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Helping Colombia meet the challenge of sustainable agriculture

Posted on 02/08/2018

The UK Agri-Tech community is working with Colombian partners to develop bespoke solutions to agricultural challenges.

After five decades of internal armed conflict, the peace deal of 2016 has opened up new opportunities for increased prosperity in Colombia. The UK is providing support for this process through the £25 million Colombia Prosperity programme, focussing on infrastructure and agriculture sectors across post conflict and conflict-affected regions. The aim is to help Colombia achieve inclusive growth, poverty reduction, and gender equality whilst also contributing to the improvement of the commercial environment so that international business, including UK companies, can compete favourably in new markets.

In a recent initiative, the Colombian Prosperity Fund Programme and Innovate UK announced an investment of up to £3 million through the Agri-tech Catalyst Colombia to support innovation projects that address challenges facing the agriculture sector. The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) provided a substantial amount of support for the Agri-tech Catalyst Colombia, working closely with Innovate UK, FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), and CIAT.

UK delegates on the Agri-tech Catalyst Colombia mission are shown examples of Colombian Agriculture

How did KTN support the Agri-tech Catalyst Colombia?

KTN’s activities in support of the Agri-tech Catalyst Colombia included:

  • Increasing awareness of the Agri-tech Catalyst Colombia (you can sign up for our newsletters here)
  • Hosting a briefing event for potential applicants (watch the video here)
  • Matchmaking between UK and Colombian partners. KTN hosted databases of potential applicants from both the UK and Colombia and our team were able to facilitate new collaborations via our contacts at CIAT
  • Assisting with a mission to Colombia to allow UK delegates to meet Colombian partners and providing them with opportunities to learn more about the specific agricultural challenges
    • Promoting the mission opportunity to the UK Agri-Tech community and supporting the selection process
    • Accompanying the UK delegation to Colombia and providing post-mission support
    • Liaising with Colombian organisations that our team met in Colombia and helping them to find partners in the UK
  • Providing advice on the application process and reviewing draft applications (the competition closed on 25th July 2018)
UK delegates on the Agri-tech Catalyst Colombia mission learn about the challenges of Colombian Agriculture

On a mission to support Agri-Tech take-up in Colombia

The Agri-tech Catalyst Colombia competition aimed to support inclusive growth in the Colombian and UK Agri-tech sector through the development of innovative technologies, products and services. It was essential for potential UK applicants to have a good understanding of the particular needs and challenges of Colombian Agriculture. In addition, projects needed to be collaborative and include at least one UK and one Colombian partner, so there was a need to facilitate introductions between UK and Colombian organisations.

Working in collaboration with CIAT, KTN helped organise a partnering mission to Colombia for 15 UK applicants whose Agri-Tech expertise included sensor and monitoring networks, satellite observation, plant, animal and fish breeding, block chain technology secure supply chains and food manufacturing. Over a week the UK delegates met with 150 organisations, took part in 168 meetings, and took part in tours of Colombian agriculture sites, helping then to gain a greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities of the Colombian agriculture, and to establish strong collaborations with Colombian partners.

KTN’s Dr Liliya Serazetdinova (Knowledge Transfer Manager – Agri-Food), Nee-Joo Teh (Head of International & Development) and Jess Sully (Projects Support Manager – International & Development) accompanied the delegates on the mission.

Speaking about the mission, Dr Liliya Serazetdinova said:

“The Programme attracted very high interest from both the UK and the Colombian partners. The in-country partner, CIAT, played a major role in ensuring this success by promoting the Programme in Colombia and facilitating in-country meetings and visits to three locations during the mission.

“Colombia is hungry for innovation to support the rebuilding of its economy after the conflict, and agriculture is seen as a key sector. During the partnering mission we saw why – this is the country with the most biodiversity on Earth, it has rich water resources, and it produces a wide range of crops throughout the year. However, productivity is low, and small-holder communities, especially women led farming units, need more support, improved knowledge of agri-tech technologies, and help to link into higher value chains.

“Most of the crops grown in Colombia are utilised around the globe in high value products that we use every day, but they also produce a wide range of other crops including fruits, berries that are new both to the UK and Europe and have potential to support local communities.

“We were surprised with the level of existing knowledge and interest in precision agriculture, digital technologies and the interest in organic crop production. Through this Programme we have met many research organisations, grower and trade associations, and entrepreneurs who are enthusiastic about growing the Colombian Agri-food sector, and keen to build links with UK partners.”

Further information

The Agri-tech Catalyst Colombia is now closed.

You can find out more about the Agri-tech Catalyst Colombia here.

You can also read a blog by Ian Holmes, who runs the UK Colombian Agri-Tech Catalyst Fund for Innovate UK, here.

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