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Final winners emerge in FMN agric innovations competition

By Abigail Ikhaghu
02 February 2022   |   3:32 am
Five finalists and overall winners have emerged from category one of the Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc (FMN) Prize for Innovations.

Five finalists and overall winners have emerged from category one of the Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc (FMN) Prize for Innovations.
The firm had initiated a reward and motivation process to encourage agricultural stakeholders to constantly find lasting solutions to some of the challenges in the food value chain in the country.
Following this, several small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) submitted exciting entries, including solar-powered storage systems, hydroponic farming solutions, bio-recycling plants, and newer methods of generating electricity from food waste.
The five finalists were unveiled in a live pitch event held in Lagos at the weekend, and adjudged by a panel of notable experts in the food industry, including CEO FATE Foundation, Adenike Adeyemi; Managing Partner Sahel Capital Agribusiness Managers Ltd, Mezuo Nwuneli; Founder and CEO of Tomato Jos Farming and Processing Limited, Mira Mehta and Director, Group Strategy and Stakeholder Relations, FMN, Sadiq Usman.

Sadiq Usman disclosed that the FMN price for innovation was instituted for the first time and the intention was to continue, adding that “it is an effort towards addressing food security needs, bearing in mind the situation that Nigeria is in today.
“We have a growing population and we need to be able to feed ourselves. Food is central to people’s lives and sustenance is also central to people’s lives and to be able to provide for a teeming population …, we have to be innovative in our solutions and we believe that it is important to create a platform where people who have innovative ideas can be encouraged, supported, guided and they can be also linked with other like-minded people to drive their innovations across the food value chain.”

He said the focus for the year is prevention of food wastage, saying wastage is a big challenge in the country and so the entries and innovative efforts from people that would help to address the challenges were emphasized in the competition.
“We got over 500 entries this year. Many were quite innovative, as it was a very difficult process coming to the last five and even in the last five, there was very little between them in the judging selection that took place as you see, but I am pleased to say that in the winner that we chose and in the first runner up, we have some kind of innovative prepositions from some young enterprising people, who, with the right support, I believe, can address some of the issues that we have, particularly as it relates to protein availability and dealing with wastage of food that comes from homes, restaurants and other such places.”
Chuks Ogbonna, Head, Sustainability and Planning, Urban Akwu Agro-allied Limited and Emezulem Amadi, Head of Operations, Urban Akwu, Rivers State, emerged the winners of FMN prize for innovation.
Their innovation project is on treating and converting food wastes to useful protein ingredients that could be used to make cheaper livestock feeds and organic fertiliser.

On the motivation and particular problems that the innovation would tackle, the said the motivation was the amount of food waste in Nigeria and the negative impacts on communities and people living around sites where food waste is usually dumped.
“Ultimately, this innovation will reduce the money spent on livestock feeds and so, the whole idea is to reduce the prices of livestock feeds so that more farmers can afford it because, over the past three years, more livestock farmers have closed down their poultry and fish farms, just because of rising cost of feeds.
You will agree with me that in the past three years, the prices of feed have gone up by over 200 per cent or 300. A bag of feeds was somewhere around N3,600 but now it’s almost N8000. So, except you have so much money to make that loss, you definitely have to close down your farms at some point or sell out,” they explained.
The first runner up, Samson Ogbole’s presented soilless farming, where technology is used as an enabler for agriculture.
“We grow plants without the use of soil, growing plants in the air and AI based irrigation system for proper plant monitoring, for optimum yield and predictability of food production.
“Soilless farming (hydroponics) is a revolutionary innovation in agriculture because fertile land is rapidly disappearing due to climate change and other factors. It has become increasingly important to develop smarter and more sustainable crop-growing methods,” he explained to The Guardian.