Takeaways from YY Social: How digital disruption is transforming Bangladesh’s Agriculture

YY Goshti hosted the ‘YY Social: Disrupting Agriculture’ in partnership with EMK Center on April 26,2018 in Dhaka. The event explored whether digital technologies will enable the third agricultural revolution and bring about the next big productivity gain, and how to catalyze this revolution in Bangladesh. The interactive event took place on April 26, 2018 in EMK Centre, Dhaka which brought together agribusiness leaders, entrepreneurs, civil society advocates, researchers and investors to gauge the scale of the task and work out how best to lead and encourage co-operation on the path to progress in agriculture utilizing the power of technology. The smartest minds at the intersection of technology and agriculture converged at the YY Socials ‘ Disrupting Agriculture’ to tackle critical challenges and showcase the latest innovations for farmers, investors and stakeholders of Bangladesh’s agricultural systems. This event brought insights and innovation from the best in the field. From biotech to precision farming, to big data’s role in feeding a population of 160 billion, our prominent speakers have explored the topics at the heart of technology, entrepreneurialism and agriculture.

Here are top 5 takeaways from ‘YY Social: Disrupting Agriculture’:

  1. Digital disruption creates limitless opportunities

Digital technologies can provide value to farmers at two levels. Through on-farm connectivity, farmers can monitor the status of equipment, livestock, and water levels. Then, as the farm is connected to the outside world, farmers can access advisors, markets, climate information, and best practices. It was really exciting to see what the future of Australian agriculture can look like. Multiple speakers went beyond buzzwords like Big Data, IoT, and Machine Learning to explain specific use cases where technology can deliver value to farmers. In particular, Tafsir M Awal, Director, Multimode Group showed some pretty compelling videos of transforming farming operations.

Other speakers highlighted current and potential applications, such as:
• on-farm 3D printing for cheap, quick access to maintenance equipment
• ability to stream “how to” videos or video conference with a trusted advisor
• real-time decision support, like taking a photo of a struggling plant, uploading it with some diagnostic information, and quickly receiving an analysis that suggests potential causes and optimal next steps
• unlocking funding sources by leveraging on-farm data to provide transparency about working capital resources.

  1. Long way to go in reaping the benefits to everyone

Despite the huge potential, thus far the digital revolution has over promised and under delivered for Bangladesh’s farmers. Huge technological challenges remain unsolved, such as interoperability –enabling hardware devices and software platforms across providers to work with one another — infrastructure, and connectivity.  The concept of on-farm real time decision support seems like a science fiction movie when touted problems such as call drop. Prominent telecommunication companies of country has introduced agricultural value-added service (Agri VAS)  different services related to cultivation together in order to aid the farmers to find all the relevant information. One such service is not the only source of information for most users, 66% of users reported their mobile as one of the two main sources of information leading them to make changes in their practices, compared to 42% of non-users. Digital technologies show promise, but we have a long way to go to realize their full potential.

  1. Data ownership and privacy concerns abound

Trust in technology remains a huge issue and barrier to adoption. This is increasingly important in a world where more data is produced and used in new and unforeseen ways. There is widespread agreement that farmers should own their own data. The issue may be subtler, requiring language that is more specific and transparent. However, it’s not yet clear how to best manage who has control of the data, what can be done with them, and how to distribute the value.

  1. Adoption of disruptive technologies itself requires innovative approaches

Organizational and societal changes are also necessary. For example, an innovation ecosystem that incentivizes Bangladeshi AgTech entrepreneurs is necessary. Bangladesh lacks both commercialization pathways out of universities, as well as opportunities for early-stage businesses to attract capital. Business model innovation is also necessary; even the best technologies need paying customers to become sustainable businesses. Solutions developed for the Bangladesh context will be critical, as successful businesses in other countries cannot easily apply their technologies to Bangladeshi agriculture — corn or wheat are subsidiary crop in Bangladesh, for example contrast to American or EU market.

Increasing adoption of digital technologies will also require innovative approaches. Farmers are not clear on the value proposition of many of these technologies, and don’t feel that they are addressing real problems. Including, but evolving, the role of the trusted advisor — such as an agronomist — may be one solution. Farmers are more likely to trust innovations that augment expertise, rather than replace it. Including farmers in an iterative development process can also help increase adoption.

