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.

 

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

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.

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.

 

BGIC Launching Ceremony 2016

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge (BGIC) launched its activities at a Ceremony this December 18, 2016 at 6.00pm. It was held at Moar, Banani 11, Dhaka Bangladesh. The Launching Ceremony was attended by representatives from NGOs, Entrepreneurial Funds and Entrepreneurs from all over Bangladesh.

The event was a chance for those in the development sector to come together and talk about some of the pressing issues in agriculture and water resource management that can be solved through innovative business solutions. Among chief guests was Ms. Lamiya Morshed, Executive Director of Yunus Centre, who shared her thoughts about social business and how the development sector can achieve social impact through more sustainable models. Mr. Boudewijn Sterk, Manager of Innovation Fund, Blue Gold Program and the partner of YY Goshti in this program, was also present. He expressed anticipation in working in the agricultural and water resource management sector, paving the way for collaboration in the development sector that has not been done before. He was excited to see what new things can be achieved through this endeavor. Finally, Shazeeb M. Khairul Islam, Founder of YY Goshti, shared that the YY Goshti team is looking forward to work with aspiring entrepreneurs while building some innovative businesses that can access funds from the Blue Gold Program, using their expertise in incubating next generation businesses.

 

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YY PITCH DAY

The YY Goshti team selected 6 promising social business entrepreneurs who attended a week long boot camp. The Boot Camp included workshops, exposure visits, and mentorship to shape up & transform their ideas into a viable social business. This culminated into the YY Pitch Day, where the 6 social businesses were launched by YY Goshti. The top 6 Entrepreneurs were required to use all they had learned and make a compact business plan and pitch their social business ideas in front of judges and an eclectic audience of investors, social business leaders, young entrepreneurs, enthusiasts and more. After their pitch, they faced questions from the judges as well as the audience.

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The business pitches were ranked based on social impact, sustainability, scalability, innovation and financial stability. 2 winners were declared by the end of the program and granted seed capital – a winner selected by the judges and another by the audience. Avijtrik won the Judge’s Choice Award, while EcoTerrace won the People’s Choice Award. The ceremony ended with a networking dinner where all the attendees had a chance to meet and greet.

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ENTREPRENEURS ATTEND YY BOOTCAMP

After a rigorous screening process, 6 entrepreneurs were chosen to attend YY Bootcamp held from April 24-29, 2016. It is an intensive training program where selected participants received 60 hours of training and participated in exposure visits to see how existing businesses function. Moreover, the Bootcamp required participants to live on-site for a week and be subjected to a strict academic regime. They were housed at Krishibid Institute Complex, Khamarbari, Farmgate, Dhaka.

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They received intensive training and mentoring facilitated by seasoned Social Business Experts, Academicians, and Entrepreneurs. They learned extensive courses on Social Business, Marketing, Branding, Product/Service Development and making their ventures financially sustainable. They also visited existing social businesses to get a better idea about how such businesses are run successfully. Most importantly, YY Goshti provided them the means to build a refined social business plan with all elements to turn their ideas into a successful business. They were also provided pitch coaching and assisted in building a professional pitch deck to present to investors.

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Launching Ceremony of YY Goshti

YY Goshti started its journey through the official unveiling ceremony on 18 February 2016, held at EMK Center, attended by young entrepreneurs, students, development professionals, media and other stakeholders. During the launching ceremony Ms. Lamiya Morshed, Executive Director, Yunus Centre; Ms. Shaila Khan, Assistant Country Director, UNDP; Mr. M. K. Aaref, Director of EMK Center and Mr. Shazeeb M Khairul Islam, Founder of YY Goshti were the distinguished speakers. This whole program is sponsored by EMK Center, while supported by Social Business Youth Alliance Global, Prito Reza Productions and Socialyzen.

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The event started with registration and seating arrangements from 5.30 pm. The event was hosted by Namista Tabassum, Director of YY Goshti. Mr. Shazeeb M. Khairul Islam, Founder of YY Goshti, gave a Welcome Speech and also talked about how he came across the idea for this new project.The second segment was a short presentation by Mr. Wahid Hossain, YY Goshti’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence. He described the various aspects, program modules and aim of YY Goshti.

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The presentation was followed by a Panel Discussion among the event’s distinguished speakers, to give an external opinion about the possible impacts of YY Goshti and its future endeavours. Mr. M. K. Aaref provided invaluable insight into the creativity of Youth and their importance in playing a more active role to bring about a wave of change in our society.

Ms. Shaila Khan talked about sustainability and inclusive growth, providing some anecdotes of her years of experience with UNDP. She stressed on the fact of the current global perspective, and how social business is a strong contender in becoming a big solution to many problems.

Ms. Lamiya Morshed talked about the impacts of social business and Yunus Centre’s vision and how YY Goshti’s activities are based on similar principles. The very informative panel discussion was followed by the Speakers answering a few questions from the audience.

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Lastly, the event ended with an immensely motivational video message from Professor Muhammad Yunus, telling participants about the valuable impact social business and wishing YY Goshti luck. The event ended with a cake cutting ceremony, and was followed by a networking session among attendees complete with refreshments.

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