Umar Oba Adelodun and Abdulquawiy Olododo are young engineering graduates who are keen on disrupting the agricultural sector in Nigeria. The co-founders of Heart & Capital, an innovative agricultural startup, in this interview express the belief that agri-businesses hold the potential to power Nigeria’s economy and lift millions out of poverty.
Umar and Abdulquawiy, who also spoke about the brand’s vision, advised Nigerians, especially the youths to take advantage of agri-investment, which can help attain wealth if it is rightly done. Find the interview excerpts:
Did you in anyway have an agricultural background and what inspired Heart and Capital?
Background, no! We are both engineering graduates. However, our deep interest in agriculture spurred us to intern closely with some big farm owners in Kwara state to see how things are done and that opened us to see some of the incredible gaps and opportunities in the sector.
The internship and the exposures, notwithstanding, we had huge challenges when starting our own farm and this was what inspired Heart and Capital - our dream to ensure farm owners do not go through some of the challenges we went through while starting up our own farms - Challenges such as poor farm consultants and managers. We wanted to help farm owners replicate our success criteria, thereby, saving them from trial and error. Every other thing such as capacity building and investment platform came after that initial dream.
What would you say has been the biggest challenges so far with building up Heart and Capital?
We have faced and are still facing so many challenges just like any other start up anywhere in the world, ranging from the lack of enabling environment to finding the right fits for the firm, among others. However, at H&C we always find opportunities in challenges. For instance, our core service which is farm management and consultancy came about as a result of our inability to find trustworthy and credible people who could offer us those services. In as much as we face numerous challenges on a daily basis, we take advantage of these challenges and use it to serve more people in a sustainable way.
What would you attribute the success of Heart and Capital to?
The dream, the team and God’s grace. We have always had a big dream right from the outset and we have never shied away from doing the hard work. Also, we have an amazing and relentless team that has embodied the vision of H&C and has played a vital role in getting us to where we are currently. And lastly, God has been with us all through.
Why do you think the agricultural sector is lagging behind in terms of investments?
Policy! Policy! Policy! As well as lack of structure and enabling environment.
Aside farm investment, you’ve worked with a prestigious institution like Kwara State University on Human Capital Development. What are your plans on this and has there been any conflicts with your major focus on farm investments?
Our mission as a company is growing and easing agribusiness in Africa. Mentoring thousands of youths falls right in line with our mission because the age of an average farmer in Nigeria is over 50 years old. Few years from now, if we don’t have youths taking serious interest in agriculture we will be in serious trouble as a nation and even for us as a company, there would be little agribusinesses to grow and ease. Our plan is to partner with more institutions in and outside the country to reach out and mentor more youths and get them to see the opportunities in Africa’s agric sector.
Heart and Capital will be launching a new project for agri-investors soon, can you confirm this and what is different about this project?
Yes, the Eterno project is our investment product that is centered around cashew and it will be launched on the 24th of February, 2020. We are very keen about this investment product for a number of reasons. It is our first product on the digital platform, previous investment products were not digitally accessible.
When launched, Eterno will perhaps become one of the most affordable investment options out there and this gives room for more people to key into agribusiness opportunities with bountiful returns at minimal risk.
We said minimal risk because the project is fully insured by Leadway Assurance. So, watch this space!
Are you getting any investment interest from people outside the country?
YES! Some of our previous proxy farmers (investors) were people in the diaspora and so are a lot of the people who have shown interest in the Eterno project.
The world has gone digital, and that is merely stating the obvious. What are you doing to bring Heart & Capital and its projects to everyone everywhere?
True. The world has gone digital and we are happy to tell you that so have we. We have now integrated technology with our investment platform (Assetmart) to allow people all over the world become a proxy farmer via our website. This, we believe is just the beginning. We are determined to continue to integrate technology into our operations for ease of access and efficiency for all our stakeholders.
The main topic when it comes to the environment is climate change, how does your business objectives contribute to this?
Being part of the generation with the ability to still do something about climate change, from our projections our Eterno project will mitigate megatonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. It is a project that was created with the sole purpose of sustainability (people, planet and profit). Thousands of jobs will be created, megatonnes of carbon will be mitigated from the atmosphere via the planted trees and the proxy farmers all get to make profits from the project.
Lastly, as one of the fastest growing agribusiness companies in Nigeria, what are your expansion plans?
Our expansion plans include unveiling more investment products on our Assetmart (digital investment platform), which would include opportunities to invest in animal farms, more phases of the Eterno project and other investment opportunities. We also have plans to further scale up our cassava-processing factory and start our own cashew-processing factory. Lastly, we would be proposing partnerships with more institutions across the country and even outside the country so as to reach and mentor more youths on the opportunities in the agric sector.