How the AgTech startup is transforming agriculture in Nigeria As rapidly as technology in Nigeria is growing to incredible heights, so is agriculture – in its process and the practices. Statistics show that agriculture now contributes about 30% of the GDP of Nigeria, and should do better in the coming years, with investments from governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as startups like Growsel, an online platform that connects farmers with investors, taking agriculture to the next level via the use of technology.

For one, Growsel is bringing a swooping innovation to agriculture, something Nigeria urgently needs to attain its economic goals. In as much as we know that the country is blessed with so much natural resources and abundant agricultural products, there is great need for massive investment into the agric sector in order to fast track and maximize Nigeria’s productivity.  This is because local farmers who form the bulk of farmers in Nigeria by proportion are often faced with the challenge of inadequate funds for their farming projects, which in turn drastically reduces their output, year in, year out.

Like it is commonly said, “the end justifies the means.”  Poor seeds, insufficient fertilizers, poor disease control measures and other natural disasters will definitely affect the general agricultural output in the end. This challenge is what Growsel is hoping to address by employing the use of technology.

Unlike any other platform, Growsel provides investors and farmers a meeting point to work towards a fruitful harvest, where the investor can get up to 15 to 30% of his investment as profit. The farmers, on the other hand, can now have quick access to funds for their farming projects and also get exposed to best global agricultural practices, as the company doesn’t seem to be taking chances with quality and the implementation of standard farming practices.

For those who are looking to get involved in agriculture, either as farmers or investors, Growsel offers a wonderful opportunity to invest in food production.  According to Mr. Jerry Oche, CEO of Street Toolz, Growsel’s parent company, who spoke during a media chat on Growsel, the company has put concrete measures in place to ensure that all registered farmers comply with globally accepted practices. Though there have been questions of how the company hopes to manage the excesses of farmers who could try to play smart with funds, he put the minds of concerned investors to rest, citing a couple of Growsel’s operational measures that has been put in place to forestall such.

Taking us back to the selection process of farmers, Mr. Oche explains that farmers are not selected at random. Rather, they are assessed and screened to ensure that they meet up with the basic accreditation standards stipulated for every local farmer. Some of these include being a member of their local associations and getting a recommendation from other farmers, as well as the local ruler or chief. After a farmer has been approved and registered on the Growsel platform, insurance professionals from partner insurance companies assesses the farm and the appropriate insurance cover that would cover the risk exposure of the farm, and subsequently issues the farmer a policy.

Mr. Oche further explains that Growsel ensures that best practices are complied with by providing the farmers with improved seeds and seedlings, fertilizers, tractors and other farm inputs that would be needed to make the most of each farm project within a given farming season. It is also important to note that all seeds are sourced from experts at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and are estimated to produce a certain amount of yield, which should guarantee increased returns for farmers and the investors’ profit.

You may wonder what exactly the role of technology in the overall Growsel process is. Just like you enjoy shopping from the convenience of your phones, tablets or personal computers, with Growsel, you can invest and make money from agriculture without having to move away from your convenience. As an investor, Growsel will provide you with a monitoring tool with which you can monitor the activities on the farm project you have invested in.

That way, you do not need to wait for anyone to brief you on the progress at the farm, as you also have first hand information on your investment. It somehow seems like taking time off at a spa, where you just relax, have someone do all the hard work, while you enjoy the refreshing benefits in the end. But the actual farmers on ground are not complaining either! They too smile home at the end of the crop cycle, since they make more than double of what they previously did before coming on board the Growsel platform.

So, why should investors trust this online platform, after being gravely scammed by Ponzi schemes? Well, you would know a Ponzi scheme when you see one. Have you ever wondered what insurance companies protect agricultural businesses from? They cover them from loss. This means that they are insured from unexpected situations. Good news! Every farm and every farmer on Growsel is insured from unexpected situations by partner insurance companies like Leadway Assurance.

Coupled with having insurance as a backbone, Growsel has other partner organizations that ensure that the end-to-end process achieves the best results always. Mr. Oche, further buttressing that measures have been put in place to ensure that the investor gets the agreed profit, boasted that the seeds used for cultivation are of an enhanced variety. In his words, “investors and farmers are assured of a certain level of output every time and in all seasons. The system has been designed to checkmate failure.”

The Growsel idea seems to be generally accepted by both young and old. For some, it is a way of giving back to the society and enhancing the life and living of local farmer, while to some others, it is probably an interesting business opportunity they wouldn’t let slip off their fingers. At least, they get to make about 15 to 30% of their investment as profit within a period of time, depending on the crop cycle of their chosen farm project. However, for the promoters of the Growsel initiative, it is more than a moneymaking venture. It is a show of commitment to the Nigeria economy.

“The essence of this is not money making. It is an avenue to empower and support local farmers in different localities. It is an opportunity to provide financial assistance for agric business in Nigeria and still get something in return in the process.  That’s why Growsel is not only providing funds and improved farm inputs, but also updating the farmers on global agricultural practices,” Mr. Oche stated.

Apart from its partner organisations that cut across Research, FMCG, Insurance and Auto sectors, Growsel is currently working towards partnerships with government and government agencies, in order to effectively reach more farmers and build credibility for the Growsel brand.

With over 150 farmers currently on the platform, and a pull of investors, Growsel is revolutionizing agric business in Nigeria, and is still calling on more investors and farmers to join the process.

Mr. Uche Onyewuchi, making contributions during the media chat, explains the easy steps to becoming a registered farmer or an investor on Growsel. In his words, “All a farmer who hears about Growsel and wants to be on the platform needs to do is sign up as a farmer on www.growsel.com. With that, details of the farm, including location, type of crop to be cultivated and personal details of the farmer would be registered on the platform. At that point, the individual becomes a registered farmer on the Growsel platform.”
 
When a farmer requests for funding once his registration is complete, the Growsel’s farm location managers moves out to carry out a proper verification of the farm and the farmer, during which an endorsement of the farmer by other farmers and local chiefs or leaders in the community where the particular farm is located would be required.
 
On the other hand, an intending investor would need to sign up on the platform, after which a welcome email would be sent to him or her. Once signed up, an investor can browse through the site to see which farm projects he/she would be interested in. A certificate showing ownership of a particular farm project will be issued to the investor once he/she selects a particular farm project to invest in. Afterwards, investors can monitor activities on their farm projects via their dashboards.
 
The most interesting thing about all this is that with as low as 50,000 naira, anyone can be an investor on Growsel, with a guaranteed return on the investment at end of the crop cycle. The question now is, wouldn’t you rather invest in a promising revolution that would be of benefit to you and the society at large than spend your money on ventures that hold no such promise?