The Vice-President and Country Manager of Kosmos Energy Ghana, Mr Joe Mensah, has commended the last six groups vying for the Kosmos Innovation Centre (KIC) agriculture initiative for making it this far.
“We all eat and benefit from the trade of our hardworking farmers, therefore, we will continue to support these innovative ways to support the development of the country,” he said.
Speaking to the six groups after their final presentation to panel of judges, he said though it was a race where winners would emerge, they should not abandon the dream, but consider themselves victors.
The Agriculture Transformation Agenda, initiated by Kosmos Energy, Ghana, he said was aimed at improving the sector which was at the final stage where an expert panel of judges would select two groups for grooming into fully-fledged entrepreneurs in the agricultural value chain.
One of the panel of judges, Professor Samuel Sackey, of the University of Ghana, said exposing young people to the agriculture space, would enable them to come up with more innovative ways to solve the problems,in the agriculture sector.
Speaking tothe Ghanaian Times, he said even though they would be doing the same things the older generation did, the KIC graduates and other youth groups would do them differently using knowledge, information and technology.
The young graduates, who participated in a contest to select winning teams to implement their proposals, described agriculture as an “untapped treasure, which they would pursue even if they did not emerge winners”.
The groups made up of young men and women with different educational backgrounds from the country’s universities embraced the challenge after their participation in the KIC aimed at pursuing and nurturing the development of market-based solutions that address various development challenges, starting with agriculture.
The KIC, for its first port of call, turned attention to agriculture – a crucial largest sector in Ghana’s economy – where it has invited applicants from young graduates to proffer market-based solutions to address challenges in the sector.
After rounds of endearing grooming sessions with the participants, they confessed that the programme was an eye-opener to the untapped wealth they never imagined.
According to the KIC project management team, hundreds of entries were received. Those invited to pitch their ideas grouped into teams by natural selection, the final six of which registered businesses, namely Farm Hub Global, AgriPut, Ghalani, AgBsol, CediLink and Trotro Tractor.
The Times sampled views of some of the team members who were unanimous in their view about how their participation had enlightened them to the potential and opportunities in the agricultural value chain.
Mr Frank Asirifi Jr, the CTO of Farm Hub Global, which has designed a system to promote easy marketing and sales of agricultural produce, explained that their findings indicate that the top 30 players in the hospitality industry, hospitals and schools spent more than GH¢25 million on foodstuff annually.
“The interesting part is that, with the availability of this huge market, these facilities struggle to get the required quantities and quality for their day to day running and this is an opportunity that we think we can plug in,” he said.
On the other hand, some farmers who cultivated fresh foodstuff, for lack of market information, have their produce go waste, resulting in huge costs and making the sector unattractive to the present generation. “Our solution to the problem is to develop a virtual and physical web based market place, which will link farmers and aggregators,” he said.
Mr. Abubakr Adamu, who leads AgriPut, said his group’s intervention was to resolve the credibility crisis of agricultural inputs, arising out of years of substandard and fake agro input imports into the country.
“Over the years, farmers and agro inputs producers/importers, in Africa and Ghana in particular, have had challenges of dealing with fake and unauthentic agro inputs. Our proposal is a free information technology enabled validation platform that will generate codes to be printed on agro input labels to make it possible for farmers to identify original and quality inputs on the market.”
The service would be free for farmers but the business will generate income from the importers who use the platform to differentiate their products.
Mr Mike Boadu of AgBSOL said they identified uneasy access to markets as a challenge to farmers and had therefore designed a web-based central depository to bridge the gap.
“These will also ensure a strong database of farmers and buyers with contact, location, price, type of crop, quantity, crop quality, land size of the farmer, and other needed requirement to enable the buyers plan,” he said.
One of the interesting proposals is by Trotro Tractor (TTL), which developed a programme to ensure that tractors are made available tractor services to help farmers prepare more land for production. “Much as it may be a problem for farmers, we see the situation as a huge ready business opportunity to capitalise on,” the leader of TTL, Mr Kamal Deen Yakubu, said.
CediLink, another company with focus on financial intermediation for the agricultural sector, said smallholder farmers accounted for about 80 per cent of food supply and play an important role in the global food market place, but were neglected.
They faced several constraints including uneasy access to finance to scale up production. The leader of CediLink, Maame Akua Agyei Doku Addo, said their proposal aims at aggregating information about the smallholder farmer and finance houses to bridge the information gap, thereby reduce the risk associated with the credit to farmers.
The Ghalani, led by Ms. Tabby Nanzala, said it was about time there is a change in the perception of young people about farming as a poor man’s business or old man’s retirement benefit to profitable untapped gold mine.
She said their focus was to provide a web-based solution designed for contract farming schemes that integrated the agricultural supply chain seamlessly.
The members appear so fulfilled that they place no emphasis on winning the ultimate grant prize, but are fascinated about the opportunities they had been exposed to and the solutions to enable them harness them.
Ms Elsie Otibu-Bossman, one of the contestants and leader of Farm Hub, stated that
“If Farm Hub wins the ultimate prize, I will be happy but if we don’t we are still winners because, we have been equipped enough to carry on from here,” she said.