The noble idea of the Centre for Agricultural Technology and Entrepreneurial Studies (CATES) came as one of the most innovative and solution-providing, practical features of Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun state under the visionary and goal-setting administration of Prof. Jeremiah Ojediran, the current Vice Chancellor of the nation’s first private university of technology.
Ever since the first bold steps taken to breathe life into the brilliant concept, several pragmatic partnerships and achievements have been recorded, as propelled by Dr. John Abiodun Daramola, Associate Professor, Fish Processing and Utilisation. Incidentally, he is the Acting. Head of Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology, (AAT-COLFAST) as well as the Acting Director, Centre for Agricultural Technology and Entrepreneurial Studies (CATES)
For instance, during the 2020/2021 Academic Session a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between CATES and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). That memorable and momentous partnership took place on Thursday, 13th February, 2020 at Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta.
To bolster that linkage between the two institutions and on capacity development plan, CATES secured the attention of IITA to take few personnel (staff and students) from Bells University of Technology to attend training programs scheduled under the TAAT programme, all for free! That is a most commendable initiative, no doubt.
As one of the attractive benefits of the partnership, arrangements are on top gear to request/procure cassava stems and plantain/banana suckers for planting on the CATES allotted plots. That is within Obasanjo farm, Ota.
It would be recalled that the IITA also featured in CATES virtual workshop on Wednesday, 9th September, 2020 through the Deputy DG – Dr. Kenton Dashiell.
Still within that same Academic Session, another partnership was made with Obasanjo Farm of Nigeria (OFN), Ota in Ogun state. CATES was able to identify four key potential areas as start-off of the collaboration with Obasanjo Farm Nigeria. These are in the critical areas of: Poultry technology; Aquaculture; Cassava farm and the Mushroom culture.
It is interesting to note that as at this day, the poultry sector (day-old to table size) has been fully operational. Based on the aforementioned, a request of 15 acres of land was made by CATES for the demonstration/ research/ commercial farm within Obasanjo Farm, Ota. However, 6.871 acres of land in four different locations outside the production unit (for biosafety reasons) have been released for farming in the interim. There are assurances and possibilities of getting more with time.
Also, the core operational areas of the eleven farms of OFN and list of experts have been communicated to CATES for further collaboration and working relationship. This comes up as another aspect of the partnership that is worthy of commendation.
With the bid to widen the scope on human capacity building in the sector, CATES organised Virtual Workshop, Series 1 on Wednesday, 9th September, 2020. It began by 11am on Zoom. Tagged “Opportunities in Agriculture, Agric-business and Agro-Engineering” it became an eye-opener to those willing to listen and learn on the immense benefits inherent in the food security sector.
While one of the Guest Speakers, Dr. Jamiu Adeyemo, an Executive Director, Obasanjo Group of Farms spoke on “Entrepreneurial opportunities in gricbusiness”, Dr. Kenton Dashiell, the Deputy DG, Partnerships for Delivery, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan talked on “Opportunities in Agriculture” ,
Not left out was Professor Christopher Akinbile, former Associate Director, Entrepreneurship, Centre for Entrepreneurship and Gender Issues in Science and Technology (CEGIST), FUTA. He too made a brilliant presentation on the “Potential of Agro-Engineering”
Amongst the discussants were Prof. O. A. B. Ogunmoyela, Professor of Food Science and Technology, Bellstech and Founder/ Executive Director of the Consumer Advocacy for Food Safety and Nutrition Initiative (CAFSANI), Prof. O. M. Arigbede, Professor of Ruminant Nutrition and Forage Science and Director, INHURD (FUNAAB) as well as Dr. Okafor, Senior Lecturer and Expert Business Strategy & Entrepreneurship, Bellstech.
During the 2021/2022 Academic Session there was the take-off of the vegetable farm by Vamiyes Vineyard Agric. Company; behind the dump site in Bells University of Technology, Ota. Good enough, the MOU had been signed, and the farm has been producing different species of vegetables to local and international markets.
There is also the one hectare of irrigated plantain farm being supervised by Hydromart Integrated Limited. It was established within Obasanjo farm, Ota and funded by Bells University of Technology, Ota. The MOU had been signed and plantain/suckers are already being sold to recoup the investment made.
Similarly, pilot plots of maize farm was started on the land space between Bells University and the Bells Secondary school gate. This is also funded by the university. The second round of maize farming has commenced and due to mature soon.
Through the partnership between CATES and Bells Consult Limited, plastic tanks were purchased for pilot fish rearing on campus. This has the triple benefits for training, research and commercial purposes
There was a visit to Bells University by the representatives of Solis/Sonalika Agricultural Equipment Company from India. That was on Wednesday, 24th November, 2021 for possible collaboration in the marketing and maintenance of tractors for farming activities.
Going further, CATES encouraged some students of Bells University of Technology, Ota to register and participate in the Global Food Systems Competition and recently SOTLAN Essay competition, in which Bells got the 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions respectively. Such outstanding academic achievement is worthy of commendation.
As an intervention there was a rapid response and analyses in the Microbiology Laboratory of Bells University of Technology, Ota within 48 hours (April 15 – 17) of an infection of the poultry birds at Obasanjo Farm of Nigeria, Ota and recommendation of appropriate antibiotics was made.
And as part of the giant steps taken during the 2022/2023 Academic Session, CATES got affiliation with “Anuoluwapo Farmers Group”. The meetings of the two agric-based institutions is coordinated by the former. The training for farmers in Ado-Odo Ota LGA by officials of the Ogun State Ministry of Agriculture through OGADEP and OCP Nigeria was held on 27th, October, 2023.
Another MOU was signed arising from the two-day Boot Camp of Masters Students in Agribusiness that was organised by CATES-BELLS and Rome Business School, Nigeria. That came into effect between Friday, 22nd and Saturday, 23rd September, 2023.
Furthermore, CATES supported the establishment and take-off of the College of Food, Agricultural Science and Technology (COLFAST) and the Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology; with options in Agronomy, Agribusiness, Fisheries and Aquaculture.
Another fascinating activity by CATES was its presence at the commissioning of the Obasanjo Farm of Nigeria and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture “Semi-Autotrophic Hydroponic (SAH) Facility for Cassava Stem Multiplication” in Akinale, Abeokuta Expressway on Friday, 20th January, 2023.
In a similar vein, it was there at the memorable 2nd Regional Conference on Aquaculture in West Africa, with the theme: “Sustainable Aquaculture Development for livelihoods in West Africa” held between May 15 to 17, 2023 at Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria.
On a significant note, visits were made by the CATES team to OFN, Owiwi; Soilless Farm Lab Village, Awowo and Aglobe Development Centre, Shasha, Lagos for linkages and opportunities between 18th to 20th July, 2023.
In all of these positive contributions to the nation’s food value chain, CATES has played the critical role as a catalyst in its timely intervention, especially now that food inflation has galloped to over 30 % in the country. It should therefore, keep bridging the gap between theory and the practical benefits to mankind, even as we urge it to sustain the good job done so far, and more so in the years to come.