As part of the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation’s commitment to strengthen Sierra Leone’s tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem and ongoing partnership with the UNDP Accelerator Lab, a team of technical specialists from DSTI, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Njala and Limkokwing Universities joined the UNDP Accelerator Lab to launch a two- day collective deep-dive mission into proposed agricultural innovations.  

The mission’s objective was to bring together a unique mix of technical experts to thoroughly examine the presented solutions developed by young innovators. Drawn from their wealth of experience in diverse related fields of study, ranging from Agriculture and Agro-tech to design thinking and entrepreneurship, they set about to collectively design two solution-fit experiments. Identify required data to be collected and outline possible result measurement indicators guided by the UNDP Accelerator Lab Experimentation Tool Kit. 

To give insight and set the stage for the two-day Collective Intelligence session, a detailed presentation about the UNDP Accelerator Lab was delivered by the UNDP Team followed by a brief video summarizing the impact and achievements made within the 18 months of the Lab’s existence.  The strategic role that the Accelerator Lab Team plays within the Innovation and Digitization ecosystem were further amplified by subsequent presenters who cited the groundbreaking influences these experiments will bring about.  

The first solution that was examined on day 1 was, Deep Water Culture Hydroponics. 

Hydroponics is a type of horticulture that involves cultivating crops without soil using mineral nutrients in an aqueous solution. Samuel Miatta, a young innovator from Bo who from a university lecture became keen in understanding hydroponics agriculture.  Samuel plans to revolutionise and restore urban farming using greenhouses to provide a year-round supply of some seasonal fruits and vegetables to enhance daily dietary needs and meet the needs of a competitive market and consumer demands. He presented a prototype of an enclosed soilless unit where cucumber is currently being cultivated.   

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He further expressed that, “having such collaborative and interactive space for constructive feedback to be provided by industry experts motivates me to continue pursuing my passion for innovative solutions in the agricultural sector.” 

The next solution that was examined on day 2 was a locally built poultry hatchery, presented by another young and promising innovator, Martin Dainbaquee from Kono District. Statistics shows that 85% of local poultry farmers import day-old chicks because there is no known functioning hatchery in-country. This situation was made worse by the C19 pandemic travel restrictions, as a result most poultry farmers ran out of stock significant decline in the local production of eggs.  

Faced with this challenge Martin and his friends decided to design and build a prototype of the unit that was presented to the panel. Main features of the hatchery are incubator loading tray, temperature and humidity controllers, auto-regulated egg turning switch, egg testing and brooding areas.  

Martin envisions that in the long run, his team can start manufacturing low-cost eco-friendly Hatchery Units to reduce the cost local farmers incur to import day-old chicks.  

This Agriculture deep dive forms part of a string of similar sessions to be held in Energy, Water Management and Hygiene planned for 2021, as the UNDP Accelerator Lab team continues to expand the Country Office portfolio of experiments. The hydroponics and hatchery experiments will start in July 2021, and we hope to learn more about the outcomes of each experiment and share this knowledge with a wider national and international audience. From the learnings, the solutions can either be recommended for growth investments or redesigned depending on the outcome. 

In the coming years, Sierra Leone stands to reap the rewards from radical but result-based innovation currently being invested in across the spectrum. Hence why the UNDP Accelerator Lab continues to identify and support local solutions and innovators, while promoting strategic partnerships, with the aim of developing a conducive ecosystem. The accelerator lab plans to continue to develop initiatives where state and non-state actors flourish in their respective spheres of influence, while contributing towards attaining collective national socio-economic objectives.