Speakers from agribusiness incubators in the US said that business incubation is one way to deliver on key areas of action in the World Bank Group’s Agriculture Action Plan (FY2010-2012). Done right, agribusiness incubators can help local communities to raise agricultural productivity, link farmers to markets, reduce crop risks and vulnerabilities, and enhance environmental sustainability.
David Monkman, President and CEO of the National Business Incubation Association of the United States offered his perspective on how business incubation can spur good, sustainable jobs and growth anywhere in the world. Although the US is a rich country overall, business incubation is used to grow jobs in areas or sectors that need development. Some facts about the American experience:
- For every $1 of public investment in an incubator, local tax revenues of $30 were created
- 84% of graduated companies stayed in the community they started in
- 87% of incubator graduates stay in business
In the US, ‘cluster incubators’ that focus on a sector such as agribusiness, construction, or energy are growing. David Monkman gave his perspective on lessons for developing countries:
- New incubators must be tailored to the needs of local communities
- More government funding is needed to support incubators – and this investment pays off well
- Getting large, local corporations on board drives success
Lou Cooperhouse, Director of the Rutgers Food Innovation Center at the State University of New Jersey, described his organization’s work. The Rutgers Food Innovation Center works to promote a viable and prosperous food processing and agriculture base in New Jersey that can be recognized as a global model for regional economic development. The center was set up in 2001, in an economically depressed county that had the lowest per capita income in the state of New Jersey. The center aimed to address the need in New Jersey for information for agribusiness entrepreneurs on business planning, market research, access to finance, food safety, product development, marketing and sales. Its target customers are:
- Farmers and cooperatives
- Start-up and established food companies
- Shops and restaurants
The Rutgers Food Innovation Center has full facilities for testing and processing beverages, hot processing of foods like soups and jams, bakery, farm produce, cold packaging and freezing. In 2007, the Rutgers Food Innovation Center was awarded “Incubator of the Year” in its category by the NBIA.
Lou Cooperhouse consulted on a feasibility study for Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, based upon the best practices that he designed and implemented at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center. Makerere’s study objectives included how agribusiness incubation can help alleviate poverty, enhance nutrition and be a catalyst for transferring knowledge from the various schools and programs at this university to the private sector throughout Uganda. Lou described the Japanese ‘One Village, One Product’ model as one way for people to produce marketable goods from local materials and expertise, and bring sustainable income to communities.
Lou Cooperhouse, Director, Rutgers Food Innovation Center