Agripreneur Shows How Bell Apple Farming Generates Wealth
Multi-Million, Low Gestation Business Beckons
BELL Apple. Here comes another species, which happens to grow quite well in the humid tropical climate as we have in parts of Nigeria, different from that in the Mediterranean type that favours the ‘usual’ apple.
It is now grown locally, with huge potential of ringing the sound of money for persevering and focused perennial crop farmers, who could plug into more than two streams of harvest every year. Farmers, who plan to locate in places like the South South states of Edo, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa Rivers and Cross River among others are assured of optimum growing conditions.
Only last week, pioneer Bell Apple farmer and Apple Wealth Ventures chief executive, Gbenga Akinyemi did some harvest from his Mowe area vineyard, also a confirmation that farmers in that part of the country could utilize the soil, informed that another major harvest would come mid-December. As planned, part of the market that benefitted from the sales and nutritional benefits were some of the participants of the regular Holy Ghost service of a leading church that holds in that part of Ogun State.
At selling price of N50 for small, N100 big and N150 extra-large, Akinyemi said one phase of harvest from a single tree that produces as much as a thousand apples could rake in rewarding income.
Extrapolating from averages of N100 per apple per tree of 500 fruits, two harvest streams from 160 trees (in an acre of farmland) would come to an income of N8million per year.
But the crop production graduate of Federal College of Agriculture, Akure, Ondo State said a tree could yield as much as 1,000 apples per harvest and has a possibility of four harvest times in a year.
In addition, making money from Bell Apple, according to him, starts from the nursery, where the seed could be obtained at N100 each and the nurtured seedlings attract about N650 per stand.
Taking on the business of Bell Apple for Akinyemi was like fate waiting in the wings; more of miracle in the house. A Bell apple tree was planted by a family member in the compound in Lagos, where they lived, but it did not register as something significant, until much later.
Rather than plant his own at the time, he engaged the business from the market end of it, selling the ripe fruits to make money for himself, he recounted. Today, however, he has put together the entire value chain of the crop and for more than seven years now, it has become a platform not only to grow more and make money, but also train others.
Comparatively, he revealed that the Bell Apple tree is bigger than local apple, but nutritionally, it is not inferior to the imported one. He added that its medicinal value is well established in the annals of scientific researches aside its alluring attractiveness.
A fallout of Bell Apple value chain is the planting material resource and human capital development in which he has been engaged. Not only does he supply seedlings and seed, potential farmers and interested individuals receive hands-on training and technical advice as they plan to start up.
Part of the pioneering effort is to popularise the produce. Akinyemi found that demand is increasing and not being able to meet up; he has continued to expand and encourage more people into the trade.
According to him, income comes from selling seeds, bell apple seedling raised from the nursery and mature and ripen apples. Carving a niche in raising and selling seedlings only have the capacity of very good return on investment in a few months, he said.
Akinyemi, a former Science teacher at a school in Isolo, Lagos said one should show deep interest and be trained to understand the business and make the most of it.
A N20,000 start-up seed, he says can launch one into the Bell apple seedling production side of the farm business. In this small-scale level, N10,000 could be invested in purchasing 100 seeds at the cost of N100 per seed for planting in the nursery. The balance N10,000 will be deployed to secure containers or nursery poly bags and other incidental expenses while germinating the seeds. Though, starting with less than the initial capital is possible, bringing the seedlings to 100 would make better economic sense at the end of the day, he stated.
In about two months, the seeds are well on their way being raised as seedlings and returns from sales would show the profitability even at this level.
He advised that good seeds can be procured from agricultural institutes or those who have already started producing or known companies with track record of seed production.
“Your major cost of running the bell apple seedling business is the cost of purchasing the seeds and containers, among other little things, such as watering can.
“Bell apple seedlings are ready for sale after 10 weeks of planting and can be sold for N750 each. The profit margin is quite outstanding, considering the total investment up till this point. If you increase the number of seeds planted, the income generated will be more, even within the 10 weeks period,” he said.
However, he quickly adds that for the main growing of the bell apple tree, at least there is a three-year period for the seed to grow to a tree and begin to produce fruits. About 1,000 fruits per harvest per tree and a minimum of two harvests in a year are expected.
The demand is on the increase, hence the need for more investors and farmers to plant millions of seeds. The apple could be processed for its juice, turned to jam, marmalade and other processed variants, aside the consumption as fresh fruit.
There is a ready-made market for bell apple seedlings, as there are a few bell apple trees in Nigeria, at present, and there are high demands for the seedlings by big agricultural firms and fruit processors.
In breaking down the entire business in summary, Bell Apple farming investment layout is as follows:
seedling production : seed is N100 each; Duration: two and half months at the minimum, especially the nursery stage for which there is training.
plantation/farm, using an acre, which is equivalent to six plots of land would require 160 seedlings per acre. At 5m x 5m spacing, the planting material would cost about N150,000. This would require close consultation at least for a year as part of nurturing the plants during the three-year gestation period.
After a period of three years, the time for flowering and fruiting commences, which would be the start of two harvests per tree per annum. Harvests of four times a year, not more than that, have been recorded.
On the challenges facing producers like preservation of fresh apples and seeds, Akinyemi called for special grants and funding to do more research in the relatively new area, and procure processing equipment to reduce waste. Pioneering, ha said requires a lot of support and encouragement especially, a job opportunity creator like Bell Apple.