Inspired by inconsistencies in the prices of tomatoes in Kaduna State, Nigeria, this entrepreneur was motivated to venture into the tomato processing business in 2015. Today, Abdullateef Olaosebikan is a successful agricultural entrepreneur with numerous awards and achievements to his name. Here is an account of his entrepreneurial journey and the birth of his business NaFarm Foods.
The Tomato Market
Olaosebikan studied geography in the University and specialized in the ICT industry. Graduating in 2015, he had no prior experience in the agricultural sector nor any plans to become an expert in the field. However, he noticed something in his immediate community that changed his life forever.
Between January and March of the same year, he realized that tomato prices were as low as N1,000 per basket in Kaduna State where he lives. Surprisingly, during off-peak periods which was usually between April and November, the same quantity of tomatoes was sold at about N25,000.
This trend spurred him to conduct extensive research on the preservation of tomatoes. Soon after, he started preserving tomatoes by drying them using a locally fabricated food drier which he designed by himself. To maximize the little manufacturing space he had, the dried tomatoes are ground into powder. This also made transportation easier him and cooking easier for his customers. To embark on this daring journey, he raised eighty thousand Naira in Capital which he used to fabricate the drier.
When one Well Dries Up, Dig a New Well
After running the business for a while, he started struggling with his finances and began to search for aid. This led him to the Kaduna State Ministry of Agriculture where he met the Director of Agric Services.
His meeting with the Director opened the door for him to showcase his products at the Kaduna International Trade Fair in 2016. At the fair, he met the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and other stakeholders in the tomato industry. Although he did not get any financial aid from these meetings, he was enlisted as a part of the key players in the industry and was given access to meetings and discussions regarding the tomato value chain in the state.
Before he began his business, he found out about the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme and applied in 2015 but unfortunately, he did not get selected. Deciding not to let this get him down, he applied again in 2016 and he was selected as one of the 2016 entrepreneurs.
NaFarm foods is an agricultural business that focuses mainly on tomato processing. Their product is branded as NaFarm Royal Stew which is a tomato puree base mixed it with bell peppers, onions and a variety other peppers to create a complete stew mix. The decision to add extra ingredients to the tomato puree was made to give customers a unique experience and to make the product stand out in an already competitive market.
As a business owner, Olaosebikan’s vision is to build a business that contributes to the Nigerian economy by reducing food waste, reducing food importation and creating job opportunities for the youth in society. Currently, NaFarm Foods have a total of twelve (12) workers including Abdullateef Olaosebikan.
With a processing capacity of one tonne per day, NaFarm Foods purchases tomatoes from small-scale farmers in villages that have no access to the market. People usually have difficulty locating these farmers and NaFarm Foods have strategically positioned themselves as the ones who connect these farmers to their consumers.
This helps the local farmers make more revenue to increase production which in turn will pave the way for profit and a higher standard of living.
The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme
According to Olaosebikan, passing through the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme offers a wide range of benefits depending on an individual’s ability to utilize the resources that the programme has made available.
In his life, one of the major challenges he had at the beginning of his entrepreneurship journey was the lack of mentors advise him. Coming from a background in the sciences, he realized very quickly that the agricultural sector was a lot more complex than he envisioned. To adjust to this new climate, he spent time watching YouTube videos and listening to online tutorials, however, this could not substitute having a mentor to relate with on a personal level.
The TEF entrepreneurship provided him with his first mentor which was a huge milestone for him and his business. The training he received also exposed him to the world of business and he admits that he still refers to his training materials till date.
He also commended the responsiveness of the Foundation even after he completed the programme stating that anytime he needed anything (advice, mentoring, a reference letter etc.), he got a response in less than 24 hours.
Awards and Recognition
In less than four years, NaFarm Foods has already caught the attention of key organizations in the entrepreneurship and agricultural space. In 2016, he received the African Entrepreneurship Award which was organised by the BMCE Bank of Africa in Casablanca, Morocco. The following year, he was nominated for the 1st All Africa Postharvest Challenge Technology Award in Nairobi, organized by the University of Nairobi, Kenya. In that same year, he received the 2017 GAIA AgTech (Gender in Agribusiness Investment for Africa) in Accra, Ghana.
This year, he made it as one of the top three finalists at the 2018 Agripitch Competition across Africa during the AYAF forum (Africa Youth Agripreneurs Forum) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast organized by Africa Development Bank.
The Path Ahead
Olaosebikan’s immediate plans for expansion focus on acquiring more space for his processing facility. His current facility is at full capacity and has started to limit business growth. With these conditions, he is working on purchasing new land to enable him to erect a structure that can cater to 100 tonnes of tomatoes per day.
To reach NaFarm Foods for business or enquires, send an email to email@example.com