How does the Agrorite platform work?
Agrorite is a global agrotech platform that helps smallholder farmers with finance, advisory services, and market access. Initially, it was a website where individuals can sponsor a farmer for a farming circle and then watch their money grow. We later scaled up to partner with corporations, international, local, and government organizations to accelerate our farmers in different communities, and at the end of the circle share the profit. Dealing with corporations has allowed us to onboard more farmers than before, and in turn they are more patient and the cooperation is more profitable.
What is the signature feature of Agrorite in comparison to others?
At Agrorite, it has always been about small farmholders, as they contribute more than 80% of what we eat in Nigeria. It only makes sense to support them, and in supporting them we are fighting for food security, which translates into more jobs and a better economy. Our mission is simple: we are here to improve the livelihood of small farmholders. Our farmers are paid based on performance, and so we do not pay salaries whereby when there is no work, they do not earn. We provide them with insurance for farming activities and health insurance for themselves. We also make sure they are financially included and even able to make investments. We also monitor their progress in terms of livelihood.
How have you been able to scale the business?
We thrive on collaboration. We have received grants and are fresh in equity. Our activities have also been accelerated by notable companies in the tech space. Apart from that, we also perform exports for farmers, which is definitely more profitable even though that requires greater patience from them. We are reaching out to corporates because their interest rates are lower, and this helps with our risk management efforts massively. In that manner, we are able to scale the business. We are currently working with the Central Bank of Nigeria to increase food production, as there is a high cost of food. The agri-business is broad, and we ensure that we take full advantage at every stage. Warehousing, for example, is crucial in order to not incur post-harvest losses. We are also big in warehousing, and our major warehouse helps different farmers across Nigeria store their produce for a certain fee on both a commercial and small scale.
What are the main challenges preventing Nigeria's agriculture from flourishing?
In my opinion, the main issue is structure. The Nigerian commodity space is so unstructured that anyone can fly into Nigeria, buy as many commodities as they want, and take them back to their countries. Meanwhile, there is no price uniformity, whereas neighboring African countries usually have a board that sets prices. In a farming season, our performance is never uniform, and so we have to agree on a price to ensure that everyone is profitable. Another issue is technology adoption. When we go to a new community, it is not easy for us to penetrate, so the first thing we do is to engage the locals through CSR campaigns. That allows us to begin the conversation. Third, we should be looking at funding in terms of creating more value for our commodities, rather than funding more foreign arrivals just to take away our produce. Finally, security risk in Nigeria is high, and technology can play a major role by allowing us to manage our farms remotely through hydroponics. In terms of increasing Nigeria's agricultural exports, macroeconomic and logistical issues persist such as the availability of forex and the congested Apapa port. Exportation of non-oil agricultural commodities can play a major role in stabilizing the economy, but there are major constraints due to the inefficiency of the ports.