Hello readers, I have the honor to present to you the next agripreneur to be featured in the interview section of this blog. I present to you a man with vast experience in Poultry Production who is shaking things up in the Livestock industry: Akintaro Olamide of Taro Agric farm…Read further as you get to know more about him.
Agricincome: Can you introduce yourself and your farming background to our readers?
Taro Agric: I am Akintaro Olamide, I am the founder of Taro Agric consulting/Taro Farms. I studied Animal Science for my first-degree from the Faculty of Agriculture, Obafemi Awolowo Univerisity, Ile Ife and proceeded to earn my Masters of Science from the same faculty. I have had passion for agriculture for over a decade almost going to two. When we started the student in farming project then at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile ife, the university was able to bring in students who have passion for agriculture. I was the pioneer coordinator of that project; we started in June 2005. It was born out of a driving force that young people should be able to embrace agriculture as a viable profession and vocation. That has been the driving force ever since then from my university days. Thank God for where I am and for where I am going.
Agricincome: Why Livestock Farming?
Taro Agric: Hmmm….That is the agribusiness part of it (laughs)…..We have tried a lot. When one is starting something, one would want to try a lot of things until one gets the right thing to do -the one that best suits. While I was a student at the university, the university administration then, magnanimously granted us 100 acres of land, and we were able to cultivate more than 25 acres mixed production. There were maize and cassava interplanting for 2-3years. I also managed the department’s fisheries unit. That is part of the trying. After I graduated I went to serve in Niger state. I ventured into cowpea production as a corps member. By the grace of God I won the Governor’s Award as the outstanding corps member of the year. I did a little bit of cowpea, I ventured into fish farming which was my major in the university (Fish Production). I did a little bit of cattle (laughs)…..
Afterwards, when I left Niger State, Taro Farms ventured again into fisheries, piggery…(laughs)….we even did and we are still doing Bee production (honey). As a business enterprise, having tried different agribusinesses, we had to streamline to one that will give us:
- Quick Returns on investment
- Ability to scale up.
And that was how we finally settled into poultry farming. We started with 100 birds at the back of our house; we grew to 200, from 200 to 400, from 400 to 650 and from 650 to 2000. We started growing but it wasn’t as easy as I’m saying it. There have been failures, challenges and growth altogether. When we went from 400 to 650, out of 650 birds we lost 400 birds and it was a devastating moment. But I thank God for where we are today. That has been my short sojourn so far in agriculture.
Agricincome: So what is the capacity of your farm and the staff strength?
Taro Agric: At present, we have a 30,000 capacity and we are anticipating to expand any moment from now because we have enough land to expand. The two sites are sitting on a combined acreage of 10 acres and we are looking at leasing more facilities to expand our production. As at today, we are at 30,000. We have a staff strength of about 15 staff members. We outsource sometimes, but they are part of us on a part-time basis.
Agricincome: What has been the secret of the success so far?
Taro Agric: GOD…(laughs)….God basically, then persistency, hard work, and a never die attitude. We started this farm with a single pen.
We had some miscalculations in the business and we exhausted our funds. We started looking for funds and much of what we got were at very high interest rates. From 3000 birds, production dropped to 1000 birds. I remember a time one of my protégés came that he wanted to assist me and when we really started work, the guy just suddenly said he was no more working. He complained that his health could no longer cope with the volume of work and strength the work required. I could remember that night of May 2017, brooding in one small room on the farm, we left the farm around 11 pm. We were to go and pick up day old chicks in Oyo state by 5am the next morning. I envisaged he would tell me he was tired, so I already made up my mind that whatever happened, I wouldn’t be dettered. By 5.00am, I was already in my car driving to Awe in Oyo State to pick up the birds. I got a text message from him when I was already far on the express road. He sent to me that he could not come that morning that he couldn’t even stand up from his bed. He also said he would not be able to continue working with me on the farm.
From that 1000 birds, the farm grew to 2500 birds, from 2500 birds we grew to 8000. So God, persistency, doggedness and being open to opportunities help a lot.
Most of our awesome moments were in our lowest moments when we thought oh!!!! What is happening. Many times, I just sit down to browse the internet, I make use of opportunities, apply and get the facilities.
