At the 4th infoDev Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship, a global community of nearly 80 agribusiness practitioners met to find ways to overcome agricultural challenges by using agribusiness entrepreneurship. Participants included entrepreneurs striving to form profitable companies, financiers looking for the next breakthrough idea, and policymakers hoping to create conditions that enable increased productivity and competitiveness in their agricultural sectors.
The centerpiece of the Global Forum’s agribusiness track was a full-day “deep dive” session that opened with a plenary discussion on the journey of agribusiness entrepreneurs and ended with a highly interactive, audience led collaboration session.
Riikka Rajalahti of the World Bank’s Agriculture and Rural Development unit opened the day by emphasizing how entrepreneurs have a key role to play in an agricultural innovation ecosystem, From this, the discussion turned to two entrepreneurs, Jamila Abass of M-Farm Ltd. (Kenya) and Mr. C S Jadhav of Nandan Biomatrix Limited (India), who emphasized their efforts to work directly with farmers and aggregate supply in a timely and accurate manner.
But start-ups and SMEs cannot succeed alone. Ganesh Kishore, the CEO of the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund, explained how his firm sought global partnerships to access technology and financing to create world-class agribusinesses. Dr. Kishore demonstrated that with roots firmly in both Malaysia and the United States, MLSCF was able to combine the advantages of both countries. Within a given country, too, it is important to form linkages that enhance individual capabilities; to this end, Ibrahima Wade of the Senegalese government presented his efforts to build clusters of strategically selected industries.
Following this opening panel, the focus turned to the audience which formed groups of ten to design hypothetical agribusiness interventions that would overcome barriers that the participants had encountered in their countries. In one group, a former incubator manager from Nepal found that his troubles – low value-add, limited post-harvest processing power, poor infrastructure – closely mirrored that of a Nigerian food supplier. Working with participants from Panama, Pakistan, Italy and Mexico, they outlined a distributed method of processing food locally, thus accruing more value to farmer collectives and lessening the need to get fresh food to market immediately.
This exercise was complemented by the presentation of a rigorous global study of agribusiness incubators commissioned by infoDev. The study examined global good practices in agribusiness incubation, finding that models differed widely due to crop selection, capital availability, and partner organizations.
Each groups' solutions were presented by participants in a fast-paced closing session. Ideas ranged from partnering with government and research organizations to creating awareness, especially in youth populations. The workshop was extremely motivating and underlined the need to find collaborative models that link the entire agricultural value-chain.