With 200 million mouths to feed, agriculture has undoubtedly remain a cause for concern in Nigeria. Young people perceive agriculture as a profession of intense labour, not profitable and unable to support their livelihood compared to white collar jobs offer. They think agriculture would not afford them to enjoy the pleasures of owning a beautiful home, fast cars, the latest gadgets and mobile phones like what their colleagues in white collar jobs have access to.
When one talks about agriculture or farming, in the minds of young people, they think of someone far down in a village living in a shack, who wakes up very early every morning to go dig coming back home at sunset. This farmer in their minds, is so far away detached from civilization, wears barely no clothes and is the typical person who lives on less than a dollar a week.
This is why technology and changing agricultural methods/ process needs to be fully explored to ensure increase food yield in a sustainable manner.
Hence comes Aeroponics.
Aeroponics is an indoor gardening practice in which plants are grown and nourished by suspending their root structures in air and regularly spraying them with a nutrient and water solution. Soil is not used for Aeroponics, because the plants can thrive when their roots are constantly or periodically exposed to a nutrient-rich mist.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) tested the effectiveness of Aeroponics on the Mir space station and the results showed that Asian bean seedlings could grow effectively in a nutrient solution in zero gravity.
Plants are suspended in the air in enclosed frames that leave the leafy tips and the roots able to grow up and down respectively. Many Aeroponics systems look very similar to traditional potted plant systems, with the key difference being that the containers for the plants are sealed around the plants’ bases and have a closed environment for the root systems. Instead of relying on a mixture of soil and water to feed the plants, Aeroponics horticulturists spray the root systems with a nutrient mix. Because the roots are enclosed, the nutrient-water mix is used more efficiently by the plants and less water is needed for them to grow and thrive.
With Aeroponics, indoor horticulturists may use vertical and horizontal space to grow more plants using less floor space and they conserve water by using sealed Aeroponics systems.
Depending on the Aeroponics system, nutrients may be sprayed manually at intervals throughout the day and night, but most Aeroponics systems have one or more pumps that automatically keep plants nourished without constant supervision. As long as the system is sealed and nutrient mist is consistently pumped to the roots, plants should thrive in an Aeroponics environment.
Aeroponics offers an efficient means to grow plants, including fruits and vegetables, without potting and repotting them to replenish their access to nutrient-rich soil.
This is a process which Sanni Rilwan studies, uses and teaches. Sanni is a young agricultural entrepreneur who focuses on using technology, carrying out research and education to promote healthier food and ensure food security. Sanni was more than willing to talk to me about his works in Aeroponics Agriculture and its many benefits during a visit to his Aeroponics Tomatoes farm:
The advantages include:
1. Growing, as well as harvesting, can be done anytime of the year as opposed to seasonal planting which has existed in Nigeria for centuries
Harvest cycle is faster as compared to normal agricultural practices, e.g Tomatoes in Aeroponics farm takes 21 days from seeds to harvest but in normal agricultural practices it takes 70-90 days
2. Reduced use of insecticides and fungicides - thus the yield of Aeroponics are healthier and have longer shelf lives
3. Aeroponics farming can be adopted anywhere irrespective of climate change as water usage is reduced by 95% and the system recycles nutrients thereby reducing the cost of using fertilizers
4. The system is neater and does not produced dirt as no soil is used
Tips on how to start Aeroponics farming in Nigeria:
Here are some Tips to follow when you want to start an Aeroponics farm in Nigeria
Do a Research
Just like any other agribusiness venture, Aeroponics farming also requires carrying out a feasibility study. Although lucrative, this farming system is fairly new in Nigeria and is one of the most fragile. Hence, you need to carry out an extensive research in order to know what the business entails. It comes down to the awareness and technical skills to make it work
Get Knowledge of Aeroponics Farming in Nigeria
Read extensively, get advice's from professionals in the field, employ experts if you like. Visiting some Aeroponics farm before getting started would also give you hands-down practical information
Select the Crops and vegetables You Intend to Cultivate
It is important to note that not all crops are suitable for Aeroponics farming system in Nigeria. Various crops to grow in your Aeroponics farm includes pepper, tomatoes and onions, vegetables, lettuce, yam and other terrestrial crops
Select a Suitable Land
Keep the environment free from pest (covering the green house with a insecticide nest ) and diseases so that the plants can grow quicker and healthier.
Create and Build Your Own Market
Since Aeroponics farming in Nigeria is fairly new and yet to be exposed fully. It is important to create and build your own market. This can be achieved by growing plants that are in high demand in the Nigerian markets. Ensure your farm produce are of high quality and affordable in order to build a steady customer base. With time, you won't need to do the marketing yourself as your farm produce and old customers will do that for you - thus making your investment a rewarding one.
P.S. If you're probably thinking about the cost of set-up as a turn off. Then you can start your Aeroponics Farming System on a small scale which requires a low one time set-up cost.
Sanni Rilwan is more than willing to help you out with various research and cost implementation . You can reach him Via WhatsApp on -0806 281 6617