Agriculture constitutes one of the most important sectors of the Nigerian economy, and in terms of employment, it engages an estimated 70 percent of the country’s labour force.
The importance of this sector has necessitated the government, over the years, to establish several intervention funds, and programs to boost food production in the country. Sadly, most times, these funds do not get to the genuine farmers in the rural areas, who are in need of capital to expand their farming businesses. This is the problem that Farmcrowdy intends to solve.
Farmcrowdy is an agritech startup that connects small-scale farmers to sponsors who invest in farm cycles.
The farmers receive on-the-ground advice and training from agriculture experts on better agricultural practices for different types of crops and production methods. Farmers and sponsors all receive a percentage of the profits from the harvest.
In this article, Nairametrics profiles Mr. Onyeka Akumah, co-founder of Farmcrowdy, Nigeria’s first digital agriculture platform which offers Nigerians a new way to participate in agriculture, through online technology.
Education and Work Experience
Onyeka was born on the 21st of October, 1984 to the family of Dr. & Mrs. Akumah. He is the first of 5 children and spent the first 15 years of his life in Sokoto, Northern Nigeria. After some time, his family moved over to Lagos where he began his entrepreneurial journey by setting up an airtime recharge card shop at Ajah bus stop.
While at university, Onyeka started his first company which was into website design. From it, he was able to generate enough profits to pay for his school fees at some point.
He also founded a leading digital management business called ANOZIM Group with three subsidiaries focused on internet marketing, online publishing, and digital media sales. His clients includes GTBank, Cheki, Total Nigeria and The Guardian Newspaper.
Onyeka graduated with a First Class Distinction from Sikkim Manipal University, India, where he obtained a degree in Applied Information Technology (Software Engineering). He also acquired relevant professional qualifications to support his marketing skills, while building his businesses.
During Onyeka’s professional career, he has had the opportunity to work with konga.com as former Vice President of Marketing, jumia.com as former Director of Marketing, and Wakanow.com as the Online Marketing Manager. He has also been an E-Marketing Coordinator for Deloitte in West, East and Central Africa and Webmaster for British Council in Nigeria.
Just before Farmcrowdy, he helped the owners of Travelbeta to launch what is considered the 3rd largest online travel agency in Nigeria, recruiting a team of 55 and establishing 6 offices across Nigeria.
Onyeka is committed to utilising innovation and technology to tackle real problems facing Africans and Nigerians in particular, with a special interest in applying technology to transportation, real estate and most recently, agriculture through Farmcrowdy.
According to Onyeka, tech innovative solutions has always been something he finds intriguing, and creating solutions to problems is a passion for him.
He has won several awards, including that of the Digital Marketing Personality of the Year 2015, from the Nigerian Technology Awards, and gained recognition by being among the Top 20 Young Entrepreneurs to Watch in Africa, by the African Youth Forum in Egypt.
Onyeka is actively serving as an advisor on the boards of leading tech startups in New York and Lagos. A focus for him is using technology to enhance user experience and the customer journey across different products and services online.
In 2017, he was appointed to the E-Agric Stakeholders Forum by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Nigeria and was recently made one of the youngest members of the honorary council of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce & Industry, in recognition of his innovative way of fusing technology with agriculture, while empowering thousands of farmers.
The Journey so far with Farmcrowdy
According to Onyeka, the idea of Farmcrowdy came to him at the time when there was a lot of talk about investing in agriculture in Nigeria, with a lot of incentives from the Federal Government. Onyeka was excited about this opportunity and wanted to invest in the agriculture space. As he saw it, there were two major problems to be solved.
From the perspective of an investor with no farming experience or skill, it was difficult to get trustworthy farmers who would not misuse the funds given. Farmers who were guaranteed to make profits after harvest season.
On another hand, the small-scale farmers needed funds to expand their farm operations from subsistence farming to farming as a business. Beyond this, many small-scale farmers had problems with smart-farming techniques and access to the right markets for their farm produce, in order to make good margins for themselves.
This gave birth to Farmcrowdy, an online platform that connects the small-scale farmers with farm sponsors who fund their farms to increase their production capacity through the guidance of technical field experts. Then, prior to harvest, it gets pre-arranged buyers to sell the farm produce so that they can sell at decent margins for all stakeholders involved. The arrangement takes care of funding, land acquisition, fertilizers, and herbicides, as well as ready markets for the farmers to sell off their harvests.
How the platform got its initial funding
Initial funding for Farmcrowdy came from a relationship between Onyeka and another CEO of a fintech company with whom he played football on a weekly basis. This friend introduced him to his first investor, Rasheed Olaoluwa who after 3 more meetings, made a move to invest the first $60,000 in the business, barely 60 days after Farmcrowdy was launched officially on the 14th of November, 2016.
Also in December 2017, the platform closed a $1 million seed investment round from a team of foreign and local investors which included Cox Enterprises, Techstars Ventures, Social Capital, Hallett Capital and Right-Side Capital, as well as angel investors Tyler Scriven, Michael Cohn, Josephine Group, FC Agro Allied SPV and Dr. Christof Walter.
It also recently received a $325,000 grant from GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Innovation Fund.
In appreciation of its contribution to economic growth and food security in the country, the startup was recently honoured with the National Productivity Order of Merit by President Buhari.
We have just been awarded with the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) for contributing to the economic growth and development in Nigeria. Thank you President @MBuhari for celebrating productive Nigerians including Farmcrowdy, we are truly honored. pic.twitter.com/HMgxUhZcu7
— Farmcrowdy (@farmcrowdy) May 22, 2018
Plans for expansion
Onyeka sees Farmcrowdy as his contribution to the agricultural sector, using technology and marketing to boost food security, empower small-scale farmers and encourage youths to participate in farming.
The platform intends to spread into more states from its current 8 states in the country. It also plans to impact 50,000 more small-scale farmers in Nigeria in the next 5 years and motivate 2 million Nigerian youths to participate in agriculture.
The current model is a community model built for Nigerians — sponsoring Nigerian farmers to grow Nigerian food and improve food security in the country. According to him, in Q4, 2018 or Q1, 2019, Farmcrowdy plans to replicate this community model in Ghana, Togo, Benin, and every African country where it can solve similar problems that Nigerian small-scale farmers face.
Onyeka is happily married to Edith Akumah with two sons.