  1. Public discourse has to evolve in disrupting agriculture

Bangladesh needs to prepare the next generation of farmers, agronomists, and Agtech entrepreneurs for an agriculture system in which digital technologies are ubiquitous. Academicians should collaborate on interdisciplinary research with agronomists, producers, technology developers, and entrepreneurs to mirror needs of farmers. Bangladeshi students also need training in foundational skills. Data analysis and software engineering, specifically, as well as a basis in STEM more generally, will be necessary. The agriculture industry will continue to remain critically important for Bangladesh’s economy as it experiences its third revolution. The education system needs to prepare future generations to work effectively with technology, nature, and each other. While media should create awareness among farmers for using disruptive technologies to improve farming practice and yields.

Disrupting Agriculture: Startup Driven Innovation In AgriTech

Farming is no longer a matter of sickle and plows anymore. It has been digitized with the aid of technology enabling farmers to track their crops and animals, sell their farm produce as well as monitor the yield of their crops. (Innovation Village, 2017) New concepts like smart & precision farming, crop efficiency, and vertical farming bring a breath of fresh air to this field, leading to what is called AgriTech or AgTech. Bangladesh is an agrarian economy with growing population, a threat of climate change, and globalized trade need to produce more food using fewer inputs. Bangladeshi agriculture should seek new products, practices, and technologies. Farmers want yield boosts and cost savings where consumers are demanding healthier, clean food and ingredients. Data-driven is causing the disruption to meet these needs.

Farmers can be among the most hidebound of managers, so it is no surprise that they are nervous about a new idea called prescriptive planting, which is set to disrupt their business. In essence, it is a system that tells them with great precision which seeds to plant and how to cultivate them in each patch of land. It could be the biggest change to agriculture in rich countries since genetically modified crops. And it is proving nearly as controversial since it raises profound questions about who owns the information on which the service is based.

It may be noted that AgTech is brewing conflicts that arise when data entrepreneurs meet old-fashioned businessfolk. Farmers have mixed feelings about the technology anyway: although it boosts yields, it reduces the role of discretion and skill in farming—their core competence. However, the bigger problem is that farmers distrust the companies peddling this new method. They fear that the stream of detailed data they are providing on their harvests might be misused. Their commercial secrets could be sold, or leak to rival farmers; the prescriptive-planting firms might even use the data to buy underperforming farms and run them in competition with the farmers; or the companies could use the highly sensitive data on harvests to trade on the commodity markets, to the detriment of farmers who sell into those markets. (The Economist)

Start with the vastly increased supply of information everywhere from the plant genome to water management, fertilization, climate, soil, machinery, and crop protection systems. On the production side, this is changing the value chain in big ag as access to big data is transferring power to the farmer and smaller companies, while the big companies consolidate and struggle to innovate. Disruption will take big ideas, new business models, and bold people. New generations of independent companies are harnessing big data to generate new insights, practices, and products. Traditional Ag companies and supply chains will have to adapt if they want to keep up.

This transparency has the ability to disrupt value chains and will likely be unpopular with some retailers, distributor dealers, and large seed and chemical producers. Information pushes power to the grower level by creating visibility of pricing and performance of brand-name inputs. Growers will be able to use fewer chemicals applied in very precise ways. Using generic inputs with precision may well give better results than using top brands across the field. More precise planting will likely lead to the reduction in the use of inputs by about 30 – 40% which, along with squeezing margins for the big ag inputs companies, could cause further consolidation in the supply chain.

The rate of adoption of new ag-technologies is increasing, despite low commodity prices and sustained low farm incomes. In 2016, AgriTech funding figures dipped to 2.7 billion Euro from 3.8 billion Euro in 2015 reflecting the overall pullback in global venture markets. (Agfunders News, 2016)

As the agricultural industry attracts more investors and big corporations in terms of opportunities it is changing at a rapid pace, leading to a massive transformation compared to how we know it today. Decreased cost, optimized output, and innovative machinery will support farmers in optimizing their operational profits. As the innovation areas we outlined in this breakdown are only a fraction the technologies that will impact the agriculture industry, we have no doubt that AgTech has not reached its peak yet. (Startus Insights, 2017)

The disrupting agriculture is in its early days, and most of the potential for value creation is still unclaimed. But it has set the industry on a path of rapid change and new discoveries; stakeholders that are committed to innovation will likely be the first to reap rewards. We are hoping the big winners in this revolution are the producers, the environment, subsistence and small farmers, and consumers. This is the best time for disruptive acceleration in agriculture innovation, one that can empower new players in the supply chain to participate, benefit and significantly enhance crop performance.

