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I’m Nature Akoto from Ghana. I was born in Keta in the Volta Region (one of the deprived regions in the country). I’m passionate about making positive impact on the Underserved Communities and serving as a catalyst in the agricultural sector towards ensuring food security on the continent. Since my childhood, I had the urge to venture into the agricultural space, where I even started rearing local poultry to support myself and the family. As someone born in a rural community, I always found myself in the agricultural space until I had a scholarship to study at Ashesi University in Ghana as MasterCard Foundation Scholar. In my Ashesi days, I even had the chance to attend various agricultural related programmes and meetings as a Business Administration student. I was doing these until I reached my senior year and I decided to choose Entrepreneurship I & II as my capstone. During this period, my team and I decided to solve post-harvest loss in vegetable crops especially tomatoes.
With many ups and downs during this class, we were able to produce pig feed for smallholder pig farmers around Ashesi University with support from the school’s Business Department. During that time, I had the chance to speak to a lot of pig farmers and their customers and I realised that there are a lot of problems in the agricultural sector even though it is the largest employer among other sectors. I realised that the sector is very unappealing to a lot of youth and graduates in the country, which threatens future food security. I also found out that it is very difficult to find lean pork in the Underserved Communities even though it is the most consumed meat and 8th most nutritious food in the world. So I founded ViFarms whilst in my final year at Ashesi University.
ViFarms is an eco-friendly farm that produces high quality and affordable lean pork for Underserved Communities. ViFarms is also serving as a catalyst to motivate other youth and graduates into the agricultural space towards ensuring food security. We also create market access for other smallholder pig farmers in our area. The business is in line with 5 SDGs and they are Goal 1, 2, 3, 8 and 12. So far, we have impacted the lives of 750 people with our products. I’m proud to say that through ViFarms and my story, at least 10 youth and graduates have entered the sector as agripreneurs for the past 4 years.
Since I started ViFarms, I have received supports (both financial and in-kind) from a few institutions like MasterCard Foundation through Ashesi, Ashesi Venture Incubator, Enpact, Ashesi Enterprise Centre and AL Agribusiness Launchpad network. Joining this network about a few months ago was very beneficial and impactful to myself and the business. I have been able to network and learn from other young agripreneurs working on the African continent to ensure food security and solve problems in the agricultural space.
In addition to learning from the young ones, I have been able to e-meet and learn from great industry experts like Ola Rotimi, Nono Sekhoto, etc. Nono Sekhoto and Lerato have played important roles in my journey and other members’ by providing guidance, support and constructive feedback throughout the competition we had recently. Through their support and guidance and my experience in the sector, my team and I have been able to put up a great pitch and we became one of the two winners at the end.
Winning this award/grant (the Agribusiness Launchpad Pitching Competition) is going to help ViFarms significantly as at the time the cost of input has been increasing significantly every week for the past months. With this award, we are going to expand our backward integration module, which is a cost-cutting strategy for us. This will create additional jobs for the youth in our community. I believe this award came at the right time for us, as it would help us reduce our cost of production and keep us in the business of supporting the Underserved Communities with our products.
We are very grateful for our journey and as we continue to seek for his support towards our dream of raising funds to start a newer eco-friendlier farm with a production capacity of 15 times the current capacity.