of the hens from his Ikorodu poultry farm and gets eggs from the other half.

But even with the chicken producing eggs at the rate of 75 — 80%, all he gets is seven crates daily.

Ojima Farm is in Benin City, Edo State and their daily egg production quota is around 50,000 — 100,000 pieces.


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While they have benefitted from automating their hen houses and streamlining their operations using an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution, Gbolagbo still suffers from a lack of knowledge.

“This is how I have been carrying on my poultry operation, but if there’s a way that increases my productivity I would be happy to try it out,” he says.

Gbolagbo

Sadly, he is not alone as there are many other farmers like him who do not know that technology can improve their operations.

Ideally, Nigeria’s poultry industry has the capacity to generate more than ₦1.2 trillion in revenue. But the knowledge constraint has impeded growth.

Even outside the realm of poultry farming, the same problem exists

The digital farming

Growing up in a family that practised traditional farming, Wale Ibiniale had an aversion for repetitive task. He then began testing out innovative ideas out of a burning desire to automate them. That experience would guide him on his entrepreneurial journey and the brainchild company is CAD Digital Consulting.

Wale Ibiniale

Structurally, CAD Digital Consulting is a three-pronged system consisting of software as a service (SaaS), the consulting division and a business incubator. These systems interplay in advancing the concept of a digital farm.

“There’s a dynamics to farming. For it to be profitable it has to be run like a proper business. The best way to ensure profitability is by going the digital farming route,” Wale explains.

For every agricultural production, there are standard business processes to follow. But the digital farm model, according to Wale, is what makes production optimal. In poultry farming, for example, the poultry management system — which automates egg production — is a use case for digital farming.

The system keeps a detailed daily record of areas like feed consumption (by pen, cage or racks), mortality rate, feed conversion ratio, bird productivity/efficiency etc.

It also comes with a trade figure designed to shore up the business side of the operations; like managing payroll, accounting and HR.

Advantages

A digital farm comes with many advantages because the emphasis is on data. The data captured enables the farmer to make informed decisions in real time.

With human judgement, Wale highlights the possibility of error. And this is true as we have seen in Gbolagbo’s case earlier. Especially for farmers who are focused on exportation, a digital operation will be nothing short of basic.

In a more technical sense, Ojima Farm is symbolic of a digital farm. And they are one of the largest farms in Benin as well as an enterprise customer of CAD Digital Consulting.

Challenges

Asides from the initial scepticism around digital literacy of farmers, there is a fear of affordability. This is because the majority of farmers in Nigeria operate on a small scale, so their instinctive reaction to a solution like this is to see it as an expensive commodity.

Thinking already along that line, CAD Digital Consulting has structured its business model more strongly around their three core services.

“We just don’t sell software, we now do a lot of training and consultancy as well as incubation. We recently had a training with some rural poultry farmers where we trained them on the various international standards and how to use the service. Sometimes we take the pain to visit farms.”

Obviously, CAD Digital Consulting see involvement in the entire ecosystem of its operation as necessary. This way it might be able to drive down the cost of a particular service while making up for it elsewhere along the value chain.

That it also has its own farm, where it first test out the solution before deploying it to clients, is another indicator. Regardless, one of the ways to know a credible business is if it can stand the test of time. CAD Consulting has been in existence for 18 years and seems adequately equipped for the challenges.

Prospect

In a country with over 180 million consumers that are daily in need of agricultural products, the market is always waiting to be tapped.

As the present investors and farmers lean more towards the traditional system of farming, Wale thinks they cannot meet up with demand. Hence the upswing in importation.

But by trying to solve this problem at scale using digital means CAD Digital Consulting is looking to be a leader in in the Nigerian agricultural technology space.


Nigerian startups raised a total funding of $73.6 million in Q2 2018. Download our report to find out more.


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Lead Venture Analyst at Techpoint.ng. Eager to tell startup stories that offer Nigerians the much needed creative solutions to relate-able problems. Get in touch.

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