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There is fertile ground for an AgTech ecosystem in the region

Oct 19, 2017

We recently visited the Ingenio incubator, where we met with Julián, Emilio and Pablo, two engineers and a veterinarian who founded "Sistema Mu", a system that monitors cattle reproduction through electronic devices that are implanted in bulls and cows. They collect information in real time that allow producers to improve how they manage cattle reproduction cycles, making their processes more efficient.

Mu Systems is a clear example of a new wave of technological innovation that is emerging in the rural world, called AgTech.

Known by many as the "Second Green Revolution", AgTech's innovations arise from the convergence of several areas of technological innovation (such as biotechnology, life sciences, information technology, Internet of Things, among others), to provide solutions that ensure sustainable productivity growth.

A common denominator within AgTech is the drive to digitize agriculture. After the mechanical and chemical revolution of 20th century, the digital revolution of the 21st century has clearly arrived. With the support of drones and satellite imagery it is possible to do aerial monitoring of soil health and plantations, the use of sensors facilitates crop monitoring, and electronic chips help to prevent disease in farm animals. And these various technological developments provide useful data to support farmers' decision-making.

Another trend is the use of new biotechnology knowledge for more natural products, such as antibodies that protect crops from diseases, and new proteins that improve their nutritional performance.

Startups using new AgTech technologies are emerging in Latin America and the Caribbean and generally have a strong entrepreneurial profile: more than 60% of companies are less than 5 years old.

Likewise, global corporations in the agribusiness sector are pursuing corporate venturing activities, such as investing in incubation or acceleration programs or in specific collaboration initiatives with startups. The recent acquisition of Monsanto's agricultural data company Climate Corp exemplifies the synergies happening between large corporations and startups in this space.

However, entrepreneurs such as Julián, Emilio and Pablo need support and tools to achieve successful development and adoption of new technologies. The success of AgTech in Latin America will depend to a large extent on an innovative ecosystem that enhances the opportunities offered by the region.

Among them, the role of research institutes and higher education becomes critical. A relevant part of technological innovation comes from academia and research. The possibility of having the support of public agencies that support innovation, as well as incubators and accelerators are key for the creation and growth of these ventures.

Another fundamental pillar is access to financing. Despite an increase in the amount of financing for AgTech startups, it is still insufficient for many entrepreneurs in the region, particularly for early-stage ventures.

On the production side, while agricultural producers are open to these kinds of innovations, coordination efforts and public-private investment are still needed to support their adoption.

The region faces a historic opportunity to achieve sustainable agriculture growth. AgTech provides solutions to address many of the challenges facing the sector, while also having the potential to generate more investment, quality jobs, and trade in one of the sectors with the greatest social and economic impact. Through its role as an innovation laboratory, the MIF leads projects that strengthen the AgTech innovation ecosystem.

This October 31st at the Foromic in Buenos Aires we will be answering some of the following questions: Why are AgTech solutions revolutionizing the world of agriculture? How can these projects access financing? How can these startups be scaled? How can small and medium producers participate in this new wave of innovation? And, how are the FinTech and AgTech worlds linked?

«March 2018»

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