Global agribusiness players are advocating a new model for the development of agriculture in Africa. 

They say replicating the strategies that revolutionarised agricultural production in Europe, USA and South America in Africa, will not work in this 21st Century. 

“If we try and transplant western or the USA, European style agriculture into Africa, it’s not going to work,” Robert Walker who is European Business Development Officer for agricultural inputs firm, Alltech, told a media briefing at the Lexington Convention Center in Kentucky, USA, to open the 2019 Alltech Ideas Conference. 

He says technology that locals can identify with is what the continent needs to grow agriculture. “The only way we can do that is using new technology. Something like banking using M-pesa (mobile money). We need to re-imagine a whole new way of doing agriculture if we want to do it properly. Using new technologies to leapfrog,” he explained.

“And Africa has done that quite well in the past, for example, skipping landlines and going straight to cellphones. I think that needs to be the model,” Mr Walker added. 

Africa spends more than $35 billion importing food every year, although the continent has the capacity to produce a lot of imported foods. 

This is despite more than 70% of the workforce on the continent being engaged in agricultural production for their livelihoods. Despite having more than half of the world’s fertile farming lands, one-fifth of the continent’s population still live in hunger or are malnourished.

President and Chief Executive Officer of Alltech Dr Mark Lyons told the media briefing Alltech is working on using its flagship Pearse Lyons Accelerator Programme to ignite interest in some of those local technologies that can help change African agriculture. 

“One of the things we have been thinking of utilizing is the incubator, accelerator concept. Why don’t we create a few projects, potentially, collaborative opportunities with those markets and get the process started? We have to think about it differently because the opportunity is absolutely there,” he said. 

“And the opportunity to connect some of the things we are doing on the accelerator to really leapfrog and speed up the development of agriculture in Africa is a fantastic opportunity. So we are having a lot of discussions around it,” Dr Lyons added. 

Now in its fourth year, the Pearse Lyons Accelerator programme was the brainchild of late Irish scientist Dr Pearse Lyons, who founded Alltech, in the early 1980s in his garage with just $10,000. Today, Alltech has now grown into a global brand with more than 6,000 employees in about 100 locations across the world. 

The Pearse Lyons Accelerator Accelerator, a late-stage, non-equity program, offers startups access to a network of executives who have, collectively, more than 100 years of leadership experience and domain expertise in agriculture.

Participants also receive a €15,000 stipend to cover day-to-day expenses, as well as software perks worth over €300,000 from companies such as Google, Facebook, Softlayer and Amazon.

The Pearse Lyons Accelerator aims to discover the brightest ideas in agriculture and technology and wants future AgTech entrepreneurs to be fully equipped to develop successful, sustainable businesses.

“We want to use the incubator accelerator concepts and get the process of opening up in Africa started. The opportunities are there in Africa,” Dr Lyons said. 

The Alltech Ideas Conference – now in its 35th year, is an annual event that brings together almost 4000 people from over 70 countries to explore innovation, inspiration and world-changing ideas. 

Organisers describe the One19 Alltech Ideas Conference as “where everyday heroes from various industries across the globe dare to dream bigger and explore solutions to improve their businesses and the world around them.”