- Three young agric-tech innovators in Nigeria have emerged final winners of this year’s Agriculture, Youth and Technology (AYuTe) Africa Challenge Nigeria, an enterprise development program initiated by Heifer International to identify, nurture, and support innovative, relevant, and technology-driven agric-centric enterprises that grow, scale and help smallholder farmers to thrive in Africa.
Announcing the winners in Lagos on Wednesday, November 30 at the Grand Finale of the keenly contested Challenge that saw well over 600 entries, the Country Director, Rufus Idris said the newly introduced annual challenge in Nigeria serves as a springboard for identifying outstanding young agritech innovators, as well as assisting in the formation of strong partnerships.
As a result, the competition will increase visibility for growth and improve smallholder farmers’ productivity.
Ifeoluwa Olatayo, the Managing Director, Soupah Farm-en-Market Limited emerged the grand prize winner for the maiden edition of AYuTe ‘s competition in Nigeria having met all requirements to get the topmost position. She got $10,000 grants as the overall best at the conclusion of Heifer Africa AYuTe’s Challenge to expand her business initiatives in the agriculture value chain.
The second runner’s -up, Rejoice Usim, the Chief Executive of Simkay Foods Limited got $6,000, while Stephen Obe, the CEO of Evet Technology got $4,000 grants to emerge the third place winner.
The winner, Olatayo described the impact of her innovation at Soupah Farm-en-Market Limited thus: “Basically, we connect rural smallholder farmers to urban markets by using short code as a procurement interface. So, rural smallholder farmers will no longer market agriculture produce through middlemen – they will communicate with us directly to collect their produce while we sell to large off takers. Majorly, we are improving the livelihood of the smaller farmers because we buy their farm produce at better prices of about 50% higher than the typical traditional markets”.
She urged youths to engage and think of how to use technology to better the lots of young farmers and boost food production and supply. “I encourage other youth techies to look for those problems within the agriculture industry and solve them with the use of technology to scale faster and grow bigger”,
“The grant will majorly be a benefit to our local farmers. It will also create a supply chain system for them in terms of purchase, storage and selling in a way that it makes them make higher profits than they are making at the moment” she said.
The national competition represents a new phase of Heifer International’s AYuTe Africa Challenge, established in 2021 to award cash grants annually to the most promising young agritech innovators from across Africa. 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.
“More than half of our population consists of young people and with inflation skyrocketing, fueled mainly by food inflation, we’ll need the youths with energy, tech-savvy, and entrepreneurial skills that can be channeled to transform the agricultural sector,” said Rufus Idris, Country Director, Heifer Nigeria.
Presenting the awards and the grant to the finalists, Heifer Nigeria’s Country Director, Rufus Idris, said that “We are excited to announce a starting cash grant of $20,000 to the most promising young agritech innovator in Nigeria. This is in line with Heifer’s strategic goal of unleashing the hidden agricultural treasures among African youths.
“We strongly believe that the new ideas and technologies by this Africa’s tech-savvy youths discovered in this competition will help to convert the huge potential in agriculture to economic growth and employment across Africa while transforming the sector.
“Through this challenge, we hope to further inspire the Nigerian youth population to continue to embrace agriculture as a career option of choice, while promoting creative professionals that are using technology to re-imagine farming and food production across the country”, said Idris at the close of the competition.
Since 1944, Heifer International has worked with more than 39 million people around the world to end hunger and poverty in a sustainable way. Working with rural communities in 21 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, Heifer International supports farmers and local food producers to strengthen local economies and build secure livelihoods that provide a living income.
The event brought together stakeholders within the ecosystem including government representatives, tech hubs and agripreneurs, who are relevant to supporting the development and scale-up of innovative, commercially viable and sustainable agricultural technologies, capable of transforming Nigeria’s agricultural sector and her food security.
The keynote speaker and Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms .Abiola Olusanya who was represented by the Director of Agriculture Training Institute, Mr Emmanuel Fatai Audu, said that “At every point in time, there is always a demand for food in Lagos State. Food worth N9 billion is consumed every day. If we can expand that across Nigeria and Africa, that tells you the immense potential that the food value chain brings to the table in terms of economic gains to value chain outburst, especially our youths here today. He encouraged the youths to go into Agriculture as it is the next oil.