Friday, 13 January 2017

Transforming agric via local technology

One of the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s policies is to  boost agricultural productivity. While production rose  sharply in recent months, coverage in terms of acreage and speed of processing, is still significantly lower than global standards.

Population growth, rising incomes, and dietary changes are exerting an immense demand pressure on agriculture.Though blessed with large arable land and incredible biodiversity, Nigeria’s agriculture is facing challenges in the resources it requires to deliver interms of growth in supply.

Experts believe farming can made more profitable, if agricultural technology is increased.

One of them is the Group Managing Director,  Niji Group, Kolawole  Adeniji. The dream of stakeholders, such as Adeniyi, is an agriculture ecosystem, encompassing, agri-chemicals,agri-technology, agricultural equipment, biotechnology and organic foods.

He  emphasised the need for farmers to move towards mechanisation, adding that future adoption of agricultural technology and innovations is capable of revolutionising the sector.

However, a series of agricultural innovations, including use of advanced machinery, chemical fertilisers and hybrid seeds is helping to increase Nigeria’s agricultural productivity.

Adeniji is a farm mechanisation and automation entrepreneur  trying to fundamentally improve agriculture. He is a trained mechanical engineering technologist with over 27 years’experience working on diverse agro-allied projects across Nigeria and Africa. He designs and manufactures innovative agricultural machines for farmers. Within the industry, he is regarded as a maverick who likes to try everything that challenges his skills and wits.

He is determined to not only mechanise agriculture, but also take his skills and know-how to the global arena. The Niji Group he  founded in 1991 has  grown into a successful and award-winning supplier of metal fabricating machines and services.

These include packaging machine, hydraulic-presser, hammer mill, grater,automatic gari fryer, hydro-cyclone, automated-seive, bone crusher, cooling-bowl,cooling tablefor plantain,flash dryer,filter-press,fish-smoker,horizontal peeler centrifuge, shellers, water pumps, welding machines, ox-carts, produce driers, grain cleaners, cassava chipping machines and any other post-harvest handling equipment.

His list of food and agro processing plants that he can fabricate for  food entrepreneurs include cassava starch, gari processing,plantain chips,yam flour and fufu processing.

Kolawole attributes his success to the delligence and commitment of his staff, adding that they have helped to maximise fabricating technology to meet customers’ demands.

He ploughed back his initial profit from the business into acquiring  key equipment to support production of newer and more complex fabrications.

Having made a mark in machine fabrication, Kolawole established Niji Farms and Allied Services Limited,  which is spearheading green revolution with large farm land located at Ilero in Kajola Local Government of Oyo State.

IITA and the Niji Lukas Group (Nigeria) have been collaborating on cassava processing machine design, fabrication testing and commercialisation. Niji Lukas serves as a planting material grower and supplier to HarvestPlus, a part of the CGIAR Research Programme on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) aimed at developing and promoting biofortified food crops.

The farm has planted 225 acres of Vitamin A cassava including foundation seeds. Varieties include the TME Series 419, 581 and 30572. Other crops planted are 30,000 stands of yam and 3000 suckers of plantain.

Emmanuel  Ntiti, based in Calabar, the Cross River State capital,  has been involved in a range of interventions— efficient farm and water management, to address the problem of farm productivity, farm machinery workshop. He is a prominent stakeholder in the agro-allied machinery and equipment fabrication in state. His concern is that lack of technology-based intervention in food and agribusiness has lead to low productivity and severe post-harvest losses.

As Head of Department, Government Technical School, Calabar, Ntiti  has  fabricated a machine for extraction of kernel oil,  small-scale palm oil mill,processing of  cassava and garri and recovery of oil s from oilseeds  and machinery for bulk production of food items.

He has developed a lot of equipment and machinery leading to productivity enhancement in the agricultural and the post-harvest processing sectors. He runs a small scale workshop and has developed some user-friendly farm operation tools. His machines can be operated with diesel and petrol. They are designed for simple, quick and safe installation, ensuring great value and quick turnaround.

For now, the food processing sector, is  a high priority area for him, as  the sector is also gaining importance. Since the market of food processing industries comprises small and marginal players, Ntiti  is working on machines for cassava and grain processors.

He gets his jobs through recommendations of users. He aims to improve mechanisation at farms with the use of high quality farm equipment.

For outstanding work, Ntiti has been recognised by  the Cross River State Government.

While efforts, such as introduction of high-yielding varieties and expansion of irrigated area have played a crucial role in achieving the goal of food self-sufficiency in the past, Ntiti believes demand for food, requires building efficiencies in agriculture through efficient mechanised cultivation to facilitate timely, precise and scientific farm operations, increasing farm input and labour use efficiency.

A lot of local fabricators  are working  on food processing machinery comes to meet the demands of companies that produce beverages, bakery items, frozen food, fruit, meat, poultry, snack food, vegetables and other edibles across the country.

Such machines include dryers, feeders, fryers, grinders, mixers, roasters, separators, slicers and ovens.

Local institutions have recorded technological advancements in cutting, slicing and grinding.
They are creating  standard design products that meet customers’  needs.

The Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO) has been key to a robust transformation in the food system, expanded local agro-industry and value addition as well as improved management of resources for sustainable agricultural production.

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