Uka Eje of Thrive Agric

This issue has since been resolved. Read the concluding part here.

It’s no news that the Uka Eje and Ayodeji Arikawe founded startup, Thrive Agric, just put another nail in their coffin. If you haven’t read the first part in this series, please click here.

Since my first article on the Y combinator backed startup, founded by the duo, Uka Eje and Ayodeji Arikawe, Thrive Agric had tried severally to contact me via phone but I declined their request as some investors and I requested that an official statement be made.

Chat with Charles Isidi of Thrive Agric
Chat with Charles Isidi of Thrive Agric (contd.)
Chat with Charles Isidi of Thrive Agric (contd.)
Chat with Charles Isidi of Thrive Agric (contd.)

This official statement was promised severally (for the last 6 months) with Thrive Agric failing to keep their words at every opportunity.

The last email from Faith Ogarabe of Thrive Agric, promising (yet again) an official statement by the 25th of September 2020 which of course didn’t happen like all other prior promises.

It seemed that Thrive Agric was stalling. For what? Well, the answer came today being the 29th of September 2020. Finally, Thrive Agric and its founders decided to speak to us mere mortals.

Around 7:15pm Nigerian time, I received three similar emails from Thrive Agric in quick succession. Content of the last email can be seen below

The horrendous email from Thrive Agric’s CEO, Uka Eje

In one fell swoop, Thrive Agric, founded by Uka Eje and Ayodeji Arikawe, proved that they were nothing short of a joke and a taint on all well-meaning startups in the agricultural space in Nigeria. And here is why.

Their Intro

Let me start with an apology for not proactively communicating the challenges the business, my team, and I have faced over the last 6 months.

Thrive Agric and its founders kept people in the dark for 6 months, owing people as far back as March without as much as a peep from them in the form of communication, leaving many people stuck in limbo.

The Pandemic comes in handy as the fall guy

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent movement restrictions in Nigeria and neighboring countries, greatly hampered business operations that generate the returns on your farm subscription:

Note how they didn’t state which farm subscription this pertains to. Is it my chicken farm that was due by September 20th, months after the Nigerian Government eased the lockdown all over the country or is it my rice farm that matures from October 7th and extends down to December of this year?

Border restrictions restricted the availability of farming inputs (feed, fertilizers, and agrochemicals).

Here are the updates on my chicken and rice farms as at 30th August, 2020

Those chickens sure do look emaciated
That cheer right there must have been Uka Eje crying over the unsuccessful rice farm

How did my chicken get to full weight without any feed or how did my rice farms reach flowering stage without any fertilizers as Thrive Agric will like me to believe? These claims by them mean only 2 things:

  1. It’s either the excuse of feed and fertilizer is just that, an excuse for Thrive Agric not to pay me what I am due. Hence, why I am calling them out.
  2. Or there were really no feed or fertilizers (which I doubt as there were actually some preferential payments made out by them to some investors) and Thrive Agric was putting up fake updates on their website on the status of those farms.

Whichever way you slice it, it’s really scary the extent to which Thrive Agric and its founders, Uka Eje and Ayodeji Arikawe, were willing to go.

Due to isolation and the restricted movement, we could not physically reach the farmers to give them much needed farm inputs at the right time, which leads to crop failure

This is a blatant lie as room was given for agricultural produce and paraphernalia across borders in Nigeria during the lockdown. Expressly issued by the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, the actual quote is

Prohibition of interstate travel, except for essential travels and services such as transportation of agricultural products, petroleum products, relief items, goods/commodities related to COVID-19 response, and persons on essential duty.

Easing of the lockdown started close to 5 months ago

Besides that, several other agritech startups (some even less established than Thrive Agric) paid even right in the middle of March/April/May and are still paying as we speak.

On the issue of crop failure, is it like the one shown below (taken from their website update) or was that a photoshopped farm of really healthy-looking matured rice crops?

Good rice produce, ready to be harvested. Yet, Thrive Agric wants me to believe that the rice crops all died

The Elusive Off-takers

We have also put repayment plans with our off-takers (buyers of our harvested produce) that owe the business and expect those funds to start coming back in.

Aha, the infamous off-takers. I was wondering when we would get to them.

Isn’t it strange how that lie of an excuse made its way all the way to the bottom here and not at the top where we thought Thrive Agric would have put it?

Prior to this statement being released, Thrive Agric told all and sundry over the phone and chats that there were no issues. Its issue was primarily off-takers who have refused to pay promptly.

Remember that chat with Faith Ogarabe of Thrive Agric? Apparently, the story of off-takers is getting old. So, off-takers went from a major reason to been upturned by COVID-19?

Their Proposal

As operations pick up, so will payments. Payouts will be made in order of the maturity dates of your original farm subscription, but no more than 24 months in arrears. We say 24 months because it will take two full farming seasons for the business to fully recover and we prefer to make a promise we can confidently keep.

So, Thrive Agric seriously wants to pay me back a 6-month investment in 2 years. If that doesn’t spell disaster, I don’t know what does. If they think I can trust them for a minute let alone 24 months, I don’t know how delusional that is.

However, in recognition of the delay on our part, we will apply additional interest to your subscription. The rate will be communicated via e-mail, in the next 10 working days.

Obviously, I am not interested in any additional time or interest. I want my payment today for the overdue investment and future payouts when they are due.

Dear Uka Eje, you can’t in the middle of an agreement, renege on your part of the deal and try to foist your ill-advised proposed solution on people.

And people think that Nigerian politicians are the worst. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Thrive Agric and its founders, Uka Eje and Ayodeji Arikawe.

Thrive Agric is yet to pay me a dime. And until they do, I will keep on updating this series. Look forward to the next update soon.

You can add your voice to the Twitter hashtag #ThriveAgricPayYour Investors.

Uka Eje (Left) and Ayodeji Arikawe (Right)

If you have been a victim of Thrive Agric, founded by Uka Eje and Ayodeji Arikawe, please leave a comment below telling us your experience.

This article is part of a series.

For Part 1, read it here.

For Part 3, read it here.

For Part 4, read it here.

For Part 5, read it here.

For Part 6, read it here.

This issue has since been resolved. Read the concluding part here.




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