AgroLatestChat with Angel Adelaja

AgrolatestChat with Miss Adelaja

MyFarmbase Africa’s AgroLatestHero was created to tell the stories of young farmers and Agripreneurs alongside reaching out to prospective farmers to learn from their successes and failures with the sole aim of increasing food production and making huge profits from the different value chains in agriculture.

INTRODUCTION

It was a pleasant Wednesday on Twitter as the MyFarmbase team had an interesting tweet chat session with the amazing and mighty, Angel Adelaja, CEO of FreshDirect Ng.

Here’s the conversation you might have missed.


Hello… Good evening everyone. 

Welcome to another exciting edition of our weekly #AgroLatestChat I am Nkechi, a Media Representative for MyFarmBase Africa.

Today we are have a great personality in the house, a self-made woman, she is a pretty farmer, an Entrepreneur. Her name is Angel Adelaja. We will be talking about How Small Holder Farmers can Leverage on Urban X Hydroponics farming To Achieve Food Security in Africa.

This indeed promises to be exciting and educative as always. Stay tuned!

 

MFB: Can you briefly tell us about yourself? 

Mrs Adelaja: I’m CEO of @FreshDirectNG, an Agricultural company. We’re known for our modular farm using stackable shipping containers. We are creating a completely off grid sustainable urban farming campus. We are trying to grow on 1000 square meters what should usually grow on 150 acres. Using hydroponics and vertical farming within a shipping container, our Container Farms are able to grow directly in urban areas.

This means that production is brought closer to market or AT market with ease. Done.

I must also shout out the REAL pretty farmer @PrettyFarmer, my sister who is working for women and youths in Agriculture.

MFB: Can you tell us what Hydroponics Farming is all about? 

Mrs Adelaja: What is Hydropinics? Simply put, Hydroponics is when you grow plants in WATER! Sounds too simple? Lol it’s more complex than that…

Hydroponic farming is a system of farming where you grow plants with nutrient-rich water. More specifically, your plants are stabilized in a non-soil growing medium while recirculating water provides nutrients.

Nutrients added to the water are fed to the plants in a variety of ways. This is based on the type of hydroponic system you want to use.

You can also get the nutrients in a variety of ways, via chemical fertilizer, organic fertilizer or fish waste being added to the water.

When you have fish waste from fish in the system, it’s called aquaponics.

Really when you’re engaging in hydroponics farming or controlled environment agriculture in general you’re acknowledging agriculture as a science, you’re controlling the variables and giving a plant what is optimally needed.

For hydroponics you’re optimizing a plant’s ability to uptake nutrients. The plant roots don’t need to search in the soil for nutrients. It can easily uptake it in the water. 

MFB: How can Hydroponics technology solve Africa’s Food Security issue? 

Mrs Adelaja: Hydroponics is not a silver bullet for solving Africa’s Food Security Issues, but it helps to fill in some of the gaps we are facing. Especially when it comes to the challenges we face with low yield, seasonality of growing, making agriculture more precise, making it attractive to youth, improving proximity to market and more. With hydroponics, under the umbrella of controlled environment agriculture, we can farm year round and we’re ensuring that the plants are getting the optimum amount of nutrients it needs.

For Africa in particular, we can utilize hydroponics for seedling productions, we can also use it to grow the plants from start to finish. We can grow the most perishable plants closer to market.

We don’t have to compete with rural farmers. But synergize to work towards a food secure Africa. For example people like @Samsonprolific are working with rural farmers to change how a typically rural crop like yam can be grown via a subsector of hydroponics –aeroponics (growing plants in air) and @FreshDirectNG for example is focused on reducing the land and water used in agriculture for a more ecofriendly farming system. Hydroponics uses less water than traditional agriculture. It also helps with import substitution as it can help us grow things that don’t normally grow in our climates so we don’t have to import them. Traditional agric, we think of soil mapping, soil types, climates and with hydroponics and CEA in general, you are able to control those things

MFB: How Can Small Holder Farmers Leverage on Urban X Hydroponics farming To Achieve Food Security in Africa?

Mrs Adelaja: The beauty of hydroponics is that it can help the rural farmer but it also attracts urban farmers and never farmers. It’s so appealing to people because it helps reduce the back breaking work you need to do with more traditional methods.

Like I mentioned, rural farmers can use hydroponic farming for growing animal feed/fodder. They can use it as a compliment to their traditional methods to diversify their income with production of shorter term crops. They can grow seedlings for outdoor farming etc.

 It gives rural youth who generally tend to migrate to urban areas a different view of what their parents were doing. They are also small holders technically. They have limited space to grow and hydroponics especially via vertical farming helps farmers maximize space. It’s like farming in 3D. So people can now farm on their balconies, backyards, closets etc.

