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How my passion for agric led to many innovations – Award-winning agric entrepreneur

Mr Atulé Emmanuel Negedu, a young agric entrepreneur who won the Future Awards Africa 2023 prize in Agricultural Innovation, has emphasized that with technology and…

Mr Atulé Emmanuel Negedu, a young agric entrepreneur who won the Future Awards Africa 2023 prize in Agricultural Innovation, has emphasized that with technology and innovation, Nigeria can tackle many difficulties in the agricultural sector.

Speaking with Daily Trust on Sunday after the award, which recognizes exceptional talents and achievements in agriculture, he said innovative tools were critical to achieving food security.

His startup, Riverale Farms and Agritech, established two years ago, has been working on researching and developing “groundbreaking innovations that will enhance the participation of women and youths in agriculture, make farming easier and help farmers access centralised data, innovative agricultural tools and remodeled innovative machines.” 

The 31-year-old entrepreneur said his involvement in the agricultural sector began as a child when his hardworking mother would involve him in caring for the family’s poultry farm, fish farm and vegetable garden.

“My childhood passion for agriculture was rekindled when I began farming independently, cultivating crops like green pepper, yellow pepper, okra, tomatoes and foreign cucumbers. 

“The thrill of being surrounded by such a flourishing bounty reignited my passion for agriculture, making me feel more alive than ever before. I became fascinated by the farming process, from land preparation to the purchase of inputs and tools, planting, plant growth, transplanting from the nursery to the field and everything else involved. 

“As I learned more, I started to draw life lessons from farming and consider ways to simplify and enhance it, using technology. This experience sparked a passion in me to conduct extensive research and in-depth studies of plants, farming techniques, pest management, crop harvesting and the revolutionary potential of artificial intelligence in agriculture. I invested in tools such as the TDR-350 soil moisture meter to collect vital soil data like soil volumetric water content, soil electrical conductivity, and employing computer vision for pest and disease identification. I set out on a mission to integrate technology into agriculture,” Negedu said.

According to the young entrepreneur, his natural problem-solving abilities, along with a growing interest in technology, drove him to pursue certifications in software engineering and a bachelor’s degree in Computing at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom.

“Fueled by a passion for Nigeria, I returned to apply this acquired knowledge to solve real problems in the agricultural sector,” he stated.

Mr Negedu described how working as an IT consultant for organizations, such as Fertiliser Producers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), Green Power Agro Consulting (GPAC), and Tak Agro allowed him to attend high-level stakeholder meetings, workshops, conferences and seminars, while also exposing him to the sector’s challenges.

With a solution-driven desire and relentless determination to foster youth and women participation in agriculture, the young enterprising farmer rallied some of his friends who were already in the sector, alongside those he once motivated, to establish the Agrolife Youth Initiative, which seeks to promote agritech development, encourage women and youth engagement in agriculture and adopt climate-friendly practices and technology.

“Through partnerships with Asolar and the dedicated support of Mr Zakariyya Jibril, the initiative provided solar power to nearly 300 off-grid rural farmers, allowing them to pay for solar devices and panels with their crops, a project that is currently ongoing. The initiative’s efforts have positively affected the lives of smallholder farmers, empowering them with knowledge, skills and inputs. 

“We are also developing a digital ecosystem of agricultural solutions driven by artificial intelligence and robotics, in collaboration with some of our budding partners from the United Kingdom, Greece, Spain, USA, South Africa and Morocco. 

“We recently delved into satellite agriculture, working with PLANET systems through sentinel-hub, wherein we can carry out-precision farming, mapping, monitoring evaluation and predictive analysis. For now, we are offering these services to large-scale farmers, banks, insurance companies and other stakeholders while we work on making this also affordable for smallholder farmers,” he said.

Recognising the high cost of agritech instruments, Mr Negedu said Riverale Farms and Agritech intended to produce locally cheap technology solutions for farmers. The business believes in making technology accessible and simple to use, particularly for smallholder farmers in Africa.

 “Efforts are underway to develop applications, tools and software in native languages to overcome cognitive barriers and traditional biases,” he added.

According to him, winning the Agricultural Innovation Prize at The Future Awards Africa 2023 validates his efforts and demonstrates the agriculture sector’s enormous potential for change. 

“Our goal at Riverale Farms and Agritech is to become a leading global agricultural technology and innovation company within the next decade, providing solutions to the issue of global food insecurity. The journey has only just begun, the dream is grand, the vision spans generations, and the goal is clear – to achieve food security and prosperity for all through the transformative power of technology and innovation in agriculture,” he said.

 

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