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Three agritech innovators get $20,000 grant to boost food security

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Three agritech innovators have won the Heifer International ‘AYuTe Africa Challenge Nigeria’ $20,000 cash grants to shape the narrative of agriculture in Nigeria using technology, as well as to reimagine farming and food production across the continent.

About five finalists reached the grand finale out of over 600 entries, which was held in Lagos yesterday, with Soupah Farm-en-Market Limited emerging first to get $10, 000, Simkay Foods Limited emerged second to get $6, 000, while Evet Technology got $4, 000 for third place.

The Country Director, Heifer International Nigeria, Rufus Idris, said the country’s agriculture is one of the most, underperforming in yields and productivity, as well as under-mechanised where families have no choice but to engage in manual labour that sometimes could be more expensive.

He said there are smallholder farmers that are operating in regions vulnerable to farming chain impacts, such as flood, drought, pest and diseases.

“We are also operating a sector where small holder farmers are currently struggling and living in poverty because they cannot access essential services, care market, improved input and seeds, as well as finance and technology that can help them to increase and improve their productivity.

“Nigeria and Africa’s small rural farmers population are aging, we have an average of 60 years old and the younger ones are not interested in replacing those that have retired,” he said.

According to him, inflation is skyrocketing in the country, fueled mainly by food inflation, noting that the country needs youths with energy, tech-savvy and entrepreneurial skills that can be channeled to transform the agricultural sector.

He said to address these issues, Heifer International invests more than $1.5 million to accelerate digital agriculture entrepreneurship in Africa through the AYuTe Africa Challenge cash grants to support promising young agritech innovators across Africa who are using technology to reimagine farming and food production across the continent.

According to him, the new national competitions in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Uganda are offering young innovators a chance to secure funding and visibility to scale their ideas and ambitions to ensure they chart a course for a better agriculture in the continent.

He said like the Regional Champions competition, the AYuTe National Champions competition offers prize money and mentorship, helping translate the energy and ideas of young Nigerian agritech innovators into meaningful impact for smallholder farmers across the country, and supporting winners to grow their businesses and profile.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Abisola Olusanya, said there is always demand for food at every point, with about N9 billion worth of food consumed every day in the state.

Olusanya, who was represented by the Director of Fisheries, Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, Emmanuel Audu, said as the population in Africa is increasing, with projection of the numbers expected to reach four billion people by 2050, there will be many challenges, while calling on youths to take advantage of the immense opportunities and economic benefits.

She said the country’s food market system is already characterised by several factors, including wastage and unhygienic environment.

The Commissioner said the country should ensure the food system meets up with demand by increasing investment in mechanisation, developing technologies and investing in viable seeds such that productivity per square metre is fully enhanced.

She said the state government has acquired brand new tractors for lease to assist in mechanisation of the farming system.

Olusanya also noted that the state government is looking at establishing a modern food storage system that will ensure foods are stored within the system with the entire infrastructure required to preserve it.

According to her, the project is already 95 per cent complete and will be launched before the end of the year.

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