Small and medium agribusiness and agtech (agricultural technology) start-ups often struggle to grow due to a lack of access to resources, appropriate technologies, technical and management expertise, and market support.
CGIAR researchers at ICRISAT in 2003 founded the Agri-Business Incubator (ABI-ICRISAT) program to address these challenges. By leveraging research expertise and aggregating the services of various actors in the agricultural sector, ABI-ICRISAT has managed to provide many innovative solutions to value-chain problems commonly faced by start-ups.
The incubator was the first of its kind to focus on businesses in the agricultural sector. It has since proven to be an effective platform for translating research outputs into real market change.
The incubator was the first of its kind to focus on businesses in the agricultural sector. It has since proven to be an effective platform for translating research outputs into real market change. Through ABI-ICRISAT, local ventures are offered tailor-made service packages that broadly cover technology validation, business modeling and team development, market connect and field trials, and access to infrastructure and related resources – all under one roof – which allows start–up entrepreneurs to focus on developing technological solutions that offer value to farmers, markets, and consumers.
The entrepreneurship promotion model has also been scaled up through a unique co-business incubation approach, which involves close mentoring for institutional leaders, development sector partners, and incubator management teams. The approach has been deployed across India and Africa to create a culture and ecosystem for effective start-up entrepreneurship to enhance livelihood opportunities, and the adoption of technologies that ultimately benefit dryland farmers.
In the space of four years, the six incubators promoted 294 enterprises and generated 4,665 jobs.
Of the 105 agribusiness and agtech start-ups supported by ABI-ICRISAT since its founding, 79 have graduated from the incubator to become successful businesses. Their success has raised $33.5 million in follow-on funding, generated more than 2,500 jobs, and cultivated an ecosystem of more than 40 partners as service providers, investors, foundations, and more. More than 3.1 million farmers across India have used the products and services in the past year.
In Africa, six value-chain focused incubators were established in five countries, supported by a DANIDA-funded project of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). In the space of four years, the six incubators promoted 294 enterprises and generated 4,665 jobs. Further, 10 food processing business incubators and food testing labs were set up in Ghana, Mali, Uganda, Cameroon, Angola, Nigeria, The Gambia, Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda through the India-Africa Forum Summit-II of the Government of India.
In India, the co-business incubation approach has resulted in the establishment of 22 agribusiness incubators in Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutions, which in turn have supported the development of 1,218 enterprises and 331 agro-technologies.
Header photo: Participants at the launch ceremony of the Mali Agri-Business Incubation Hub exhibit with some of their processed products. Photo by M. Diallo, Macina Film/ICRISAT.