In the course of the activities of Tech4agri there has been heavy engagement with young entrepreneurs in the field that utilize a variety of ICTs in their agriculture projects. However they face challenges that prevent the progress of these projects.
Hurdles to overcome
Major amongst these challenges is lack of agri knowledge. While the majority of youth are tech savy and forward thinking, case in point the young developers of the Agrihack Talent Competition, a background in any field of study related to agriculture is missing. As a result apps, products and services that are developed using ICTs are not an exact fit for end users.
Who they are specifically, their problems,their needs and their capabilities in terms of understanding ICTs are all questions that should be answered prior, during and after development. Feedback from end users and partnerships with relevant stakeholders is key.
From the presentations given by the app developers aforementioned competition at the CWA 2014, it is clear that they have recognized this challenge with some having already taken steps to overcome it.
Linked to this is another issue that lies in a general disconnect with local and regional agriculture. Within sectors or fields of study, there exist rigid lines of separation, so that persons who have a great interest agriculture but are of a different background lose their initiative in our all important sector due to a lack of support services.
In the case of tech4agri emphasis has been placed on securing start up funds via open business competitions both at the national and regional level. However all applications thus far have failed. Despite this, within the agricultural diaspora tech4agri has done well, winning several awards building social currency, a good reputation, and representing the youth voice in agriculture.
Is it that tech4agri lacks something in particular or that general business experts are similarly detached from agriculture?
Despite these challenges the opportunities for scaling up are available. There has been an overall push towards the establishment of ICT hubs, tech centers and business incubators however there is room for some specification towards agri related enterprises.
Additionally the number of educational programmes, for youth in Agri, ICT or otherwise within the Caribbean is quite significant, but therein lies the problem. These programmes can certainly be partly diversified, exposing students to other fields which can contribute to efforts in scaling up in the future.
Such an action would be more sustainable in comparison to yearly or one off events that foster a limited number of projects chosen for support; granted those projects are the cream of the crop.
Lastly many of us are aware of the chronic problems of organization and implementation that face the caribbean. If we can ensure the sustainability of programmes and initiatives which continually support youth, ICT for agri projects and agribusiness much greater benefit for the overall sector can be achieved.