Disrupting agriculture: Start-ups and accelerators


29. August 2018

Read time

5 min


Innovation, Digital transformation

The tech sector is arguably the heart of the startup community. However, as digital transformation races across industries, every company must embrace being a tech company. Every company must be a software company to some extent.

At Raft we express a simple outline to partners when they think of the future of their company. Any industry that can be digitized will be. Any company that harnesses development and software skills the best will ultimately win. This was made famous in the essay “Software is eating the world” from Marc Andreessen years ago. On top of that, any product or service that has low capital investment and can connect directly with end users is ripe for disruption. It is no longer enough that corporations embrace complete digital transformation. In today’s world, they must also adapt their speed and processes to match start-ups or risk being dethroned.

Digital agriculture is widely recognized as the third great revolution of modern agriculture. It is expected to be the most transformative and disruptive, not only on the farm, but across the entire food value chain (Ernst & Young report on Digital Agriculture). There has been heavy investment in agtech companies in North America. However, these solutions are not shared globally for smallholder farmers in emerging markets who have less money and varying needs. To solve this, there is a growing industry of startups that are arriving on the scene to help smallholder farmers increase efficiencies. These are poised to connect with customers’ needs and deliver value faster than their corporate counterparts.

Entrepreneurs are seeing the ability to start their own companies outside of the shadow of corporations and finding a market to do so. Larger agtech companies need to reflect on how they bring solutions globally to stay relevant across markets.

With some companies, this has already begun. Corporations such as KWS and Syngenta are embracing the need to bring an entrepreneurial spirit and focus on software to their organizations. We talked with Lorelei Davis, Head of Digital Innovation Accelerator at KWS. A division that was specifically created to find and bring in new technologies and ideas to help grow the company in new ways.

As with many companies we’ve worked with, the Agriculture industry is similar in its drive to embrace innovation inside its walls. However, this cannot be done in a vacuum. There are three areas we coach on that often eludes companies. This is true even once accelerators are set up.

  • Organizational change

    The organization around the accelerator or incubator must be aligned to accept and productize the output that is created.

  • User-centered thinking across the organization

    Startups are well known for their rabid focus on connecting to end users. This is not only the responsibility of the design team but the entire organization.

  • Software process

    Harness a clear and methodical software process. This should cover team vision to prioritize and estimate output.

Through understanding and including these areas into the growth of the company, corporations can keep pace side-by-side with their startup counterparts.

TFF finalists Coating+, a small start-up from Nigeria offer the ability to coat food with an organic nutrient-rich powder to keep it fresh longer.

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