IITA set up the Business Incubation Platform (BIP) to commercialize and scale up innovations for farmers from IITA and other CGIAR institutions in Africa. It is 100% owned by IITA. These innovations are validated in laboratories and trial fields and incubated and evaluated for their scaling readiness, and feasibility as a sustainable product, service, or a new variety for a specific market segment. The final step is commercialization with a private sector partner to genereate more impact and funding for new research.
For several years now, BIP has been evolving into a fully commercial operation. Recently, BIP announced the appointment ofits advisory board members led by Nkiru Opareke, CEO/COO of Enviro Gro Farms to provide leadership and overall guidance. The other members of the board includes Kenton Dashiell (Deputy Director General for Partnerships for Delivery at IITA) Hilde Koper-Limbourg (DDG Corporate Services at IITA), Victoria Salin (Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University), Frederick Schreurs (CEO IITA BIP), Yemisi Iranloye (MD/CEO, Psaltry International Ltd), Akinbayo Atere (Founder, Arterius Capital & Advisory Limited), and Ayoyinka Olajide-Awosedo (Board Secretary).
Technologies scaled by IITA BIP include Aflasafe (via the aTTC project), Nodumax, IITA GoSeed, Agriserve consultancy, and Agriserve Youth Outgrowers.
Through IITA GoSeed, new varieties have been made availbale in the marketplace through partnership with seed companies. The team has successfully on-boarded over 30 entrepreneurs as foundation and commercial seed producers to help build the cassava seed system in Nigeria. Presently, with the COVID-19 pandemic, IITA GoSeed supplied more than 15,000 bundles of cassava stems to Olabel Farms, Riparian Farms, Traxivvest Farms, and Mile 12 Plus farms. IITA GoSeed launched the first e-commerce platform (www.iitagoseed.com) in West Africa for selling early generation seeds. A soybean variety registration will be supported by an investor, who will prefinance its seed production. This will ensure that there is enough seeds available to sell to seed companies which will increase yield from 1 to 3.5 t/ha.
IITA GoSeed Cassava currently leverages on the semiautotrophic hydroponics (SAH) technology to rapidly multiply improved varieties of cassava seeds. Some 60 prospective women cassava seed producers attended a meeting that empowers women to actively produce seed;six have been onboarded as seed producers. GoSeed is therefore helping to start sustainable seed businesses, creating jobs for outgrowers, and helping increase farmers’ yields and income.
Nodumax is an inoculant that helps to increase the yield of soybean by at least 30-40%. United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) and Springfield are private sector partners that will soon become its distributor and manufacturer in West Africa to ensure that demand is met and to reach more farmers. UPL will pay for product registration in eastern Africa to ensure that more farmers across the continent benefit from this innovation.
Through consistent data collection and evaluation, it has been proven that Nodumax has the ability to increase soybean yield on average by 35-40%. This initiative, combined with good agricultural practices (GAP supported by the IITA Weed Science unit) increased the yield to 2.5 t/ha. The introduction of improved varieties led to a yield increase from the Nigerian average of 1 t/ha to 3.5 t/ha. This resulted in higher income for farmers in Nigeria by US$560-937 per hectare $937.
Alasafe is a biopesticide used against aflatoxins in maize and other crops. Its widespread use by farmers has increased access to safe maize in the marketplace and has contributed to reducing health risks for consumers. Alasafe helps lower aflatoxin contamination in crops by up to 100%. Development and testing of more products are under way in 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Aflasafe is now manufactured in four countries and commercially available in eight countries.
The Aflasafe Technical Transfer ad Commercialization (aTTC) project handles the commercialization strategy of Aflasafe. Aflasafe products have been used by smallholder farmers in more than 315,000 ha to produce aflatoxin standard-compliant maize and groundnut. This is contributing to improving the health of farmers and consumers; and income and trade opportunities of farmers, aggregators, distributors, and traders in several sub-Saharan African countries. Harvest Field, a private investor, has taken over the production and commercialization. The factory in Ibadan will be relocated to Lagos, Nigeria, and a new training and research and commercialization (ARDICT) facility for Aflasafe will be set up at IITA Ibadan.
This is an almost finalized Joint Venture between CropNuts from Kenya and Agriserve, a unit of IITA BIP that offers services such as soil suitability tests, land classification, soil surveys, and fertilizer recommendations to farmers. Also, business plan development services are offered in cooperation with the IITA BIP youth outgrowers. The team has offered different consultancy services to several clients such as public and private organizations across Africa.
This is a unit of IITA BIP that runs a scheme where seeds or grains are grown through outgrowers (farmers/agripreneurs) across different locations for a guaranteed off-taker. This innovation has created jobs with decent pay and work conditions of $5000-$12,000 per year for Nigerians, and has helped with market linkages and providing quality raw materials to processing companies. Also, IITA BIP youth outgrowers have developed outgrower schemes/business plans for investors. The team, with support from IITA GoSeed and IITA Weed Science, achieved a 6.3 t/ha yield for maize, 2.5-3.5 t/ha for soybean, 23 t/ha for yam with the support of the IITA Yam Agronomist.
IITA BIP understands that partnership and collaboration are key approaches to maximize growth. It therefore partnered with private organizations for commercialization and scale. These firms include Rijk Zwaan Seeds, East West Seed, CONTEC Global, Alluvial Limited, Phosphorus Limited (UPL), Springfield, KOPPERT, Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), BAMTAARE (Aflasafe manufacturing & distribution in Senegal and Gambia), A to Z Ltd (Aflasafe manufacturing and & distribution in Tanzania), NGN Netherlands (Impact cluster set up for circular economy protein production of waste via insects in Nigeria), Bayer, Monsanto, SeedCo Pty, Cortiva/Pioneer Seed, and donors such as USAID and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. BIP works closely with Harvard Business School which has resulted into a case study development about the IITA BIP concept, and the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne currently supports IITA BIP in its strategy development.
Authors: Frederick Schreurs and Victor Salleh, IITA-BIP (Ibadan).