Founded in 2016, Agro Innovation Lab is a trend scout, accelerator, networker, mentor, unconventional think tank, knowledge carrier, partner, and facilitator unified in its goal to play an active part in shaping the future of agriculture through innovation.
The company’s manifold activities conjoin AgTech with conventional agricultural technology, merging the expertise of traditional agriculture with the possibilities of digitization, thus building a network of research, development, entrepreneurship, investors, and the market.
We approached David Saad, the CEO of Agro Innovation Lab for an exclusive Interview with Insights Success:
Q: Give a brief overview of your organization and the services and/or solutions you offer. Enlighten us with your inception story and the inspiration behind it.
A: Agro Innovation Lab is the joint innovation hub of BayWa and RWA. Our task is to scout, validate and support the implementation of collaborations with innovative partners in order to secure the pipeline regarding innovative technologies, business model and products. We do this because it is a core value of BayWa and RWA to stay the partner to turn to when it comes to modern agriculture.
We resort to different tools in order to fulfill our mission: Acceleration programs, innovation challenges, hackathons, individual innovation projects and co-innovation initiatives with industry/cross-industry peers are examples of formats that we are able to utilize. Over the past 3 years, we evaluated more than 800 startups from more than 70 countries all over the globe and realized more than 25 collaboration projects.
Q: Give us a brief overview of the featured person(s) and their contribution towards the company and its success.
A: I joined the company in its very beginning in 2016 in order to bring in startup and entrepreneurial perspective, and together with my team we developed AIL from an accelerator program to the joint innovation hub of BayWa and RWA. We could achieve this by continuously expanding its service catalog, starting with the acceleration program and adding diverse innovation formats from hackathons over innovation challenges, internal innovation processes to individual collaboration search projects and so on.
Q: How do you think has the AgriTech and affiliated solutions market evolved and what can be expected in the forthcoming years?
A: Trends like Digitization and connectivity have definitely arrived in agriculture over the last years. Farmers worldwide need the tools these developments offer them because they face the challenge of producing more in a shorter time span using fewer resources – be it time, land or input materials. However, compared to other industries agriculture faces longer lead times – just think of vegetation periods, higher invest requirements and further specific hurdles. Take robotics for example: although the use of robots in e.g. the automotive industry is state of the art, using a robot on the field is a totally different task. You simply do not have a closed and secure environment, soil changes from one passing to the other and plants are simply not standardized.
Thus the practical implementation of robots, satellite analysis, machine automation, AI-plant disease-forecasting algorithms and so on are still not at the point where farmers can fully rely on them and are using them on a day to day basis. I think the challenge ahead is to constantly improve these technologies and thus bring them to a level where farmers can and are willing to apply them as confiding as they do their tractor.
Q: What are the benefits gained by your clients/users from your products/solutions/services?
A: Innovations we work on are as diverse as agriculture itself and range from machinery over plant breeding, forestry, animal health care and irrigation to trading platforms and urban farming. However, what all of them have in common is that they aim at making the lives of farmers easier by helping them to increase efficiency, save resources, or do things in a totally new way. For us it is crucial that our innovations really deliver value to our customers, that is why we engage with them in close contact from the very beginning of our projects. Customer centricity is key in all of our activities and I think this is the reason why we have a very good success rate considering the implementation of our projects.
Q: What obstacles and/or limitations does you and your company face while growing, sustaining or retaining its clientele?
A: Bringing innovation into a big corporation is always a tough task. It requires a lot of convincing, communicating and hard work because you often have to go to other people’s extra miles in order to prove that what you are doing makes sense. The good thing is that it gets a little bit easier when you score your first successes. The bad news is that it will never stop, no matter how successful you are.
Q: What does the future hold for your company in terms of internal as well as holistic development?
A: Internal: In the upcoming year will expedite our Co-Innovation initiatives with industry and cross-industry peers, so interested partners are welcome to shoot us a message!
Holistic: I think that due to factors like labor shortage, climate change and population growth innovation in agriculture will become more and more important over the next years and I am really looking forward to being a part of it.
Q: Would you like to highlight any awards, accolades or testimonials your company has achieved throughout?
A: Born Global Innovator Award by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, listed among the top 5 innovation units in the DACH region when it comes to “scaling innovations” (by in front consulting and the venture capital magazine “Capital”), First Corporate AgTech Accelerator in Europe.