 It’s appealing to never farmers because it looks good… and easy…. but it’s not. What you avoid in back breaking work you face in advanced thinking. It’s a higher level of thinking needed to calculate nutrients needed or design a system. But it has a lower barrier of entry. Lower barrier of entry because you don’t need to go find land to start. You don’t need a green house. You can start in your kitchen, closet, balcony or backyard. But just start! Hydroponics helps to de-risk agriculture for the farmer a bit when done right. 

MFB: How Can Small holder Farmers with no knowledge of soilless farming venture into Hydroponics?

Mrs Adelaja: I always say, God helps those who help themselves. So the first step is to do some research. Google is the best teacher in theory. The hydroponic community is very a helpful one. Many people put a lot of resources online. With YouTube and educational websites

@FAO has a lot of education material on hydroponic and aquaponic farming that you can download

@BrightAgrotech has great educational materials you can subscribe to as well as 

@ArizonaCEAC, @teamagritecture, @AVerticalFarm  and more

Once you have done some research you can get some training. 

@FreshDirectNG hosts trainings. And there are others who train as well. Make sure you get practical training. It is one thing to read it and discuss and another thing to try it. Experiential learning is key. After that you need to just try. Get in your home, build a small system. Test it out. On a larger scale get a consultant to help you build an adequate system so you don’t fail big. And ultimately you need to keep reading on the subject even after you start. Keep learning. Keep testing. Keep improving.

MFB: What are the Factors Influencing the Adoption of Urban Hydroponic Farming? 

Mrs Adelaja: Let us start with negative factors. Barriers to starting, it includes electricity, access to equipment, capital, etc. But you can develop systems that are electricity light and you can use finally found materials like we did at @FreshDirectNG but you still need meters/sensors.

The positive things are the improved yields, reduced physical labor, ability to do it indoors if you like, customizability, it is fun too.

MFB: How Can Hydroponics be the answer to Global Food Challenges? 

Mrs Adelaja: The same way it can contribute to African food security is how it is already adding value top global food systems. Globally the adoption of hydroponics has helped bring food production closer to market, increase yield while in some instances reducing agric’s carbon footprint.

You have major players like @AeroFarms, @gothamgreens, @PlentyCo, Significantly changing the face of agriculture in the west. You have major indoor farms in Asia (Japan, Singapore China) growing thousands of veggies daily. Like I said, it’s not a silver bullet but it is changing the face of agriculture, keeping young people interested, and helping to meet the food needs of many cities

MFB: How Can Smallholder Acquire Agriculture Finance to power their Hydroponics Farming Business?  

Mrs Adelaja: That’s a question I’m still trying to answer. But I’ll say it’s a business like any other, so traditional banking facilities should be available. 

But organizations like @nirsalconnect, @cenbank, @FmardNg should be working together with key players to develop and pilot models that are bankable for farmers to take up. Not just greenhouses but a variety of other technologies including hydroponics. What’s helpful is the legislation by @nassnigeria on the asset registry and use such assets as collateral. This means your hydroponic equipment should be able to be used as collateral. But not sure what happens when you have to build some of your technology yourself. There needs to be more conversations on this.

MFB: What advantage(s) does Hydroponics Farming have over Traditional Farming? 

Mrs Adelaja: I think I mentioned this earlier but hydroponics helps conserve water. It’s more efficient with its circulating system. It also generates more yield per hectare. And the systems can be designed vertically to save even more land. I think I mentioned this earlier but hydroponics helps conserve water. It’s more efficient with its circulating system. You also get better quality of yield with optimized nutrients, with faster growth and less loss. 

MFB: What Led You into Urban Farming and the name “Miss Green”?? 

Mrs Adelaja: Ms Green Farming is because I’m focused on green ecofriendly agriculture that’s not land or water intensive. That has a low carbon footprint compared to traditional agriculture. Why should agriculture be harmful to the environment? I want to do my part to keep it green. I got into urban farming after a few challenges I experienced in traditional agriculture. It became my interest when I faced transport issues and high fuel prices in 2014. Now it’s my passion. We have an urban farmer’s network with a whatsapp group people can join. Not just for hydroponics but for urban agriculture in general. People can DM me to join. 

MFB (random questions): What’s Your Favorite Food? 

Mrs Adelaja: Chocolate, Pizza and Beef 

MFB: What do you do when you are not working?

Mrs Adelaja: I spend time with my family. Especially my 6 month old baby. He’s quite fun.

Thanks so much for having me as part of this tweet chat. I really love what @MyfarmBase is doing with these discussions. I hope I’ve been helpful on this topic.

MFB: It is good to have you here, Mrs Adelaja

And to our audience, I’m sure you’ve learnt a lot already.

Thank you for staying through.

Join us next week for another interesting edition of our weekly#AgroLatestChat.

Have a great night! 

 

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