 

Global Social Business Summit 2017 – YY Goshti and Its Takeaways

The 8th Global Social Business Summit 2017 took place in Paris from November 4th – 9th. This edition represented an important step for the social business community as they welcomed new participants with different backgrounds to increase the impact and expand their movement. The GSBS is the worldwide leading forum for social business, non-loss, non-dividend companies with a social goal. It serves to spread awareness about social business, foster discussion and collaboration between practitioners and stakeholders, as well as present and conceives best practices. The annual event is organized by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus and his Creative Advisor Hans Reitz and gathers experts from the private sector, civil society, governments, and academia over a few days of meetings, forums, and workshops. The GSBS is a platform where they can create their own space of inspiration and determination, create new value in the face of generational and structural shifts and leverage far-reaching advances in science and technology for the communities.

 

Every Year a delegation from SBYA Global and YY Goshti attend the GSBS and broaden their outlook on social business, sustainable development goals, Professor Muhammad Yunus’s vision of poverty free world and problem-solving in an effective way. This year for the 8th edition of the GSBS, YY Goshti had a breath-taking experience as all participants discovered new inspiring platforms for problem-solving. This year’s GSBS focused on the global challenges – plastic pollution, food and its value chain, refugee solidarity, culture, education and the role of cities as well as the Olympic Games and the role of health.

GSBS 2017 gathered renowned and inspirational speakers from social businesses, the business world, the political scene, as well as entrepreneurs, scientists, and academics to deliver high-quality content. The GSBS Social Business Young Challengers’ and Young Pioneers’ Meeting took place two days prior to the main event on 4th and 5th November. It is a pre-meeting for students and young professionals up to the age of 35 years to discuss the concept of social business, network and develop own social business ideas. The Young Challengers and Young Pioneers had the opportunity to challenge the experts during GSBS with their questions and comments. The meeting started off with a brief introduction to social business and presentation of successful social business case studies. Shazeeb M Khairul Islam, the CEO of YY Goshti, shared his journey of starting from scratch by building a non-profit organization and ending up establishing a social business incubator for having real-life impact and working with entrepreneurs closely helping them with resources. He also mentioned about how this journey helped him with a better understanding of social business, its importance, and its potential to change people’s lives in different ways. He expressed his firm belief that more and more people should come forward to contribute to this community so that together they can make a better world for the future generation. Later Nishat Farzana Sinthy from YY Goshti and Khalid Hossain Anik from SBYA Global presented “Shishir Water” and “Photopreneurs” respectively, two of the social businesses they work in successfully in “Inspiration Session”.

YY Goshti also had a presence in the Social Business Academia Conference initiated and promoted by Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus. It has been held to review the theoretical and practical implications and potentials of the concept. The purpose of the conference was to create a networking opportunity for academicians, researchers, practitioners, and development activists to discuss recent insights on Social Business. YY Goshti considers GSBS 2017 as a platform to connect with companies, entrepreneurs, civil society and academia in order to leverage the opportunities. A positive change in our world shall be driven by fostering co-operation between practitioners and stakeholders, as well as through sharing and developing best practices at the GSBS.

