This is an article written for Farming First. In this guest post, João Igor, Chief Design Officer and Co-Founder of CoolFarm, gives advice to young entrepreneurs who want to get involved in agritech. CoolFarm will be presenting at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture, in Abu Dhabi on 16–17th February 2016.
Nowadays, we can feel the fever as we head towards 2050, when 9 billion people will need to be fed with even less resources. We can also testify to the rapid increase in demand for local food — which in North America alone rose from $1 billion in 2005, to nearly $7 billion last year.
So, if you are concerned about sustainability, food, health, and you want to be part of a meaningful solution, why not start working in agritech?
Millennials are changing the old and unfair stigma attached to farming. Today, in many parts of the world, working in farming is no longer a tedious, intensive and low-wage job. A new generation of farmers is putting their hearts into technology. This is an extremely important development, because tech is considered to be “super cool” by young people. Young people want to use it, learn it and do more with it.
This is how CoolFarm was born. We were four young people living in the city, trying to improve our unhealthy lives by using our own professional skills to create a product that could easily grow high quality vegetables in our own houses. The trend for vertical farming is attracting millions of dollars in venture capital funding, and brands like Phillips are improving LEDs to grow vegetables in warehouses. Everyone has an eye on it!
We had detected a market, but upon starting the business we encountered many challenges related to production, price strategy and distribution. This is how we overcame these challenges, and got to the product that CoolFarm sells today.
I. Joining a Global Acceleration Programme
For CoolFarm this was a game changer. I really feel that we are stronger thanks to all the business development that we did during our first steps in the global acceleration programmes, IC2 Institute and Lisbon Challenge . That is where you need to be if you have a scalable concept to solve a market need. By joining startup programs, you will learn a lot and get in touch with experienced entrepreneurs. Be humble, and learn from their stories, mistakes and successes.
II. Build the Best Team
The most important thing in an early stage business is the team, you will always need the best believers by your side. There is no running away from this and you would be surprised how investors really acknowledge this fact. The team is everything. Money comes afterwards.
III. Choose the Right Investor
Like all startups, CoolFarm needed to start raising money fast, because time to market is imperative. It is very important to meet different kinds of investors, if possible abroad as well. Don’t shake hands with the first investor that tells you that your excel sheet is good enough for him. You need to smile, relax and above all else, find an investor that really shares your vision. This has nothing to do with equity or valuation, but rather with belief. Your perfect investor may be just around the corner and you can find him sooner than you think, but you still need to be critical. For CoolFarm it was not a matter of time, it was a matter of finding the best.
We are now building an advanced control system focused on crops, designed for vegetable growers and compatible with all greenhouses and warehouses. We are also trying to create an extremely inspiring brand with the goal of bringing people close to global concerns and challenges regarding farm sustainability and food needs by 2050.
You too can become part of this exciting industry, producing high quality food in cities at a commercial-scale and in an ecologically sustainable way, caring about people, business and the environment impact reduction. You can really make profit doing good. Young agripreneurs, your time is now!
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