With the slowly diminishing importance of Oil in the 21st century, Nigeria as a nation is walking on a thin line due to its over-dependence on oil to boost its economy. In 2016, the economic recession caused by the drop in oil price signified this notion, signaling to the Nigerian government and its people that for Nigeria to have a future, it would have to diversify its economy. Although the Government has put programmes and measures in place to encourage citizens to adopt farming, the barrier of entry, effort, and experience needed to start a farm still discourages people.
Here with us today Is Debola Oloko to discuss how she is bridging the gap between farming and the expertise required to make it profitable.
What is your background and where have you worked previously?
My name is Adebola Oloko a co-founder of Farm Right and the CEO of Boloks Resources. I got a bachelor’s degree in plant breeding & seed technology and an MBA in Agribusiness from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. During my studies, I was exposed to the benefits of having a career in agriculture and I began to realise that the agriculture industry in Nigeria still had untapped potential.
As a graduate, my desire to explore and gain valuable insights in Nigeria’s agriculture scene saw me take my first job at Adoyemi Resources Nigeria Limited, a poultry, and feed milling company in 2006. I initially started as a manager and rose through the ranks to become a Managing Director. Working at Adoyemi actually prepared me for venturing out on my own as an entrepreneur. With the knowledge that I had gained, I decided to start a plantain plantation because who doesn’t like plantain!
In 2010, I established my first plantation and as the demand for my products increased, I established more plantations and a processing plant at different locations.
In your own words, what is farm right?
Farm right is me replicating my passion for agriculture in other people. It is a vision that encapsulates wealth creation, food security, poverty alleviation and showcasing Nigeria to the world as a major hub for plantain farming.
How did Farm right start?
The Idea for Farm Right came about because of the decay in the value system of plantain and generally in Nigeria. While I was able to leverage my experience in the Agricultural industry to ensure my plantations were profitable, other farmers around me had low yields and post-harvest wastage due to poor storage conditions, logistics and looking for buyers. I along with the other co-founders wanted to create a system where people without agricultural knowledge could still farm and generate profits. After multiple sessions of brainstorming to create the ideal framework, Farm Right officially commenced in November 2017 with 7 investors.
What struggles did you face when starting the business?
The major challenge was getting the right climate and soil type for the plantations. Despite our expertise in plantain farming, it took about two years to get the perfect location because we were going to farm at a much larger scale. Funding was another challenge hence we had to form partnerships to ensure that the business would be a success. Poor infrastructure and government support was also an issue that hindered seamless progress.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?
I have a lot of people who have positively influenced my life but the biggest would be my family and close friends. They are a strong support group who were a daily source of inspiration and motivation. All the values that I uphold are as a result of their support and I am truly thankful to have them in my life.
How would your friends and family describe you?
The first thing they would most likely say is that I work too much. They would also say that I am a reserved and very caring person who always gets things done.
What do you do outside of work?
When I’m not busy, I spend quality time with my family and friends. As a wife and mother, I believe that you need to spend time with the people that are important to you. Other than that, I attend programmes at my local church.
What is your favourite Nigerian dish?
Ofada rice with ofada sauce. I can never get tired of eating Ofada rice.
How do you view Nigeria’s farming industry and what do you think is the best way to solve its major issues?
Nigeria’s farming industry is still emerging but the environment is not really enabling and the government intervention programs are not readily accessible. I would say that the most important thing that the government can do to make an immediate impact would be to improve transparency in their programmes and to create a network of buyers so that farmers would only need to worry about producing their crops.
What do you think of other solutions leveraging tech to improving the farming industry in Nigeria?
I believe that we are still in the early stages of innovation in the farming industry, which is a strong indicator of how impressive the industry is going to be, with the crop of unique start-ups emerging. Everybody cannot be a farmer but with technology, everyone can play a part in farming.
How do you cope with the struggles of being a woman and entrepreneur in the Nigerian business ecosystem?
It hasn’t been easy but with my support group and determination, I have been able to overcome all the challenges thrown at me.
What other challenges are you currently facing in the industry?
Finding the right people to hire, who share our vision and match it with an incredible work ethic.
Where do you see Farm right in 7 years?
I see Farm right diversifying the incomes of many Nigerians and contributing so much to the economy that, Nigeria would be revered worldwide as a plantain producing nation.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are trying to create their own start-up
As an entrepreneur, you have to be consistent and persistent in everything you do. You should never be complacent with your current situation and always look for ways to continue growing and learning.
Special thanks to Debola Oloko for taking the time to do this interview despite her hectic schedule. If you have any inquiries about Farm Right, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get started with your plantain plantation, click here.