Africa’s food consumption is estimated at US $192 billion according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). Yet, the continent only produces 40% of the expected demand due to poor farming practices, lack of integration of agricultural technologies, supply chain inefficiencies, and adverse weather conditions. With Africa’s population expected to rise, farmers will need to produce more to feed the growing population.
In Northern Ghana, where over 70% of the population is made up of small-holder farmers who rely on rainfed agriculture, Anaporka Adazabra saw firsthand how many farmers, including her own family, suffered from poor yields as a result of bad weather circumstances. This could be due to adverse weather conditions such as flooding, high humidity, farm theft, unreliable cultivable land due to land degradation, or poor soil fertility, and many of them abandoned farming when it proved an unprofitable, unattractive, and very risky venture.
While at university, Adazabra embarked on a research journey to find out how traditional farming methods can be transformed to make farming more sustainable, attractive, and profitable. This led to her discovery of using recyclable materials like bamboo, wood, and metals as an affordable means of building sustainable greenhouses. These guarantee a more sustainable agribusiness for farmers, which has improved livelihoods. This led to the formation of Farmio, a startup that leverages on precision farming techniques, circular economy principles, and agri-tech solutions to provide affordable greenhouse farms.
Farmio is addressing this challenge by leveraging on mobile and web technologies as well as precision farming techniques and climate-smart agriculture principles. Their affordable greenhouse farms guarantee about 120% increased productivity for farmers. The startup also provides end-to-end farming solutions in a controlled environment, making farming viable all year under the most suitable farming conditions. Further, it provides access to hands-on agronomy services and access to guaranteed markets for farm produce at fair prices.
Recently, the Generation Africa Secretariat, led by Amanda Namayi and Sophie Nabuliri, visited Farmio in Ghana to observe the extraordinary work they are doing. Anaporka Adazabra emerged winner in the 2022 Pitch AgriHack Competition in the women led agribusiness category. Today, the start-up has over 250 employees working in greenhouse construction for both vegetable and snail production, aggregation, packaging and processing workers, farm hands, agronomists, and value-addition companies.
Farmers have increased their yields, and greenhouse farming optimizes growing conditions and protects the crops from extreme weather conditions all year round.
“We provide for the client’s greenhouse construction and setup services, training and support, agronomist services, technology and automation services, market access, and off-taker contracts from buyers. This is a full value chain support that is offered in a very unique way” says Adazabra.
The greenhouses are designed to withstand the harsh climatic conditions in both urban and rural settings. They are also fully automated to control access to water (irrigation), fertigation, temperature, and humidity, resulting in higher crop yields. Furthermore, the greenhouse also works as a form of pest control, hence no need for pesticides. Controlled heat, and temperature allows farming all year round.
Some of the key challenges faced by Farmio include a high demand for fresh farm produce, which forces the startup to increase production in order to meet this demand, as well as limited uptake of technology by farmers. To address this, the start-up is engaging farmers through their farmer-based organizations and media outlets to change their mindsets and promote transformational agenda for farmers in Africa.
Greenhouse farming has gained popularity since it is one the most environmentally friendly methods of agriculture and has reduced reliance on importation of agricultural products.