IICA launches second edition of Digital Agriculture Week

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), together with Microsoft, Bayer, The Yield Lab, The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and CAF-Development Bank of Latin America, launched the second edition of Digital Agriculture Week, a forum where AgTechs and key stakeholders will put forward ideas and coordinate actions to drive agrifood digitalization in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).

The event will be held from 29 May to 1 June and will have a hybrid format, in person at IICA headquarters in San Jos?, Costa Rica, and online.

The official launch came with a specific invitation to AgTechs in the Americas with digital solutions available for use in agriculture to apply to be part of this event, consolidated in its second consecutive year as a crucial space in the hemisphere for leaders in agrifood digitalization.

AgTechs interested in participating must register before 10 April via the form on the website https://www.semanaad.iica.int/.

A panel of specialists featuring leaders in the field invited by IICA will choose fifteen candidates to participate in person in Digital Agriculture Week, where they will have an opportunity to show their technological innovations, attend lectures by leading figures and roundtables, and exchange ideas with international organizations for digital transformation.

A new feature of the 2023 edition is that all the AgTechs that apply will be able to participate in the event online. The winners will be chosen based on the potential of their digital solutions to improve production, sustainability and inclusion in agrifood systems.

At the launch event, it was announced that particular value will be given to those AgTechs that contribute to food security, to preventing and mitigating the impact of extreme weather events, especially droughts and water management, and those led by women.

Applicant AgTechs will be connected to the network of such companies created by the Institute after the 2022 edition, and will participate in various activities taking place after the event.

Present at the initial launch event were Herbert Lewy, General Manager of Microsoft Smart Agriculture and Bioeconomy for Latin America; Beatriz Arrieta, Bayer’s Regional Manager for Food Value Chains; Teresita di Marco, The Yield Lab Latam Director of Ecosystem Development; Fabrizio Bresciani, IFAD Lead Regional Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean; and ?lvaro Pereira, CAF Principal Executive for Regional Management of Mexico and Central America.

Also present were representatives of three AgTechs that participated in the 2022 edition, as well as IICA Technical Cooperation Director Federico Villarreal and Federico Bert, Manager of IICA’s Digitalization of Agrifood Systems Program.

At the launch event, Herbert Lewy, General Manager of Microsoft Smart Agriculture and Bioeconomy for Latin America said, “We at Microsoft are helping with technology and resources to make that digital transformation happen fast. There is a combination of multiple technologies that allow us to advance exponentially: artificial intelligence and advanced analytics, the Internet of Things, blockchain, and tech companies with a focus on agriculture. We have seen how they’re attending to the needs of the digital age in the region”.

Teresita Di Marco of The Yield Lab added, “For years we have seen the increase in [AgTech] startups in the region that seek to develop solutions to drive the sector. We have mapped over 1600 and this is very significant because it means startups have grown 100 percent in the last five years. Since 2010 over 500 business roundtables have been carried out, meaning that financial support is being provided to the sector and to entrepreneurs so that they can develop these technologies”.

?lvaro Pereira of CAF stressed that “digitalization is a key tool for reactivating the region’s economy and to meet the 2030 Agenda goals […] Along with innovation, they are essential to ensure that agrifood systems are more productive, sustainable and inclusive. We want these initiatives to favor family farming in resilient settings and in harmony with the environment”.

Beatriz Arrieta of Bayer said that “Small-scale farmers are responsible for a third of food production and it is they who have the most limited access to these technologies; we want to help farmers to improve their productivity and profitability; this is why it is so important to develop initiatives like this. The future definitely lies in digital transformation and for this reason we are working with IICA”.

Fabrizio Bresciani of IFAD emphasized the importance of generating synergies and partnerships among different stakeholders and organizations, because “promoting the identification, implementation and scaling-up of successful digital technologies and the services that these enable is too much for one single institution […] A sustainable and inclusive transformation of the region’s food systems is essential so that we can eliminate poverty and hunger globally”.

About Digital Agriculture Week

With Digital Agriculture Week 2023, IICA hopes AgTechs and other stakeholders of the tech and agriculture sectors submit, put forward and coordinate ideas in this space for the digital transformation of agrifood systems, sharing technology solutions and driving their use in agriculture.

The event will feature the participation of international leading figures and representatives of organizations working directly with these types of companies, representatives of public and private multinational organizations interested in the digitalization of agriculture, and leading government officials from agriculture ministries.

Issues to be covered include digital transformation; opportunities and challenges; the digitalization of agriculture; barriers, impacts and perspectives; roles and synergies of public and private stakeholders in the digital age; and other topics.

The initiative is part of the actions of the hemispheric Digitalization of Agrifood Systems Program that IICA created in its Medium-term Plan for the period 2022-2026, which reflects the priority of the issue and IICA’s commitment to it.

The manager of the program, Federico Bert, said that “digitalization is inevitable and cannot be postponed; the time has come to drive digitalization and capture its benefits, and at the same time prevent risks so that there are positive results in terms of production, the environment and society. At IICA this is a priority, and we are working together wherever we can to drive the dynamic and sustainable digitalization of agriculture”.

The 2022 edition featured the participation of 15 leading AgTechs from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. Over 56 presentations were made, enabling over 30 hours of exchanges among the different stakeholders and strategic partners (Bayer, Microsoft and the World Bank), high-ranking decision-makers from the agriculture sector of the Americas, leading academic figures, national agricultural research institutes, multilateral agencies, funds and investment accelerators.

Mar?a del Carmen Garc?a of the AgTech Appi.ar by Beemore of Argentina concluded that “the experience at the 2022 edition allowed us to generate a network of AgTechs with whom we share common goals. It gave visibility to our startups and gave motivation to continue to strengthen our projects, confirming that technologies renew the local and zonal models of production development”.

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