Today we talk with two members of the Bayer Youth Ag Summit.
•Matt Foley, Program Director at Invest Nebraska, joins us to speak about the Youth Ag Summit. The summit gathers diverse agriculture leaders and youth interested in the industry to discuss the future of agriculture and how the next generation can inspire change.
•Davyn Surdidjo launched a startup in 2017 called Etani Agro Nusantara. Etani utilizes technology to liberate farmers in his home country of Indonesia from the grasps of middle markets which are far less regulated than those in the United States.
Farm food facts where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to the U S Farmers and Ranchers in Action, weekly video podcast, Farm food facts, for July 15th, 2020. I'm your host, Phil Lempert. Today is all about the Bayer Youth AG Summit program. Later in the podcast, we interview Davyn Surdidjo, who launched a startup called Etani Agro Nusantara, but first Matt Foley, who's the program director at invest in Nebraska, a venture fund supporting high growth startups in Nebraska. He leads the combined AgriFood incubator, the biotech connector, and assist in the management of the venture portfolio. The previously mentioned combine is a statewide initiative led by invest in Nebraska and the Nebraska department of economic development, bringing together public and private partners across the region to support agriculture technology and future advancements in the sector with a focus on food and ag tech, the combine supports undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, and the general statewide community. The initiative includes a commercialization curriculum supporting early stage technology, startups, incubation space on the breasts innovation campus, a mentor matchup program, and the combine insights network, a group of farmers, ranchers and Agra businesses with the desire to analyze the next generation of upcoming technology, as well as supporting local startup businesses. Matt, welcome to farm food facts. Thanks for having me on my pleasure to be here. So Matt, you're also part of a youth ag summit program. How did you get involved with the bear program?Matt:
That's correct. I think I honestly found, I found out about the organization online , um, and really , uh, really fortunate happening then I came across it because such an amazing experience , um, and kind of my day to day role, I get to meet with a lot of Nebraska entrepreneurs and people passionate about agriculture here in the Midwest of the U S um, but the perspective of getting to meet really passionate people in agriculture, at this summit over a hundred brilliant leaders from all around the world, over 50 countries talking about what is the future of agriculture look like and how is the next generation really gonna inspire change? Um, pretty amazing experience. I mean, from my roommate and , uh , in the conference was just a couple of States away and I got to meet people from Indonesia and China and Brazil, and just an incredible experience overall. So in talking to them, and obviously everybody has the same agenda being there, learning, supporting , building relationship. What were a couple of the issues that came up that really surprised you? Yeah , you said it . I mean, at the end of the day, we , we all, we don't care about the same things, but the way we go about it and kind of what we see as priorities might not always be insane. And I said it in a good way, because, because it's going to take that diversity of thought and diversity of background that, to move this ball forward. So , um, some of the , some of the key issues obviously are things like regenerative agriculture, and how can we better include farmers and , and the practices that are going to build the better future for our planet and the future of feeding the world. Um, and then additionally, as you think about things of how can we better use biotechnology and ag technology, whether it be , uh , robotics or LIDAR or all sorts of amazing things that are coming from universities all around the world. Um, because the truth is becoming a smaller and smaller planner . And I went to the internet and with , with, with organizations like the youth ag summit supported by Berets , it's pretty easy to start to connect the dots when, when something is working in one region on a farm, obviously it's not gonna work cookie cutter mold all around the world, but there's lessons that we can learn that can help farmers and producers right in our own backyard.Phil:
So I'm going to put you on the spot here, going into this. What was your number one priority of what you really wanted to get out coming out of it? What did you learn that your number one priority should beMatt:
Well, to be honest, going into it, I love to travel and I love, I love the opportunity to go and kind of put myself out of my comfort zone. Um , been fortunate in my, in my role to be able to travel and in various countries all around the world. So the opportunity to one go to , uh , to a new country, it was down in Brazil and meet passionate individuals and agriculture. Um, selfishly I knew I couldn't pass something like that up. Um, as far as post post summit , um, it really kind of puts it all into perspective and , and, and really reminded me consciously that we need to do a better job of, of making sure that we're always kind of keeping in perspective. Um, and it's easy to do this with kind of a , um , a Western world U S bias that , um, there are some very creative solutions coming out to other, other parts of the world that could be applied to the U S production agriculture. Um, and sometimes we think we've kinda got it all figured out, but the truth is there's plenty of plenty of problems that , um, there could be solutions out there from other parts of the world that we should be applying here in here in our own backyard,Phil:
Back to Brazil for a second, you know, their , their climate is just the opposite of ours this year. So it's summer. So hopefully you hit some of the beaches in Rio.Matt:
Well, you know, this trip, I wasn't able to make it down to Rio. Um, but probably just as cool. And honestly, just the coolest experience was , um, you mentioned it because of the growing seasons , um , really experiencing firsthand the , the year after year in CF season after season, the how strong production agriculture is and Brazil, because a lot of their crops they can plant and harvest three times in a year. Um, the systems and processes that they have in place , um, really astounding. We were able to visit some large scale farms and see just kind of firsthand , um, some, some of the systems that have in place to make sure that really not a moment is wasted and really now square inches wasted, but at the same time being very respectful of the natural resource, obviously very close to the Amazon , um, up or down in that country, I should say.Phil:
So let's switch gears a second. Um, I went on Nebraska combine.com . I'm intrigued by what I see. Tell me more about the combine itself.Matt:
That's correct. So the combine is a relatively new initiative just kicked off in 2019. And to give some background, I should probably probably talk about the parent organization, which is invest Nebraska. So invest Nebraska is a venture development fund. Um , and this model is pretty common on the East coast of the U S where States that really, if you don't have San Francisco or Boston, your own state, you recognize there's that there's a shortage of, of risk capital for starting high tech , uh, proprietary technology businesses. Um, so the state of Nebraska was very forward thinking in a sense that they recognize we need to be doing more, to help high growth, potential businesses in our state. So they organized the venture development fund and venture relevant organization led by invest Nebraska. Um, and that deploys seed seed capital to early stage entrepreneurs across industry. So we've invested in medical device, cybersecurity , um, really anything that, that has high growth potential in the state of Nebraska. We put some money in , um , and we've seen some pretty amazing success. We've had companies in the banking software, financial services , um, really take off that being said, as you can imagine, I'm production acts like Nebraska as ag technology has really pushed forward. Some of the opportunities around the country, around the world, we were kind of standing by and wondering, where are all of our ag tech entrepreneurs and what can we be doing more to help out these people that are passionate about agriculture? Because a lot of times in Nebraska, the entrepreneurs that are in this area, either they come from a farm directly themselves or their parents or grandparents farms. Um, so the combine is an issue of blood by invest in Nebraska or by groups like Nebraska farm Bureau, department of agriculture, Nebraska department, economic development , uh , the farm carp farm credit services. Um , and the underlying goal is really helping, helping high growth entrepreneurs and ag technology move their idea forward and get it out into the market and test it quickly. And the way that we do this is really through three ways. The first is our incubator program . So we have physical space out here at Nebraska innovation campus, which allows entrepreneurs to work alongside other entrepreneurs and ag tech. Next, we have our insights network and our insights network is a group of farmers and ranchers that are interested in their own interests . They want to know what's, what's coming next and technology that can help out in their operations, or they also care about getting back to Nebraska and helping support local growing high growth, potential businesses by giving quick customer feedback and setting up pilot programs. And then the final component component of the program is really bringing in corporate partners. As you might be aware, Nebraska is home to several large industrial powerhouses in agriculture. We have three of the largest , uh, uh, irrigation companies, right in our own backyard.Phil:
And you have Warren Buffet, don't forget .Matt:
There's a little bit of dry powder available. Um, so we , we feel as a state, if we can kind of rally together and support a lot of our passionate entrepreneurs on ag technology , um, hopefully we'll have some amazing stories to tell. It's just in a couple of months about , um, some of the companies that we're working with and are doing some pretty innovative things. And,Phil:
You know , I'm very happy that not only are you talking about Nebraska a , but you talked about things outside of Silicon Valley. And when I talk to people about incubators , um, especially as it comes to the ag sector, people are really still focused on, on, you know, California and all the money that's there and all the VC money that's there. And then I remind them that the impossible burger came out of Rutgers university's incubator in New Jersey and they go, wow. I had no idea. So the fact of what you're doing in Nebraska is just so important. And the fact that we get this message out there, that it's not all about Silicon Valley, that it's throughout the entire country, that this is happening. Um, so I guess my last question is what happens after Nebraska? Do you see the combine going national or expanding to other States?Matt:
Yeah, I think so . That would definitely be a great opportunity, obviously with the partners we have on board right now, our immediate focus is our own backyard. That being said , um , please do announcer there's great opportunities and great partnerships with groups like I'm launched down in Tennessee and in the yield lab, down in st. Louis, as well as Agra, Novas, Indiana , um, all, all kind of pockets around the country that are one they're working together as far as how can we better tune our programming, but at the same time, we recognize that to keep this strong. We need to really know our look, live strengths, because as you said, it's a constant battle going up, not really going up against, but there's so many, so many resources in areas like Boston and San Francisco and, and understanding that the future of agriculture and a lot of the technologies that are needed, they didn't need to be tested quickly. And that means you can drive down the highway and talk to a farmer with hopefully a couple of minutes.Phil:
Well, Matt, keep up the great work. Congratulations. Uh, next time hit the beach at Rio. I've been there. Uh , it's worthwhile. And , uh , thank you for joining us today on farm food facts.Matt:
Thank you for having me onPhil:
Davyn Surdidjois a social entrepreneur in the agriculture sector and the founder of Etani Agro Nusantara, a startup that works to empower Indonesian farmers to achieve better living. He was born and raised in Jakarta Indonesia, and he's currently a sophomore at Stanford university with concentrations in economics, computer science and data science. His passion stems from a volunteer mission trip to an isolated village in Indonesia when he was just 13, where he made the commitment to help micro small and medium enterprises, mainly in the agriculture sector to break them free from the poverty cycle through innovation, Devin , welcome to farm food facts. Thank you. Very excited to be here. So Devin you're at Stanford probably if not the number one, number two , um , university in the country and perhaps the world. So yes, when you were 13, you went to this village, you were impressed. You're excited. Now, now you've been exposed to Stanford and you still want to stay in agriculture. How come you know? So I think , um , the reason why I got into Stanford in the first place is because they saw my passion to help Indonesian farmers achieve socioeconomic justice.Davyn:
You know, when I was 13 in that village, I saw that the farmers were the main producers of the country. Obviously they're the country's backbones, they're some of the poorest and Indonesia. And I just thought that this wasn't fair. And from , from there , um , a passion just grew inside me and I wanted to help Indonesian farmers. And that's, I mean, I think that transition into being one of my life goals , uh, and one of my dreams yeah . You know , and armed with , uh , education and the knowledge and that network and experience that I'm exposed to at Stanford. I think I could bring that all back to Jakarta, to Indonesia and, you know, make my dreams come true.Phil:
Well, first of all, it's fabulous. Congratulations. Um, you mentioned that the formers or among the poorest in Indonesia, but we had the same issue here in the U S where so many of our farmers are barely breaking, even so many of them have, you know , have to do a second job in order to just survive. What's the problem with all the education that you're now getting with all of your learnings.:
When you look both in Indonesia and at the U S where's our former system going wrong, why are these people among the poorest people we've got when they're among the most valuable people in growing our food? Right? So I'm obviously not as experienced as to the problems in the United States, but as being for Indonesia, just to put things into perspective, 30% of working population in Indonesia are in the agricultural sector, but they only produce about 12% of the country's GDP. So you can see here that there's already like sort of a disparity in their income. The reason for this is because , um, I feel that it's a lack of education, specifically financial education.Davyn:
