Agri-entrepreneur dances to his own rhythm in Ghana

David Asiamah

Based on a realisation that any line of work that is impactful requires discipline and a positive change in behaviour, David Asiamah founded Agro Mindset, a firm that specialises in agribusiness ventures in Ghana.

Agro Mindset’s focus is to run highly profitable agricultural enterprises with long-term growth potential. It further aims to be a leader of robust agribusiness models that consistently produces safe, quality and affordable foodstuffs in a financially, socially and environmentally sustainable manner. Recently, Agro Mindset formed a partnership with EvancoPhamlands to grow coconuts, mangoes and other cash crops for local consumption and for export.

How did this all start?

When he was a third-year undergraduate agriculture student, Asiamah recognised the opportunities in this sector. This, combined with his awareness of the high levels of youth unemployment in Ghana and his desire to be self-employed, motivated him.

“At that time, I knew that I wanted to become a farmer,” Asiamah recalls.

His desire landed him in England for his postgraduate studies where he also worked as an intern at Vine House Farm in Peterborough. During his internship he did over 1,000 hours of tractor driving, supervised colleague workers, managed a 24,000 free-range poultry unit, and served as quality control officer for harvested produce when the farm was growing vegetable crops for wholesale and supermarkets.

After he had graduated with an MSc degree in agriculture and development at the University of Reading in the UK, he returned to work at Vine House Farm to save money for a commercial farm in Ghana. With passion and by leveraging human and social capital, Asiamah started this commercial farm in March 2014 – at the age of 25.

How did the company grow into the business it is today?

With Agro Mindset, Asiamah is running the farm based on ethical principles, producing poultry and quality assured organic foods. Within the first three years of operations they have produced and sold some seven million eggs. They also have a vibrant agricultural education programme and offer logistics services to farmers to effect links to markets. Through their network, new farmers and existing smallholders who have incomplete, ineffective and inequitable market access, are enabled to reduce their costs of operation and enhance productivity. So far, over 32,000 youths have benefited from their campaigns.

Agro Mindset is currently investing its time, resources and energy in the development of three new divisions: a logistics division focusing on market facilitation via input procurement, supply distribution modelling and license/franchise opportunities; an academy division focused on free agricultural education via technology platforms; and a fellowship division focused on developing a network of entrepreneurs, amongst others.

“Our future outlook is to adopt more innovative, cutting-edge technologies to produce animal feed, manage waste, and construct solar power plants,” says Asiamah, who has already won several awards including the African Achiever Awards for Agricultural Excellence, the Future Awards for Agriculture, and Ghama UK Based Achievements (GUBA) award for recognition of innovation and best practice in corporate sustainability.

Surely it couldn’t have been that easy. He must have faced some challenges?

“Building a startup is hard,” Asiamah reveals. “Initially no one believes in you.”

Financing the entire project, along with bio-security, were huge initial problems. Inflation also caused serious drawbacks, and this affected Asiamah’s ability to purchase much needed inputs. Land tenure systems and ownership problems are real too.

“Some of the challenges emerging economies like Ghana are grappling with are not peculiar to us. Africa does not have a monopoly on crisis. And, of course, the West also does not have a monopoly on solutions.” He believes the solution to the 12.6% of global youth unemployment is entrepreneurship.

Nevertheless, Asiamah has big plans for Agro Mindset and for Ghana.

He says about 60% of the country’s population is engaged in some form of agricultural activity and he hopes to establish Ghana’s first agriculture focused research-based policy think-tank.

Asiamah says a high level of engagement with the government is necessary if Agro Mindset wants to reach its objectives of influencing job creation, post-graduate employment prospects and overall involvement of the youth in agriculture. But for Agro Mindset to reach these objectives, the government needs to create and maintain an enabling environment.

Asiamah believes that transformation of traditional agriculture in Africa into a highly profitable enterprise will depend on education, policy, equity investment, commodities markets, future markets, innovation, farmer-friendly financial instruments, revolving lines of credit, big data and communication.

“Food will be the new gold in Africa over the next few decades,” Asiamah projects. “This continent will dance to a new rhythm. Not because someone keeps trying to teach a new dance – but because one or two people dance to their own rhythm and eventually their music will be the beat that people dance to.”

Anything we can learn from his experiences?

Asiamah believes our abilities are moulded through service. Service, he says, produces the “will do” spirit and not just the “can do” spirit.

For entrepreneurs looking to work in the agricultural sector, Asiamah says preparation is everything. There is so much uncertainty in agriculture, such as the weather and politics. “It takes persistence to achieve anything in agriculture,” he says.