A 28-year-old Ekiti born medical doctor, Dr. Temitope Aroge, has always wanted to be a businessman. The founder and Chief Executive Officer, Arog Bio Allied Agro Services Limited, has his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery,(MBBS) from the University of Ilorin, Kwara State.
But within a few months after his youth service, his entrepreneurial instincts got the better part of him .Now Aroge sees cassava as gold. He made a fairly dramatic career change when he switched from medicine to cassava farming . He chose to be a full time farmer.
What is it that drove the young Aroge to swap his stethoscope for cassava tubers?
His words: “I started the business in the hospital. I had an encounter with a patient who could not pay his bills and was a cassava farmer. It got me curious to see the cassava on the farm. The curiosity further led me to learn more at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Oyo State .”
As Nigerians become health conscious in their diets, Aroge decided farming and processing cassava was the way to go. He loves to see things grow. He began operations in 2009.
To learn the business, he enrolled in several courses that equipped him with knowledge on cassava plant-based value addition and farming.
Today, he runs a flourishing cassava farm and processing business. Cassava production across his farms has expanded to meet rapidly rising demand from the livestock feed, starch, and biofuel markets. Aroge said cassava trade is expanding quickly, particularly in response to burgeoning exports of dried cassava chips and starch.
His capital structure is made of grants, equity and loans. He has gotten credit lines from Bank of Industry(BoI). He added: “Getting investors include “evangelising the message of value and profit in the company. I have investors who commited as low as N50000 . I also have investors in various degrees of millions.” With the support of government and other donors, the business is expanding.
The business is unique addition to the food scene with the attempts he has made to produce garri and other derivatives. Initially, the company supplied customers in Ekiti, but it is expanding to meet a nationwide demand for cassava and derivatives. The company has 25 employees.
What’s really impressive about cassava business, according to him, is its huge potential for wider application.
Cassava, he explained, has multiple uses and markets, ranging from on-farm consumption as food or livestock feed to local wet or dry starch processing and large-scale commercial operations. Consequently, he is exploring every opportunity to process cassava into higher value food and industrial products.
Beyond the realm of garri and cassava starch, he disclosed that other market opportunities await entrepreneurs who are ready to scale-up the use of cassava processing residues for livestock feeds.
He has found a niche processing cassava into flour, starch and animal feed, and sees a bright future for young entrepreneurs.
Aroge is the ultimate definition of an entrepreneur. He is the visionary who can see a gap in the market before others do and then diligently fill it. He also has the tenacity to push through any barriers.
His role now is to represent farmers, sensitise farmers to the services available to them, and push for changes in policy which will help farmers.
As a result, many farmers have improved their productivity and some have even established new enterprises as a result of what they have learned.
His goal is to bring cassava processing units to remote areas, minimise spoilage and increase farmers’ profits.
He has developed partnership with farmers and their communities which enabled them to significantly increase their income and improve their living standards.
According to him, there are a lot of young entrepreneurs out there and they just need to put their business plans together, find a coach and get financed.
He is confident that Nigeria can dramatically reduce unemployment and poverty in the next few years with an aggressive investment in agriculture. In the next five years, he wants to see the company listed on the stock exchange. While he still keeps his medical licence and continuing medical education, he is more comfortable managing cassava than patients.