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On March 25, 2024, Greenport Nigeria in Ogun State became the epicenter of agricultural innovation and collaboration with the launch of the first ever HortiFair. Spearheaded by the HortiNigeria program, this event brought together a distinguished assembly of over 70 participants, including representatives of the Netherlands Consulate and Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Nigeria, delegates from the Dutch-funded Collaborative Seed Program, leaders of top Dutch agricultural companies, and the vibrant HortiNigeria team. The event was further enriched by the presence of HortiNigeria’s business champions and partners and officials from the Nigeria Export Processing and Zones Authority (NEPZA) and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council

Designed as a platform for establishing business-to-business linkages, the HortiFair aimed to connect Nigerian micro, small, and medium enterprises, such as Farm Help Agro-Stores, and lead firms, such as Candel, a Nigerian agrochemical company, with 11 of the Netherlands’ most innovative agribusinesses. Business champions and partners came from HortiNigeria’s intervention areas of Kaduna, Kano, Ogun, Oyo, and Lagos.

A representative from Bakker Brothers speaks with a representative from Candel during the speed networking session.

The event began with inspiring opening remarks from Inge Tenniglo, Agricultural Counsellor for Ghana and Nigeria, who set a collaborative and forward-looking tone for the gathering. In her opening remarks, Inge Tenniglo emphasized the importance of collaboration and knowledge exchange in shaping the future of agriculture. She welcomed participants to embrace the opportunity for mutual learning and partnership building, underscoring the shared commitment to sustainable agriculture and food security. 

Highlighting the fair’s crucial role, HortiNigeria Program Director, Mohammed Salasi Idris, noted its effectiveness in fostering face-to-face communications, pivotal for nurturing fruitful partnerships and investments that promise to drive significant transformation within the horticulture subsector. In preparation for this high-stakes interaction, a two-day bootcamp was conducted in collaboration with Welcome to Africa. This session prepared Nigerian business partners with essential pitching skills, enabling them to refine their approaches and glean constructive feedback. This effort aimed to ensure these businesses could engage with the Dutch contingent with confidence and clarity. 

“It is inspiring to think bigger and do more, not just for my business but for the broader agribusiness ecosystem, enhancing the livelihoods of many, especially farmers.” 

Hajia Amina, CEO of Mix-Condiment Limited
Oluwadamilola Awe, Executive Director of DDEE Farms (center), receives a recognition award from Inge Tenniglo, Dutch Agricultural Counsellor for Ghana and Nigeria (left), and Salasi Mohammed Idris, Program Director of HortiNigeria (right).

Echoing the sentiments of many participants, Rejoice Usim, CEO of Simkay, shared, “I have participated in numerous pitching events, but the insightful feedback from the Welcome to Africa team has spurred me to refine my business strategy. It has prompted me to think strategically about how to segment the messaging about my business to effectively communicate our vision and potential for investment and partnerships.” 

The fair showcased a plethora of products from various companies, including vegetable seedlings from East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer, Smiley’z tomato paste, and EcoTutu’s innovative cooling solutions, among others. 

Event highlights included a tour of the recently inaugurated Greenport Nigeria Impact Cluster Facility, a networking session fostering dynamic interactions between Dutch and Nigerian companies, and a presentation of awards to all HortiNigeria business champions and partners recognizing their contributions to horticultural development. A visit to the avant-garde Soilless Farm Lab provided delegates with insights into the latest agricultural practices and technologies. 

A HortiFair participant visits one of HortiNigeria’s exhibition stands displaying seedlings.

Reflecting on the event, Hajia Amina, CEO of Mix-Condiment Limited, a processing plant in Kano, shared, “The dialogue with Dutch companies and other sector actors has been enlightening. The discussions and tours reveal the vast possibilities and opportunities within the industry.”

Feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive, with representatives from Bakker Brothers and East-West Seed and the CEOs of Beta Agric and Tecni Seeds Limited lauding the opportunities for growth, innovation, and partnership that the HortiFair facilitated. These interactions were not only engaging but also deeply constructive, laying the groundwork for strengthening existing partnerships and forging new ones. 

Hadiza Yaro, Country Manager for East-West Seed, remarked on the significance of the event, noting, “Interacting with businesses we have had long-standing relationships with and forging new ones was incredibly valuable. We discussed successes, challenges, and avenues for improvement, making the dialogue both interactive and meaningful.” 

HortNigeria Business Champions showcase their recognition awards.

Seun Bamidele, CEO of Welcome to Africa, acknowledged the event’s role in initiating meaningful collaborations, promising ongoing support for the budding interactions between Nigerian businesses and Dutch companies. 

Concluding the event, Ivo Demmers, Executive Director of Netherlands Food Partnership, extended a vote of thanks, affirming HortiFair’s role in setting a new benchmark for future horticultural trade fairs. He celebrated the event’s capacity to demonstrate the transformative impact of shared knowledge, technology, and innovative practices in food security and agricultural development, paving the way for future Dutch-Nigerian collaboration in agribusiness. 

The HortiNigeria program (2021-2025), funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) in Nigeria, aims to facilitate the development of a sustainable and inclusive horticulture sector that contributes to food and nutrition security in Nigeria. The program is led by IFDC and implemented together with East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer (EWS-KT)Wageningen University and Research (WUR), and KIT Royal Tropical Institute.