BASF: AgroStart Program Contributes to Accelerating the Growth in Agribusiness-focused Solutions in Latin America
Jul. 27, 2017
“AgroStart is part of the digital strategy of BASF Crop Protection in Latin America. The strategy focuses on providing digital solutions, which help farmers manage their business more efficiently,” Almir Araujo Silva, Digital Marketing Manager at BASF Crop Protection in Latin America and responsible for AgroStart program, told AgroPages in a recent interview. He also shared his viewpoints on BASF’s direction in agriculture investment, the AgroStart program and its strategic significance, as well as future strategic planning in digital farming etc.
Q1. Could you please talk about the main direction of investment and the strategic planning of BASF in the area of agriculture?
The agricultural industry is a very dynamic field, but the global mega trends remain unchanged. Our innovation strategy focuses on developing integrated solutions that help farmers secure and increase their yields. We constantly invest in our development pipeline in order to expand our portfolio both within and beyond classic crop protection. In 2016, we invested €489 million on research and development in the Crop Protection division, representing around 9% of sales for the segment.
We know that farming is a big task and to give our full support, we need to go beyond our walls. We open our gates and exchange with potential partners from all industries to ensure we can accelerate our discoveries and introduction of solutions. This is especially important in new areas, such as digital farming.
Q2. Could you please introduce the AgroStart program and its future planning?
Digitalization is a big opportunity for BASF. By using digital technologies and data, we are creating additional value for our customers and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of our processes.
AgroStart is a pioneering initiative by BASF in partnership with ACE to accelerate and promote startups from the agribusiness sector in Latin America. ACE has been awarded as the best accelerator in Latin America by LATAM Founders for three consecutive years. The core of AgroStart is the idea of co-creation, in other words, developing digital solutions together with the startups ecosystem, offering benefits that go beyond financial investment.
On the one hand, startups receive mentoring from BASF executives and the technical team, which is besides market access in all countries of Latin America and is something very important for the entrepreneurs to test their solution. On the other hand, our partner ACE supports startups with the right methodologies, individual mentoring, infrastructure needed for the product validation and helps them to solve real pain points and gets scalability with the product or solution. At the end of the AgroStart program, BASF will evaluate opportunities of investment with the most successful projects, through its own funds, BASF Venture Capital.
AgroStart is a great approach for creating innovation in agriculture. We see a huge potential of this approach for other countries and regions. Therefore, we will evaluate further markets and announce any new AgroStart initiatives in due time.
Q3. So far, which companies have been integrated into the AgroStart platform? What fields are concerned by these companies? What are the standards for seeking companies?
Since August 2016, we have received more than 200 proposals from different countries across Latin America, such as Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and countries from Central America. The startups focus on different aspects of digitalization in agriculture, like machine learning, robotics, drones, machinery, sensors, precision agriculture, farm management software, market places, tracking or predictive analytics.
Each startup plays a very important role along the farming process, from soil preparation to harvesting, there are solutions not only for farmers, but also for retailers, technical assistance, cooperatives and more important channels.
AgroStart mainly looks for entrepreneurs ready to be accelerated with a product already being validated with customer. However, even with a product in a prototype format and without current revenues, it is possible to join the acceleration process, support entrepreneurs to validate and scale their product.
Another important topic for the selection of a startup is the team behind the solution. It is the key evaluation to guarantee the diversity of skills and knowledge required. We always say that “in a startup there is no superman.” Either the startup forms a high-level team, or it will have great difficulty keeping the business standing.
Q4. How will the AgroStart program promote the development of the main business of BASF as a crop protection company? What is the strategic significance of the project for your company?
Since digital transformation has accelerated, BASF is working on solutions, which combine the advantages of Information Technology with the company’s expertise in crop protection.
Co-creation is crucial to bring new perspectives and disruptive solutions that help solve real challenges in different parts of the agribusiness chain. Therefore, our approach to innovation is underpinned by connecting with others, on different levels: with established partners (e.g. ZedX), farmers (e.g. for Maglis®), internal groups, industry partners (e.g. John Deere) and startups.
Working with startups has several benefits though. Startups get access to our expertise, global sales and distribution network as well as to resources. BASF benefits from their ideas and agile working methods.
AgroStart is one major example of our collaboration with startups. It is part of the digital strategy of BASF Crop Protection in Latin America. The strategy is focused on providing digital solutions, which help farmers manage their business more efficiently. The goal is to bring new technologies to the agricultural sector through co-creation and the Internet of Things. Through AgroStart, we support open innovation to find answers for farmers’ challenges in the field.
Q5. What is the strategic planning of BASF in digital farming?
BASF Crop Protection is creating solutions for sustainable farming. For more than 100 years, we have been researching and investing in innovations that help farms grow their crops and businesses more successfully.
Our core portfolio and expertise has been, and will be, in crop protection. Nevertheless, we are increasingly expanding our solution offers to farmers with complementary tools and technologies that go beyond conventional crop protection. The digital transformation era brings new opportunities. We are combining these opportunities with our expertise in crop protection to create new offers that bring additional value for our customers.
We see digital transformation as a key engine to improve farm management and increase sustainability. Therefore, we are investing and will further invest in our digital farming initiatives, along with collaborations internally and in new solutions that further complement the solutions we offer.
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