BGIC Winners from Khulna Cohort: Three Social Businesses to join YY Goshti Incubator

The Pitch Day of Blue Gold Innovation Challenge – Khulna cohort took place at Tiger Garden International Hotel on October 22, 2017 from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. The event was hosted by Shah Waseef Azam, Program Manager of YY Goshti. It was followed by a welcome remark from Shazeeb M Khairul Islam, CEO of YY Goshti. Later the audience witnessed an hour of presentations from the 7 finalists. Each finalist got 5 minutes for presenting their business plan and 2 minutes for Q&A session. The event was attended by 55+ people. The audience included students, teachers, stakeholders, innovators, entrepreneurs, NGOs and local people. The Jury panel had Mr. Amirul Hossain, Project Coordinating Director (PCD), BWDB, Mr. S.M. Ferdous, District Seed Certification Officer, DAE and Mr. Alamgir Chowdhury, Deputy Team Leader, TA team. The Blue Gold team was also present there to ask questions to the finalists and give them their valuable insights and feedbacks. The event came to an end with concluding remarks from Mr. Amirul Hossain, Project Coordinating Director (PCD), BWDB. He talked about the immense possibilities of entrepreneurs working in polder areas and how they can improve the lives of people giving them employment opportunities. The winners were then announced and they got certificates from the BGP team and the YY Goshti team. The winners are following:

ALOE FARM – With a motto of “everyone deserves to drink organic”, the entrepreneur Rajoana Jannat will produce organic aloe vera juice for the people of khulna region. This product will have social impacts by providing organic nutritious drinks to health conscious people and empowering rural women of khulna polder area economically by letting them produce aloe vera and the juice.

REGEN – Fahim Uddin Shuvo produces best quality vermi compost by collecting and recycling food waste concentrating on commercial kitchens aiming to contribute towards a clean and better city and providing low lying land farmers better fertilizers.

SMART POULTRY FARM – Abdullah Al Musabbir wants to start a poultry consultant and service providing company, Tech-Gen, which will launch smart poultry farm service providing bio-gas based electricity production plant, fertilizer production system, automatic temperature and humidity controlling system to the poultry farmers at the cheapest cost.

However this not the end,  in fact this is the starting of a new and much more exciting journey where their commitment and dedication towards their initiative can make a lot of differences. YY goshti will now assist them with office space, pro-bono services, mentorship, business development process, creative and web development services, strategic consultancy and partnership

From Intern’s Diary

By Ozair Ahmed

Every person needs a starting point in their life, which shows them the way and inspires them to achieve greater things in life. YY Goshti has been that starting point in my life. I have always been a person who had big dreams, enormous aspirations. But I was confused, I didn’t know where or how to start. Then YY Goshti happened. I have been working at YY Goshti since this year. Since then it has been a journey of exploring my abilities. Before YY Goshti I tried my luck in various places. But lack of experience always came in the way. YY Goshti is different. Here people aren’t judged on the basis of experience, age or educational qualifications, rather this place always has vacancy for people who are dedicated, passionate, hardworking and most importantly people who aspire to make a change.

At the beginning of this internship I believed I would be vested with small work or “unimportant” to be precise. But in a short span of time I realized things work differently here. I was amazed by the level of confidence people at YY Goshti had on me. I was being assigned to projects only experienced people are supposed to do but as I already mentioned “things work differently at YY Goshti”. Usually all this confidence and responsibility are supposed to feel like a pressure. But my feeling about all this was different. For me it was all about realizing what I am capable of, the responsibilities I can bear. It isn’t like I never made mistakes but people here makes sure your mistake isn’t only a mistake but a lesson you learn from.

YY Goshti isn’t just a work place for me rather it’s a place where I am growing every day. Thanks to the people here who makes sure every day I leave this place leaning something new, exploring a new ability of mine. YY Goshti is helping me grow confidence in myself and making my own identity. It has given me the opportunity to do things people of my age dream of. One of the key elements of building a successful future is building key networks. Since the day I joined here I am being introduced to people who I believe are going to play significant role in building my future.

Since my appointment here at YY Goshti I have been associated with different projects. My first ever project here was Social Business Youth Summit 2017. Being a part of this prestigious event was a breakthrough for me as it was a platform where this journey of learning and exploring myself began. After three months of dedication and hard work witnessing a successful event was truly inspiring.

YY Goshti is not only about desk work. Few months back we had a trip to Khulna for the Blue Gold Innovation Challenge. During this visit we perceived idea state social entrepreneurs. We came through lots of amazing business ideas and we are going to start working with them in a few weeks. Currently I am associated with a project with UNDP. Besides I am also working with YY Camp which is a creative workshop for school students and a lot of other exciting projects. This is one thing about YY Goshti, it has tons of exciting projects lined up for its interns.

