Before now, only few Nigerians embraced greenhouse farming, maybe because of its cost implication. But today, the Wells Hosa GreenHouse Farm Limited, located in Edo State, is showing the way for all-year-round farming in Nigeria.
Wells Hosa GreenHouse, owned by Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbor (retd), last month, launched its first fruit harvest of its greenhouse tomato farm in Benin.
Greenhouse allows all-year-round farming, but the cost of setting it up, as well as its maintenance, remain the great problems for many farmers.
Many of such farms earlier set up in the country folded up, partly because of maintenance, and this is giving much concern if the technology is really to become a household name in the country.
The chairman of Wells GreenHouse, Captain Okunbor, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the greenhouse was the culmination of a dream that had long been in his heart.
He said, “As a little boy growing up in Benin several decades ago, the distinct image of farming, being the common means of livelihood, was a significant picture ingrained in my consciousness. Today, the technology-driven Wells Hosa GreenHouse Farms is a project borne out of that mental picture.”
Okunbor said the farm would ensure all-year-round production of tomatoes for the nation’s market.
Wells Hosa GreenHouse Farms, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered, is a pioneer project, which development is based on hydroponic technology (a method of growing plants in controlled environments, using mineral nutrients in water, not soil).
“The farm incorporates various systems integrated by irrigation, fertilisation and pest control to obtain optimal plant growth and greater yield, as compared with traditional open field methods.
“Well Hosa GreenHouse is the first of its kind in Nigeria, and it is in the forefront of pioneering the innovation in ensuring food security and employment,” Okunbor said.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that Wells Hosa GreenHouse stands on a 27-hectare land with green housing capacity for 28 hydroponic greenhouses: 5,440 square metres each.
The farm, it was further gathered, has an estimated production value of 4,200 tonnes per year, as well as estimated and projected revenue of $5m annually.
Okunbor said at full capacity, the farm would directly employ 500 people while indirectly employing thousands of youths and women that would be engaged in the production of many types of vegetables for local consumption, as well as export.
He said Nigeria produced 1.8 million metric tonnes of tomatoes annually, but nearly 0.7 million metric tonnes of this quantity was lost after harvest.
“It is estimated that Nigeria imports tomatoes worth $360m annually. So we still have a lot of work to do to ensure self-sufficiency and import substitution while generating dollar inflow through export,” he added.
He said the farm was positioned to help revolutionise the tomato industry in Nigeria and impact the entire agricultural sector.
“In 2000, Mexico had 790 hectares of greenhouses and increased to 25,251 hectares in 2016, on a growth trend of about 1,200 hectares per year,” adding that, “in 2017, the agri-food sector of Mexico reached record figures in export, obtaining revenues of $32.6bn.
“Today, modern agriculture is immersed in an economic process of globalisation that cannot be ignored. So it is necessary to adopt new technologies that allow us to increase productivity, obtain better quality products, seek self-sufficiency and access international markets with better prices.
“With the record of our first fruit harvest we intend to replicate its scalable and modular production model in other states of the country, with the aim of satisfying both domestic and export demand of horticultural products and increasing non-oil exports in the international market.
“During our conception stages, we identified challenges in the agro-food sector to include poor transportation of goods from the northern part of the country to the South, as well as loss of produce due to ineffective packaging and storage facilities,” he said.
Today, Wells Hosa GreenHouse is abundantly equipped to handle the demands of moving products from Edo State to the rest of the country.
Speaking during the first harvest from the farm, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, said the Federal Government endorsed greenhouse farming in the country to boost food production.
Lokpobiri said, “Before the administration of President Muhammadu Bihari, agriculture was seen as government programme, but with Wells Hosa GreenHouse Farm, Nigerians are realising the importance of agriculture, not only as an investment, but as a business.”
On his part, Segun Awolowo, Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), said the greenhouse project was an initiative established in line with the acceptable standard required for export.
According to him, the green house would ensure tomato production all-year-round in the country, as well as exporting to other countries of the world.
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