THE JOURNEY… From Tech to Agriculture

Abiodun Akinlawon Written by Abiodun Akinlawon · 3 min read >

“I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it” – Estee Lauder

First Project

But this is not a story about my tech journey, it is about how a “tech boy” became a key player in the agriculture business in a city where he did not even grow up.  

It was 2017, a few months after my partner, and former classmate, Yomi had just written software to allow e-commerce websites to accept payment for their products with bitcoin and ethereum, the popular stable coins as at then, but got dealt a big blow after the Nigerian bank he had intended to use as a backbone, and had used their APIs in the development asked that before they could allow him to go live, he needed a BDC (Bureau De Change) license. Unfortunately, we were just fresh out of university then and did not have any form of “connect” that we could have used to make this work. So, he left the project, After all, people didn’t even really know about crypto by then and it might not even “blow”, so we left it. Guess what? A company called Buycoins launched a month after then in Lagos Nigeria and as of today, have processed more than $400 million dollars worth of crypto.

Why Agriculture?

October of 2017, while on a call with Yomi, we discussed how it will be fun to dabble into Agriculture, this was the period where due to the success of Farmcrowdy, many other Agritech platforms were coming out, and honestly, I wasn’t always interested in the returns, I used to quickly do the calculations with a million naira, and I will just say no after seeing I will be getting like two hundred thousand on a million naira in seven months, I will just lock up. So, starting a farm was in a way, for me, to challenge the status quo, and determine what my returns should be instead of just sticking to a percentage on paper. We agreed to go fully into livestock and no crops due to the stress of crop farming. Even though we knew livestock farming was more capital intensive compared to crop farming, but that was not an issue. Remember we were supposed “tech boys” and like Sarkodie’s famous rap line “you know sey money no be problem”.

We chose Ibadan because we had found a manager, a self-professed expert in the piggery business. We call him Prince. He was very popular in the local government where we had planned to establish the farm, he was managing several other farms and had lots of boys, but he took a special interest in us seeing that we were young and vibrant with lots of enthusiasm to go big into the business.

December 2018, we got an acre of land, we were lucky it was close to a running lake, and the lands bordering it were perfect for earthen ponds, so based on Prince’s advice, we decided to not only set up and construct a pig farm but also delve into fish farming too. Oh well, not a bad decision, so we agreed. This is where it starts getting interesting.

The construction of the pigpen started in January 2019, and because we intended to start big, we were constructing a twenty-four-room pig pen, that was each going to be fitted with showers because we didn’t want our pigs to be dehydrated at any time and wanted them to have a luxurious life and comfortable in their way. Long story short, by the time our pigpen was completed, we had spent an estimated 4.5 million on the construction alone.

Did I mention that we didn’t visit Ibadan throughout the construction period? We were busy making money in Lagos and sending it to the whales to live their best life while constructing the “Ultra-modern” pigpen.

The setbacks

There was a lot of misappropriation and theft that went on when we eventually began operations. Big enough to see a new business fold up and never recover. But our sheer determination and perseverance kept us going against all odds. At a point, we had to dispose of all available livestock because they weren’t giving us the expected growth returns that they should in proportion to what they were being fed. We had to change management, operation styles and many more iterations to get to where we wanted. Whenever we talked to people about what we are trying to achieve with what we are doing, we keep getting the response that says we are over-ambitious and that we don’t need to perform all the extra activities that we perform.

The growth and Achieving Market Leadership

After two years, we were able to achieve the same growth rate as our counterparts in China and the United States. We have gone on to become a powerhouse while offering consultancy services to both old and new entrants to the business. We have set up distribution channels and we have taken charge of our value chain from beginning to the end of the chain while reducing to the minimum the interference of middlemen. The growth has now been exponential and the only problems we have been having are “good problems”. Interestingly, this is just the early days, and can’t wait to share all the other amazing works coming out.

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