Director of Veggies from Mexico – Confederation of Agricultural Associations of the State of Sinaloa (CAADES)
A Startup is a company that has just begun its first years of operation. They are founded by one or more entrepreneurs who want to innovate with a product or service in which they see a potential demand. They usually start with very high costs and limited revenues. That is why they are constantly looking for capital from family, friends, or venture capitalists (shark tank type). Being such innovative products and being new companies with few assets and capital, it is more difficult for them to obtain loans from traditional banks. Hence, they need to look for someone to take a risk with them on their project. When a startup is valued at more than one billion dollars, it is called a unicorn company.
Some publicly traded companies were startups such as Mcdonald’s, Apple, Starbucks, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Facebook, and Netflix, among others. All of them were undoubtedly successful and greatly benefited those who bet on them in their beginnings. It should be noted, however, that many startups also fail, generating unrecoverable losses for their investors.
Some companies that are currently startups and unicorns are ByteDance (TikTok, CapCut), SpaceX (Elon Musk’s), SHEIN, OpenAI (ChatGPT), and EpicGames (Fornite), among others. There are also successful startups in Mexico, such as Bitso (Cryptocurrencies), Kavak (online car sales), Clip, Incode, and CLARA.
The agri-food sector is no stranger to these types of companies and investments. These are companies that seek to be disruptive within the sector, offering technologies from production to packaging, distribution, and food processing.
One industry where we have undoubtedly seen high investments in research and development is the production of biological chemicals and fertilizers that do not harm the environment and are even safer for the consumer. An example of a startup in this industry would be SOSBio, which is constantly researching and developing this type of product.
Another industry within the sector that is constantly innovating is everything that has to do with irrigation. Hence, for example, the company IRRIOT, whose technology not only allows irrigation at a click away on the cell phone but is also self-sustainable with solar energy, eliminating the use of electricity and the human factor.
A challenge for farmers is the increasingly scarce labor force. That is why startups such as Dahlia Robotics have emerged, offering robots that, using sensors, artificial intelligence, and algorithms, specialize in weed elimination in crops. Reducing labor costs and the use of herbicides.
The Heineken Green Challenge 2021 was organized by Heineken Mexico and INCmty, in the entrepreneurship festival of the Tec de Monterrey, and it was focused on agriculture. The winning companies were Ambient, Tierra Prieta & Agriicola. The first focused on bio-inputs from compost and other materials. Tierra Prieta presented a product made from agricultural waste that goes through a process of “pyrolyzation” generating a soil improver that allows better plant development. Agriicola also offers technology that enables satellite monitoring of crops, generating data that allows growers to make better decisions.
In Sinaloa, there is also a company that has brought innovation using artificial intelligence. It is GrowMind, whose founder is “Culichi” (originally from Culiacan), and offers growers very accurate predictions in yields and pest projections by feeding the algorithm with variables accumulated over years of temperatures, varieties, planting dates, pest measurements, and moon phases, among others. The result allows the growers to make more planned sales, as well as to make preventive rather than corrective applications of agrochemicals to their crops.