I remember my wife would always tell people then who intended to work with me “Are you sure you can work with him”. HARD WORK, it doesn’t kill, though those periods could be challenging. There was a time I single-handedly took care of 3000 birds for the first 3 weeks. The contractor that came to sink our borehole saw the magnitude of work I was doing, he said: ‘Oga don’t kill yourself, I will help you find someone that will assist you’. He got me a staff to assist, I got another person and that relieved me. Then, we started increasing from there. The God factor cannot be overemphasized. Those are the things that are pushing us and has brought us to where we are and we see this as the starting point. We have a vision of a full self-sufficient Africa in Food Production. That is the drive. Africa has the land mass, the labour; what we need is the direction, if we can get the directions right we are hitting it right without rocket science, without too much of technology, we can get it right, we can feed ourselves in Africa. In Nigeria we have the Arable land, we have the human resource to fulfill all this, the direction is critical.
Agricincome: what were the challenges you faced and the ones you are still facing since the inception of your business?
Taro Agric: Challenge…..challenge…The major challenge is funding and challenge of committed staff and sometimes marketing, but we have good success as regards that.
Agricincome: How do you market your products?
Taro Agric: We do much of collaborations; we collaborate with large industries that need our products because we sell in volumes, we also use online marketing (social media) and traditional media (Prints, Radio, and Television). But more importantly, we do collaboration. We have memorandum of agreement with some of the big players in the industry and they pick up our products.
Agricincome: Most people think livestock farming is a get rich quick scheme what is your stand about this?
Taro Agric: (Laughs)……it is not!! , because, for example, in poultry farming the profit margin is not that wide. What you need is volume, because the more the volume the bigger the profit margin and so it is for other livestock production (piggery, Fishery, Snailery etc.) It’s not a get rich quick scheme. As a matter of fact, within the first 3-5 years you still keep investing like every other business. Doing Agribusiness the appropriate way takes time, effort and determination. Without all this, no appreciable success could be made. When we started with 100 birds, one principle I learnt then was to market your products well before they are ready so you will not be pushed to an edge when they are ready. The three major things that affect Agribusiness are:
- Value Addition
Agricincome: Most youths find it difficult to start livestock farming because of the issue of funding and access to land. What do you think can be done?
Taro Agric: Start small. If I tell you how I started you will see the need to start small. I stopped consulting because talk is cheap. I have trained more than 10,000 people in several areas of agriculture, different parastatals including the Nigerian Army. I told myself ‘let us have something to show, let’s roll up our sleeves’ as my mentor do say. Let the youths roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.
After I completed my NYSC, I went to seek the permission of the Royal father of the town where I served to give me some land and he graciously gave quite a large portion of land which I used for my cowpea production. Starting Agriculture is about determination.
Also through God’s direction. I saw an abandoned fish pond in my host community, I met with the owner to let me use it as he wanted to convert it to a self-contained apartment. I went to Abuja from Kontagora Niger State which is about 6hours drive to purchase fingerlings and I started using the fish pond. This was how I started. From there, we bought our own land and it keeps getting better. There is this popular saying “when there is a will there is a way” let’s give less of excuses and more of actions to get things done.
I traded my Nysc certificate for 3 years to secure a fund of #250,000 and if anybody is still willing to give me funds, I’m still willing to lay down my certificate. That was the fund I used for the fish and cowpea production. I also did a little bit of cattle production from it and I returned the money after 2 years. We made some loss and we made some profits but we are better.
Another thing is that youths should open their eyes to opportunities. Opportunities are available particularly now in the internet age, a lot of opportunities, agencies online that we could access.
Agricincome: Any advice for youths seeking careers in agriculture?
Taro Agric: Like I have been saying “Start Small” success they say is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. For upcoming youths that want to go into poultry farming, your altitude is determined by your attitude. START SMALL, if it is 50 birds START. The profit I made from my first production was used to buy a property; that was the first property I ever bought in my life at my teenage years.
Be open to see investment opportunities
How thirsty are you for success? Young people say No to laziness, Yes to Hard work and persistence. Challenges will come but be open to opportunities, be hardworking, be committed and in just a matter of time you are shinning.
Agricincome: Any specific Goals for Taro Farms?
Taro Agric: Our goal for this farm is to build a transgenerational corporation that will outlive us. This is a corporation that will outlive several generations just like Ford, Chrysler motors that have evolved over 100 years. And the paramount goal is not just to amass wealth but to have a food sufficient Africa. A Nigeria Nation that will be food sufficient.
Agricincome: Thank you for your time sir
Taro Agric: you’re Welcome