NewsWest AfricaDay in the life: growing a future

Thu,19Jul2018

Posted on Thursday, 14 December 2017 07:52

Day in the life: growing a future

By Ayodeji Rotinwa

Fresh Direct/FacebookAngel Adelaja moved back to Nigeria from the US and started an urban container farming venture that enables young people with relatively little startup capital to  rent space and become entrepreneurs in their own right

 

Though all my training is in the medical sciences – from a BSc in biochemistry to a PhD in epidemiology – I have always loved agriculture. I was born in London, but moved to the US at the age of three. From age 15, I worked every summer. One summer, volunteering at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, I met one of my mentors, who is Russian. From the first day, she gave me a logbook and made sure I documented every activity, every experiment in the lab. I am very interested in the how or why something works or doesn’t work, and this helps me make better decisions for the future.

This is one of the things that has helped me build my business – Fresh Direct Nigeria (FDN). FDN is an urban farming company that makes use of stackable container farms in Abuja. We bring together communities and advanced technology, to grow premium fruits, vegetables and other processed end products in these containers and in urban areas. My goal is to create opportunities to attract young people into profitable agricultural ventures, empower them with employment and finally provide them with the experience to be successful future employers.

Young people who cannot afford land or the capital-intensive means to prepare it for crop growing now have an alternative. They can rent space in the container farms at a dramatically reduced cost. There, they grow their crops and sell them, creating income for themselves.

When I moved back to Nigeria from the US, I got a job working as a part-time consultant to the Office of Economic Development and Partnerships, Osun State, Nigeria. In this role, I began to understand the degree to which agriculture is a part of the culture of the Nigerian people. I also got to see up close how the government definitely would not be able to solve problems in the sector alone and that it needed the help of the private sector. So I decided to contribute.

Roadblocks

I wanted to invest in agriculture, but then realised how difficult it really was to enter a sector that should be so accessible. So, if I faced such challenges, what about other youth? I really was pushed by a need to make it simpler for myself and others. Growing up, my parents used to tell me it was important “to live a life of service”. I have held on to this, and it informs how and why I do what I do today.

My days start with prayer, an early morning run, yoga or dance class and a little desk work. Then my day can include supervising and participating in farm work or delivery, talking to staff to see where we can improve, quality control, strategising with my partner on technical improvements, searching for new customers/markets, balancing books, social media, and meetings. It usually proves a very tight schedule.

What keeps me going is my personal motto: ‘Even if you give a little, you can change a lot.’ I’m motivated by and driven to do my part to make a difference and shape my community. I’m optimistic about the future, too, and other people contributing to making a difference. I see a productive Nigeria, driven by Nigerians. I moved back to be part of the solution. No one had to ask me.

 



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