So what happens in Indonesia is that farmers have zero saving habits whatsoever. So whatever they earn from, you know, their sales today, they will spend everything today. And when they want to begin a new time to exceed them tomorrow, they have no money left . And what they resort to is people called the middleman and the middleman in Indonesia as to a lot of other developing countries, they're evil. I think they basically tell the partners , Hey, we're going to give you whatever money you need to start off your fighting season, but we want all of your, we want all of your products sent to us at a very cheap price. So the farmers have no, the farmers will have no other way out because banks will obviously not trust farmers because banks will not give out loans without collateral. So the, because farmers are very poor and the only way farmers could get loans with a collateral is through the middlemen. And the, I mean, it's not really without collateral. Cause in this case, the collateral is the products, there's their crop, their crop. So that's what happens. And it's like an endless cycle. And you know , the farmers are just stuck in poverty.Phil:
So how are you going to fix it when you go back?Davyn:
So Eatani is currently taking , uh , uh, two soon to be three pronged approach to the problem . Now, the number one reason why the farmers always send their products to the middleman is because they have no other way out. Right? So our number one solution is to tackle the funding side of the problem, but also to tackle the funding, set up the problem we need to tackle the selling side. So there's the producer side and then the consumer side. So the reason why farmers always sensitive middleman . Another reason why is because farmers in Indonesia, they've been bound by these middlemen for centuries, for generations. So they don't have any exposure. They don't have any access to markets because they don't have any exposure to Markets. They don't know who else, who else to sell it to. And the middleman will obviously keep driving the prices down, right? So the market, the market side approach, the consumer side approaches to connect farmers with hotels, catering , restaurants, supermarkets, and also individual customers directly without the need for middlemen. So the farmers could send over their food, using our platform, using our logistics system. And then that way the farmers get a better, a much better selling price by about 20 to 30%. And the consumers also get a cheaper price by about 10 to 20%. And now we're going to go into the funding side. I know a lot of agricultural startups that in Indonesia that's fail because they're only focused on the funding side and not the consumer side as well. I feel that they really go ahead and , and in terms of, you know, like who should I lend to because we want to give them a low interest rate, but we also want to minimize our risk . So what happens is we're only going to lend to the farmers who use our consumer site , who use our marketplace and do some sort of a credit scoring mechanism. So the farmers who perform well, who give the best rated quality, you know, the accurate shipment time, you know , always on time, they will have a higher score and the farm should the highest, where are the ones that we're going to lend the money to. And we're going to give them a low interest rate of about 1% per month as compared to the middleman who gives them a rate of 1% per day.Phil:
So the business model that you're describing is really smart. And I think really interesting. And when we look into the future, when we look two years down the road, three years down the road, when you've got hundreds of farmers and hundreds of hotels and grocery stores and everybody else buying what happens, then what's next, could it, could it be where you make the farmers so successful, so profitable that all of a sudden they turn around and say, Davin , thanks so much. We don't need you anymore.Davyn:
Well, you know, my number one goal is to improve the living standards and the quality of life of all of Indonesia as farmers. And right now, you know, a lot of people have been trying to do that for a long time now. And right now we only have about two to 3000 farmers under a wig. So, you know, getting to the, how many million numbers of farmers in Indonesia, first of all, that's going to be a pretty tough task. And if we get there, hopefully when we get there, you know, at the end of the day, it's, to me, it's about, you know , making the farmers happy right now, what Eaton is doing is we're fostering a culture of loyalty. So we're loyal to the farmers in the sense that if there's any problem with their shipment , we're always there to defend them. When the farmers send their products to the middleman directly, they sell every single one of their products, good or bad, but for us, because we're shipping directly to supermarkets, we're shipping for restaurants. Obviously we have to educate them on packaging, on quality control, you know , like different tiers of fruits and vegetables. You know , for example, the top like tier a apples that only go to high end supermarkets here, be apples with a traditional supermarkets. And then here's the R you can consume them. We educate them. And we also defend them whenever there are any problems we're always on their side. And I think our relationship we formed as such that It's going to be very difficult for them to say, Hey, thanks for helping me. But now I want to be alone because they're going to remember who helped them bring them there in the first place.Phil:
Well, Davyn, this is a fabulous idea. Um , not only for Indonesia, but I think when we look all around the world at farmers, this model that you're creating has some substantial legs to it . So I congratulate you very much and thank you for being on farm food facts today.Davyn:
Thank you so much.Phil:
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