By Ayo Alonge and Damilola Fatunmise
Lanre Howells is a graduate of Mass Communication but chose to follow the part of real estate and farming as he says he is passion-driven about his business. Currently, Howells plies his trade as a full time farmer and he is the Chief Executive Officer of Beyond Building, a premium Real Estate Investment, which is the brain behind Farm Estate, the first farm estate.
In this interview, Howells encourages as many people to come into the world of farming and make their good money, like he is doing too. The young millionaire farmer also explains the nitty-gritty of the business of farming.
What is the vision behind your farming project?
The vision behind this project is to make farming very easy for anyone who desires to go into farming, without stress. It is a way of promoting mechanised farming with comfort.
When did you start the business?
I started it fully some three years ago.
So, how affordable is the land and some other equipment needed to start on one’s own?
We are selling in acres; you know a plot of land can’t be enough for real farming, so to make it very easy for everyone, we have decided to sell and allow people pay by instalment. When you buy land from us, we will spread the payment in a way that will be easy for you to pay up. We try to make it very easy by allocating to you your portion of land as soon as the first instalment is made.
Where is the site located?
It is located in Epe. It is because that is the only place government approved for us for farming and also the soil test literally shows that Epe ‘s soil is very good for farming and yields a quick harvest.
As an entrepreneur, how challenging was it at the initial stage of setting up your farming enterprise?
Seriously, it was like I was gambling for almost everybody who is doing real estate and farming business on the island. It looked like a very stupid idea, but for me, it was just like following my passion. At first, when we were allocating the phase one, it was as good as dashing out lands, in order to motivate people to get involved.
So, how was the outcome at the initial stage?
The outcome was nice because we had projected that we were going to be on that site for two years and believe me, we sold all out in 12 months .
How many acres is it?
Okay! The first one isn’t as big as this Phase Two. The first one is around plus or minus 70 acres.
How many farms are there?
We have 15 farms on the Phase One.
What are people planting there?
There are fish ponds, mechanised ones, where you don’t need to be changing your water. The water is automated and the feeding is the only thing you do manually. Also, the counting is automated. People are also doing water melon, cucumber, pepper, tomatoes and lots of other spices.
Are the farmers already selling their produce?
Yes, we have our products in almost all the malls on the Island.
What is the prospect for those that want to start up?
Honestly, what I can say about mechanised farming is that you can’t get it wrong all the time, but I have to state this clearly that the more your exposure is, the more your profit. One can just say I can invest as much as N50,000 and I will realise N200,000 and so when I make my profit, I can also re-invest it on the farm. That is the beauty of mechanised farming.
Are the produce from farm estate as cheap as the ones in the popular Mile 12 market?
That is the agenda, but the difference between Mile 12 products and ours is the processes they went through before being released into the market. All the products from Farm Estate will sure undergo good healthy processes. The prices are very close and the quality of the products you are getting is on the higher value.
The farm is only in Lagos. Is there any plan to expand the business to other states in the country?
We are seriously thinking about that. As soon as we are well grounded here in Lagos, we are going to try other states too.
How many people work in your firm, at the moment ?
We have close to 100 workers working with us, as I speak.
For those who do not have any knowledge about farming, is there any training for them?
That is the most interesting part. What we do is this: once you acquire the land from us, we make you go through the due processes that will groom you for the task, free of charge. We have a consultant who is ready to take you on all you need to know.
What are the processes one would need to undergo to acquire a land from Farm Estate?
We don’t sell forms. All you need to do is to book an inspection with us. By the time you see the site yourself, you then pick up a form, when you must have known what you are going for.
What’s your message for anyone who would love to come into this business?
The first thing that is key is passion. Your passion goes a very long way in determining your success. You draw your strength from your passion to keep you going. It will keep you alive and on the know that you can do more. You must stay away from distractions. So, passion and consistency are the watchword.
Is there any connection between your farm and the Ministry of Agriculture?
Yes, there is. Right now, we are doing something with the Ministry of Agriculture and is about free training for our farmers and that is why we are building a 150-capacity hall inside the farm so that the farmers can always get trained anytime.