As a way of encouraging agro startup and helping the youths see the potentials that lies in agriculture, I have decided to host an interview with the owner of Jezreel agro and food companies, so that this can bless and motivate our fellow Nigeria youths to look into agriculture and see the lucrativeness of this industry in developing our nation and adding value to the community even as they pile up their wealth.
So Let hear from Mr Akano Olushola Olaoye now, Can you tell us details about your life and career in the food and agricultural industry?
I had interest in Medicine, and that has always been my passion since I was small, but while I entered lautech, I was offered agronomy but as time goes by I discovered I had interest in the course and agriculture as a whole, I also began to see the beauty of farming business and see myself as a large scale farmer, I graduated with the 2012 set from faculty of agriculture; Ladoke Akintola University of technology Ogbomosho, Oyo State Nigeria.
How Come You End Up as a Farmer instead of other kind of career and businesses?
It was like a coincidence actually, it was my final year project that led to my own farming career.
I was given a project on Bee keeping and the interest and main target in the project was to come up with the best way to attract bees and get more honey, but while we started the process in the school environment, the bees were coming but they were not staying so with the approval of my supervisor, we decided to further the project by setting our apiary outside the school environment and luckily for me, I have gotten a land which I was intending to use for farming, so we just went to start the apiary on that land, which seems to be our first investment on the farm, so I started my farming career with my deep interest in farming, especially fish farming and luckily at 500Level I kick-started the farm with bee keeping as a platform.
The project went well on the farm due to the position where it was situated; in 1month we had about 12 liters of honey as our harvest which to me and my supervisor was a huge success.
After we succeeded in our project and apiary, I started thinking of other things that could be done on the farm, and we had a lot of highly commercial forest trees on the land like teak, and I knew a lot on forestry, we just ensure we maximize those resources and we also ventured into fish farming, we dung so many ponds and the biggest was 50 feet’s by 85, the ponds construction cost us around 185,000 in November 2012.
How Did your First Season Goes especially in Fish Farming?
Well, it didn’t go well as we expected, we over-stocked; so it was a big time failure for us, we stocked over 7,000 fishes at the same time so we had a big problem feeding them at a particular time, the funds were not coming in and been a beginner, we had a serious lose because we didn’t plan well, in fact as a first timer in the fish business, I thought that was the end of the road for me, I almost quit the business venture.
I also don’t have much knowledge as I ought to, I only discuss with a fish farmer and he explained some things but even at that, we failed because we don’t have much knowledge on the business, and our planning and estimate was poor (though when we started, we never know).
Majority of the fishes had poor growth and they didn’t weigh much at the market.
After we had the loss, we left like up to 500fishes to keep growing and then I ventured into spawning of fishes.
We had a little error in our spawning because we raised them In a wrong atmosphere (concrete pond) instead of indoor; but all along I was learning and I continue with my passion in farming and agric business, along the line, I planted maize, rice, yam and keep the farming running.
I was also in NYSC and my absence seriously affected our farm success, the laborers and workers were not effective, even though they were on salary, they were not working as expected, so the farm suffered seriously.
I had a serious loss and I was really discouraged, I was feeling like I have wasted money and opportunities, so I was in between starting up all over again or quit for all.
But I knew I love farming and wanted to run a successful agricultural business.
Another error we had was that, the cost of production was too high because we lack enough knowledge, so I could say I rushed into farming business because of my passion, now passion was not bad but it wasn’t sufficiently backed up with practical knowledge.
In order to get started again, I started plantation farming, I planted pineapple, maize, and I continue with my bee farming (apiary).
All of a sudden, people began to come to me, visited farm and wanted to partner with me in fish farming, I was happy; i felt I was going to pick up easily the 2nd time again, but it wasn’t the case here, the 2nd year also I had seriously loss, to the extent that to cover up with the loss, I had to join the profit of my own fish farm business to that of my investors and gave it to my investors so as to meet up, but the platform that actually helped me get back was when I began to see people coming in more and more with their money to invest into my fish business.
These people were my friends and even some of them saw my updates on farming on Facebook and reach me with my number, some of them came with good money that could really help me succeed.
In this season, I had learn so much lesson from my experience and I had to ensure success is a reality no matter what it takes, so I was pressing continually for knowledge this time, I attended to many seminars and training to empower myself and secure nothing else but success this time.
Another opportunity that came in for me, was that; people began to rent my ponds, I also continue to make findings and researches; God never left me, he really helped me, it was just like GOD was bringing them for me, at a time, I had nothing less than 15 investors and they invest nothing less than 90,000 to 100,000 plus, I was excited and I was feeling great too, I have learn to make my own feed, that was how we get back and succeeded. God really helping our business.
When we started, the mortality of the pond was kinda high, so we employ so many systems to control it. Our procedure of learning was not easy but we learnt to be better at our business because of the experiences.
Another Challenge we had was “Selling at Market”; I was seriously determined this time to succeed, I also enquire and find out that; the regular pattern we use to sell will only make us to experience more loss so I had to research and find out more better ways, that was the time that I discover smoking of fishes, I smoked-dried fish into something like the picture below, over 4000plus fishes were smoked.
I had two major ways by which I sell smoked fish now, because what make us to venture into smoking of catfish was our aim to maximizing profits at all levels, that was what lead to the opening of our restaurant “Jezreel Food Restaurant” we practical sell catfish alone in our restaurant for now, both in cooked, dry and smoked form which has proven to be more profitable for us.
Been in a smoked state, we were able to sell in more places, in Ogbomosho Oyo state, Ilesha, lautech, ijebu ode, Abuja, and some other places.
Tell Us More About Jezreel Food Restaurant
I can say Jezreel restaurant started as an inspiration of God and it as seriously helped our fish farming venture, we sell more fishes in our restaurant, we sell various delicacies and drinks.
What Can You Advice Those are Planning to Venture into Fish Farming Business?
Let anybody who wants to start fish farming business go and learn first so as to avoid the errors that I made, learn the basics, and rudiment of fish farming
What Can You Say About Agricultural Business in Nigeria? And Do You Plan To Diversify?
Yes! I am looking into Industrialization, especially bigtime farming and industrial resources like rice production like polished rice, and lots others
What Do you have to Say For Nigerian Youths and Graduates?
Yes, it’s a good and lucrative venture and I encourage them to go into it but they should learn and know about it.
How Do You think The Federal Govt can help The Agricultural Industry?
I think two major ways; Let The Government make available quality training programs, I know they have been doing such, but I believe it is not effective yet, so let there be thorough monitoring and supervision to help youths and farmers be fully empowered with quality information and rich knowledge.
Like the one that they did for us at NYSC Level, even those who train us during skill acquisition program don’t know half of what I knew as an agric graduate, so I believe Nigerians needs a better platform where people that has been thoroughly trained and considered as experts, will be one mentoring youths; then that will go a long way to help, that is when we can now talk of government releasing money to people, because if Govt don’t train people and they just make money available, it will not make any differences.