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Sani Ibrahim
Abubakar Tafawa Balewa,University
Agricultural economics and extension
100Level, Nigeria.
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“For me people are seeing tomatoes, I’m seeing more than
tomatoes, I’m seeing jobs for the youth, I’m seeing
empowerment for our people, I’m seeing food security, I’m
seeing exports and foreign exchange to support our GDP. So,
it’s more than tomatoes first harvest but its something that we
can replicate around this country.”
The above inspiring statement was made by the billionaire
Chairman of the Wells Hosa company, Captain Hosa Okunbo,
when on September 6, 2018 the first harvest of the high
technology-driven Greenhouse Farm were unveiled to the
public. So, what are the features that mark it different from the
rest? The answer is not far-fetched. History was made back in
March 2016 when a $750million (about N150 billion) farm,
designed to create 25,000 direct and 6,00 indirect jobs in Edo
State, was unveiled by business man, Captain Hosa Okunbo, at
Government House, Benin City.
The Edo state-based farm happened to beWest Africa and
Nigeria’s biggest hydroponic farm with 28 greenhousesand
having the potential to produce 4,800 tonnes of bell pepper,
tomatoes and cucumber. Specifically, there are high quality
varieties such as Red Habanero Peppers, Habanero Peppers,
Red Bell Papper, Red & Yellow Bell Peppers, Beef Tomatoes,
Cherry Tomatoes and Habanero Peppers.
The brilliant minds behind this project who happen to be
members of the Advisory Board include Capt. Idahosa Wells
Okunbo as the Chairman, Bright Okunbo as the CEO. And
Mnenena Bara-Hart as the Secretary. Others are Nosa Okunbo
and Adesuwa Okunbo. So far, so great. What is significant are
the noble values it has brought to the table of Nigeria’s food
and nutrition security.
Wells Hosa enables local production of farm produce to
nourish local communities with safe, nutritious, and delicious
food. Interestingly, their fruits are picked at the height of
freshness. It is therefore “on a mission to transform agriculture
in Nigeria by building and operating environmentally -
responsible farms”.
Furthermore, its Mission statement goes on to emphasize that:
“We have been charting this course toward a new standard for
totally-controlled agriculture since 2016. We defy traditional
growing seasons by enabling local farming at commercial
scale all-year round and we set a new standard for traceability
by managing our greens from seed to package’’.
All these are made possible because the fully-controlled
Greenhouse farmsare well positioned to control and perfect
every aspect of the color, texture, nutrition and most
importantly, flavour of their produce. The hydroponic systems
use a mineral-based nutrient solution to nourish all the farm
produce in a soilless environment. That means that the farms
use less waterthan conventional agriculture and there is no
agricultural runoff.
What these mean is that the farms keep producing various
fruits irrespective of the unpredictable and freaky weather
conditions. Though they are locally grown, they are pesticide-
free and ensure food safety from harvest to storage. Good
enough that the state-of-the-art greenhouse farms are
designed with hydroponic systems that allow for water
recirculation. Let us take a closer look at the unique features
of the farm.
The Layout has a total surface area of 27 hectares. The
packing house is 1400 square metres with enough space to
install two sorting machines, a harvest boxes warehouse, and
two cool chambers with 82 pallets capacity (three 40 feet
container per week).
As for the Service Module it has accurate nutrition control,
automatic filtration system, computerized control for the
irrigation system, and fast relief valve to protect the irrigation
system. The Nursery has an area of 600 square meters, 1,000
trays to allocate 128,000 seeds producing seedlings for cycles
of seven greenhouses at a time. These allow the farm to offer
products the whole year round.
The Tropical Greenhouses are specially designed for the
humid tropic weather with double windows on the top help to
remove hot air from the greenhouses. These are buoyed by the
hydroponic substrate system with accurate irrigation system
and air circulatory fans.
The benefits of hydro-ponics system include the facts that it is
extremely land and water efficient. It has very high yields with
consistent, high quality produce and no agricultural run-off
pest management.
Apart from food and nutrition security the N150billion farm
project Wells Hosa has the potential to generate 85,000 jobs
direct employment while indirectly employing thousands of
youth and women. This is high commendable for a country
groaning under the weight of high unemployment rate and
several job losses. Such features gave Captain Hosa the
confidence to pay a courtesy visit to His Royal Majesty, the
Oba of Benin and present the first tomatoes harvest for his
royal blessings.
Going into history, the 9,000 hectares of land was acquired in
2006, for the dream project. Hosa has partnered with his
Mexican partnersto achieve his dream which he said was as
something very special to him. Said he back then: “I am doing
this not because of money but because of what we can give
back to the society, it is a legacy project.”
It would be recalled that the Director- General of the Nigeria
Export Promotion Council,(NEPC), Segun Awolowo, explained:
“We started as a facilitator. The idea is to bring investment
into manufacturing and industry in Nigeria and this is a perfect
example of that, partnering with Wells and Carlos Farms. Our
soil is very fertile and very good. We can capture the European
market. This is a wonderful investment that will be the envy of
other states and countries in Africa”.
So, what are the lessons to glean from this first-of-a-kind
project in the Sub-region? It has come at the right time when
the current President Muhammad Buhari-led administration is
harping on the importance of agriculture to diversify the
revenue base away from agriculture. What more, it has
appealing features to lure our youth back to the farm, but this
time with modern agricultural practices.
Wells Hosa has inadvertently shown that given the right
environment Nigerians can dream big and bring such to
fruition. The governments at both the state and federal levels
should therefore, ensure that such big projects as this are
supported with stable power supply, tax incentives and of
course solid security. It would be painful, for instance, to learn
that some hoodlums or herdsmen make their way into the farm
to traumatize the farmers in one way or the other.
It is BIG kudos from us to Wells Hosa, as it marks two great
years of highly successful production. We pray, as the
Chairman has indicated that soon, this would be replicated all
over the country.

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