Gbenga Akinyemi got attracted to a little known business in Nigeria – growing and selling bell apples. Bell apples in themselves are little know fruits in Nigeria, in fact, according to him, they were first discovered in Nigeria in 2005 and. The owner of Bell Apple Wealth Ventures, founded in 2010, considers himself a millionaire from profits in this business, prompting him to say in a recent interview prior to this one with RUTH OLUROUNBI, he said that: “I started with a tree in my family house at Okota. My aunt, now based in the United Kingdom, planted it. From that singular tree, I began to sell the fruits and make cool cash.” Below are the excerpts from the conversation between the agripreneur and Entrepreneurship+.
You seem to have been in the bell apple business for a while. How long exactly have you been working in this field?
I started in 2008, beginning with a pioneering work on the business and investment concept. Take note, as a pioneering work, that is starting from the scratch. The journey has been has been wonderful and humbling.
How much is needed as capital (in terms of resources) to start this kind of business?
For production of 100 seedlings for three months, you will need N20,000.00 at N100.00 per seed. For plantation, you need about N150,000 to N200,000 for purchase of 160 seedlings per acre, excluding planting, manuring, lease/purchase of land.
Is there even a ready market for it?
There is a ready market for the apples, seedlings, seeds, pre-germinated seeds etc. Eight years now, the core issue is how many people know that it even exists? The awareness is still very low globally, even in its native country, Malaysia. Presently, a customer is on my neck to supply her 10,000 bell apples week, but where do l get that quantity for now. It is a signal to the amazing readiness of the market for this amazing tropical apple variety.
What are the revenue and profit potential in this kind of business?
For both the seedling production and plantation, you are assured of over 100 per cent return on investment after six months and three years respectively.
How long does it take before one starts to reap the benefits?
For the seedling production, you start to reap benefits from three months or 12weeks, while the plantation, the benefits start coming in from the third year after planting.
What are the risks involved?
For now, birds and bats attack on the fruits. Also, inadequate rainfall will affect the size of the fruit production and theft of the fruits by man because it is amazingly attractive when fully mature and ripe.
How does someone mitigate these risks?
You can use nets for the birds and adequate security against theft by man.
What other business opportunities are there in this bell apple business and how can someone leverage on it?
Some other business opportunities include processing into valuable products like wine, juice, jam, marmalade, cider, etc and information marketing such as seminars, lectures, production of videos, etc.
Apart from Lagos and Ogun states where your farms are, where else can these apples be cultivated in Nigeria?
All the states in Nigeria, except core northern states like Borno and Sokoto.
What does someone going into this kind of business need to know before starting?
Aside one on one education, for short term, it is seedlings production, for mid-term, it is plantation and for long term, it is processing/value chain.
I see you have researched this field extensively. As you know, the apples begin to rot after three days in an open atmosphere, but refrigeration preserves it up to two weeks or so. Is there a business opportunity here for those interested in preservation?
There is business opportunity for those in interested in preservation. I was in a country recently with some white apple farmers and they were amazed on seeing bell apples. We discussed on preservation among other issues concerning bell apple farming as a whole. To be candid, a revolution has started concerning this amazing tropical apple variety ‘bell apple ‘ and the good news is that Nigeria would definitely be known as the Pioneer nation. I have researched online and little or no work has been done on it even by fruit scientists globally.
I learnt that juices and concentrates could be made from bell apples too. How truth is this?
It is for real. Virtually juices and concentrates could be made from fruits. We are currently working on producing concentrate from bell apples. It is possible.
Would you consider yourself a millionaire?
I consider myself more than a millionaire as regards the amazing money making potential in this relatively new fruit farming business and investment concept. For instance, 300 people paying a seminar fee of N5,000.00 each will give over one million naira within three hours. One thousand seedlings at N1,500 will give you over one million naira in four to five months. And what’s more, the more l keep probing into this concept, the more these discoveries I make.