Meet Angel Adelaja – the CEO of Fresh Direct Nigeria, a unique city farming initiative using stackable containers.

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Angel Oluwayimika Adelaja was one of the 30 start-ups recognized by the Nigerian Presidency in 2016 and since then she has been interviewed by many respected news media in the world including the BBC.

She trained as an epidemiologist, but had a passion for farming and related businesses.

In the past she worked with organizations to develop strategies for economic development and job creation. The most impactful solutions focused on ICT and agricultural sectors. She said in an interview with The Nation, ‘‘As a consultant working on large scale models in agriculture for private sector, it is actually easier, but was a totally different story for small or medium scale local players to do individually. When I decided to invest in agriculture, it was then I realized how difficult it really was to effectively enter a sector that should be so accessible. So, if I could face such challenges, what about other youths? I really was pushed more by a need to make it simpler for others. My passion grew as I started to use science and business to build sustainably within the sector. I must say also that the ability to create something, to grow something, to build something, is quite rewarding. These are things that fuel my passion.’’

She further mentioned that she started with traditional agriculture and faced many of the same challenges others face in African Agriculture. Finding land as a youth was difficult, but she was able to rent. Access to technology was expensive, so she decided to build them herself. Investing in infrastructure was expensive, land clearing, digging a bore hole, electricity, staffing, building structures and more. She also has difficulty in transporting her product to the market.

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She was focused on urban farming because it was a better, more eco-friendly, cost effective, sustainable solution.

Even though she was trained as an Epidemiologist, she revealed that she had always had a love for agriculture and promoting the opportunities available within the sector in Africa. she served as Technical Assistant and Research Consultant to the Director General of the Office of Economic Development and Partnership in the Office of the Governor of the State of Osun. She was also the Special Assistant to the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Poverty Alleviation and National Coordinator of the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) and the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Wealth Creation. Under these roles, she said that one of her major pushes were for programs that funnel youth into emerging sectors, especially agriculture. She said, ‘‘My goal is to create pathways to ease other young people into profitable agricultural ventures to empower them with employment and strengthen them to also be successful employers of people. I’m not just focused on agriculture, but youth entrepreneurship in general. I also co-own Zahara Empresa which owns Zahara Spa and Salon in Abuja’’

She was one of 30 Entrepreneurs selected to showcase their businesses to the Nigerian Presidency and she was selected over the thousands of start-ups who participated.

Fresh Direct Nigeria, Founded by Angel Adelaja, is city farming using stackable container farms. The company brings fresh premium organic produce closer to market with their Container Farm Technology. Using hydroponics and vertical farming within a shipping container, the Container Farms are able to grow directly in urban areas. This means that production is brought closer to market or at market with ease.

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They are developing and managing Urban Farm Campuses as Nigeria’s first truly “urban farm” with their Fresh Direct Container Farms Eco Friendly Agriculture using less land and water but guaranteeing 15 times higher yield! A 20 ft container can grow the same amount as a football pitch and a half. That’s 3000 heads of lettuce or more every month. She remarked, ‘‘This means that if I dropped a fresh direct farm in someone’s house today, they could be making their first sale in four weeks’ time or less.

This is the solution that youths are looking for. It’s not back breaking, it’s fun, and there’s less set up costs compared to rural agriculture. Plus, there’s no headache getting produce to market when growing in the city!

The high-end produce market is relatively untapped in Nigeria and demand is currently serviced through the import market, which is rapidly becoming inaccessible due to the high cost of importation and foreign exchange.

Customers such as luxury hoteliers, restaurants, supermarkets and specialty stores are looking to source these highly perishable products from reputable providers without having to source foreign exchange. That is where we come in!’’

When asked if farming affects people’s outlook and style, she said, ‘‘What if we could make agriculture exciting for youth, lower the risk, do it year-round regardless of location, with little to no Land… no SOIL, cutting out long transportation times with the use of a simple technology? Fresh Direct is solving the problems typically seen in traditional farming using our Container farms. Fresh Direct Nigeria is focused on helping youth enter agriculture in a way that’s not backbreaking, is fun and lowers the risk of failure with the use of technology. So yes, we are radically changing people’s outlook on agriculture … in style.’’

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When asked about her advice to the youth – especially African Youth, she said, ‘‘We are more talented, wise and resourceful than we are given credit for. We just need to use our creativity to look at things differently. For every problem, there is a solution and for every crisis, there is an opportunity. If we can take advantage of such opportunities, we can build needed business that can stand the test of time.’’

About her hope for the future, she revealed, ‘’Right now we are an early stage company but we hope to be able to onboard 10,000 youth in areas that cut across agriculture and urban farming, distribution, sales/marketing, ag-tech and automation and much more. By God’s grace, in 5 years’ time, we will be a company established across Africa as a solution for high quality premium produce.’’


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