YY Goshti is more of a home than a workplace where you grow every day with the support of an amazing team amidst fun and enthusiasm. I am truly glad being a part of this beautiful and passionate family and thankful to YY Goshti for helping me build self-confidence and creating my own identity.

 

BGIC got Finalists for its 2nd Cohort in Khulna

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge has got its top ten finalists from Khulna region that will compete for the Blue Gold Innovation Fund to launch their social businesses in the coming week. They will attend the Innovation Camp and Pitch Camp in Khulna and present their business ideas in front of the judges on the Pitch Day.

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge (BGIC) is a social business incubation program organized by YY Goshti in collaboration with Blue Gold Program (BGP). The BGIC promotes innovative social entrepreneurship and challenges young people of coastal Bangladesh to design sustainable business solutions.

List of Selected Finalists:

  1. Rajoana Jannat
  2. Nirodh Paul
  3. Abdullah Al Noman
  4. Shourov Barua
  5. Mortoza Morshed
  6. Khairul Alam
  7. Fahim Uddin
  8. Ananda Kumar Biswas
  9. Tasnimul Rifat
  10. Abdullah Al Musabbir

The finalists have been chosen based on their credibility, innovation in business, scalability and feasibility. Finalists will be attending the ‘Innovation Camp’ from October 16-19, 2017 to be held in Khulna. This will help them learn the ins and outs of social business development. The participants will get the opportunity to work with facilitators where they will receive at least 30-35 class hours. The entrepreneurs will also receive 10-12 hours of pitch coaching on October 21-22, 2017. The outcome of this Camp will be a pitch deck ready to be presented in front of investors for each finalist. The sessions will culminate in live Pitch Day in Khulna on October 22, 2017 where the participants will make a final presentation of their ideas in front of a panel of judges and an audience of relevant stakeholders. The winners will get the chance to incubate their businesses and build them into prototypes ready for scaling up. They will be able to access small seed capital to prototype their product/services. YY Goshti will work with them in one-on-one advisory sessions to help them along their prototype building phase.

YY Goshti and Blue Gold Program are excitedly looking forward to working with these aspiring idea stage social businesses.

YY Goshti is collaborating with Frontier Innovators as a Regional Advisory Group Member.

YY Goshti is collaborating with Frontier Innovators as a regional advisory group member. Frontier Innovators is an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s innovationXchange, and delivered by SecondMuse is in the lookout for innovative businesses in the Asia-Pacific that are delivering impact through their work that supports the Sustainable Development Goals. Winning businesses will receive grant funding and tailored support, along with access to advisors, potential partners and investors.

Frontier Innovators are businesses that are leading by example.  15 of these businesses will get access to funding and access to resources to grow. Finalists from each region will also be provided with access to training and mentoring opportunities to help them grow. Whether you are an established business, a growing startup with an innovative product or service, or a social enterprise with a business model – if your work benefits people in the Asia-Pacific, apply now for your chance to win a package of funding and tailored support.

Through this important partnership we will be helping Frontier Innovators target high potential applicants, and align their work with local organisations already working with local entrepreneurs. By joining the Frontier Innovators Advisory Group, YY Goshti is helping great local businesses and unlock pathways to sustainable growth.

BGIC is now active in Khulna

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge is now open for innovators, students, startups and organizations from Khulna region who would like to launch social businesses addressing water supply management, agriculture and sustainable development of south west region of Bangladesh.  Participants from other districts are also allowed to apply, but they must attend sessions in Khulna and execute their plans in Khulna districts as well.

 

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge (BGIC) is a social business incubation program organized by YY Goshti in collaboration with Blue Gold Program (BGP). The BGIC promotes innovative social entrepreneurship and challenges young people of coastal Bangladesh to design sustainable business solutions.

 

Entrepreneurs should be aged 18-35 and preferably from/connected to the Khulna region. It is not necessary for the entrepreneurs to already have a well-thought out business plan, just an idea that intersects with the target industries set by the organizers.

 

An online portal is open to receive the submissions both in Bengali and English. You can apply through the following link:

http://bgic.yygoshti.com/apply-now/

 

Emphasis will be given to areas of interest defined by Blue Gold Program i.e. agricultural innovation, water supply management etc. The businesses ideas will be screened to select the most promising ones. The ideas to be shortlisted for online submission round will be determined based on the uniqueness of the Idea, possible innovation, social impact, product or service focused on agriculture and/or water supply management. Winners will be attending an ‘Innovation Camp’ (to be held in Khulna) that will help them learn the ins and outs of social business development. The participants will get the opportunity to work with facilitators for a period of two weeks where they will receive at least 42-48 hours of class hours. The entrepreneurs will also receive 8 hours of pitch coaching. The outcome of this Camp will be a pitch deck ready to be presented in front of investors for each participant. The sessions will culminate in live Pitch Day in Khulna where the participants will make a final presentation of their ideas in front of a panel of judges and an audience of relevant stakeholders. The winners will ‘Incubate’ their businesses, i.e. build them into prototypes ready for scaling up. The winners will be paired with a mentor, with whom they will have one-on-one advisory sessions to help them along their prototype building phase. They will be able to access small seed capital to prototype their product/services. The outcome of the program is to research and understand the content better, and finally, build an active business service that they can continue working on after the BGIC ends.

 

The aspiring entrepreneurs will get to work closely with a mentor who is well-versed in working in the industry and with existing experience as an entrepreneur.  They will also have access to seed capital to use to build a working business. They will also face strategic consultation meetings with YY Goshti every two weeks so their progress can be closely monitored.

Inspire: Knowledge Sessions held in PSTU, Patuakhali

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge (BGIC) launched its second on-location activity “Inspire: Knowledge Sessions 2” at PSTU Information Dissemination Centre (PIDC), Patuakhali Science Technology University (PSTU) in Dumki, Patuakhali, Barisal, Bangladesh on January 1, 2017 from 3.30 pm. It was attended by students from PSTU, specifically from the Department of Agronomy. Both undergraduate and post graduate students were present.

The session began with an introductory speech by Dr. A. S. M. Iqbal Hussain, Professor of the Department of Agronomy. He spoke on the topic: “Scope of Innovation to promote Agricultural Development in Bangladesh”. This was followed by a short informative session by Ms. Namista Tabassum, Director of YY Goshti. She welcomed all the participants, and explained what BGIC was all about. After that, Mr. Shazeeb M. Khairul Islam, Founder of YY Goshti, started his session on Social Business 101 and the use of the social business model to create innovative business solutions accelerating agricultural, water resource management and sustainable development. The session ended with a short question and answer session, where the audience voiced various questions about how they can benefit from BGIC, and what they need to qualify as an applicant. The day ended with a very interesting session by Mr. Ekhtiar Uddin, Assistant Professor at the Department of Agronomy, PSTU.  He presented short case studies on innovations that are possible for supply chain development within the agriculture and water resource management sector. The students in the audience also participated and brainstormed creative solutions for value chain development.

After the session ended, many students came forward and were personally coached on how to apply for the BGIC program.

 

YY Goshti is now active in Patuakhali !

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge (BGIC) launched its first on-location activity “Inspire: Knowledge Sessions” at Patuakhali, Barisal, Bangladesh on December 30. Multiple knowledge sessions were conducted by seasoned social business experts and academics in the city, local universities and colleges. These sessions were attended by students from Patuakhali, Young Professionals, Representatives from local NGOs & NPOs, and local media personnel.

These events were chances to inspire people from the local community to apply for the BGIC program. More than 200 people attended the sessions. A majority of them were students interested in becoming entrepreneurs. The events started with an introduction by Ms. Namista Tabassum, Director of YY Goshti and organizer of BGIC 2016. She welcomed everyone and expressed her anticipation in working with potential entrepreneurs for the next six months. Mr.Shazeeb M. Khairul Islam, Founder of YY Goshti, explained how anyone, with the will and passion, can become a successful entrepreneur. Multiple sessions were conducted during the events as-’Accelerating economic development in Patuakhali using the social business model’ by M F M Amir Khashru, General Manager of Yunus Centre, “Creating Employment Opportunities Through Entrepreneurship”, by Ms. Shahana Sharmin, Country Manager of One97 Communications Ltd and “How Young People Can Lead the Nation’s Development”, by Mr. Wahid Hossain, Founder, and CEO of Tiger Bow.