Agricultural Biotechnology Academy
Promoting entrepreneurship and agricultural innovation in young students from rural sectors through Biotechnology
Pitch us on your solution
The climate crisis tests the way in which we develop agriculture. Consequently, it is necessary to increase food production to face the challenges of feeding a growing world population. Latin America and the Caribbean have great potential to become a global pantry. However, the lack of social progress, precarious education, high migration rate, low environmental awareness and gender gaps, hinder their agricultural development.
This is why the Academy of Agricultural Biotechnology was born, an initiative that provides young students from rural sectors, mainly women, the skills to formulate projects using biotechnological tools, to solve local agricultural problems with innovative and sustainable ideas. We promote knowledge, development and innovation within the community, encouraging long-term local agricultural entrepreneurship led by women; we are determined to overcome the challenge of providing quality education, preventing migration, generating environmental awareness and reducing gender gaps.
link to video: Agricultural Biotechnology Academy
What is the problem you are solving?
The effects of climate change and the need to increase food production (up to 70% more) to feed a world population that will reach between 7 and 9 billion by 2050 put agriculture in check. The Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region could become a global pantry. However, it must reinforce its agricultural productivity, threatened by factors such as the lack of social progress in rural areas, extreme poverty, precarious education, high rural migration, low environmental awareness and gender gaps.
Many of the world's poorest people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Agricultural growth can become up to four times more effective at raising the income of the poorest than other economic activities and is presented as a sector with great growth potential, key to the development of the global economy. By promoting the development of agriculture in rural communities through knowledge, development and innovation, we could improve the quality of life of the 124.4 million people living in rural areas in LAC (only 2 million from Chile). By depending on agriculture for their livelihood and relating with it as a means of survival, they feel forced to migrate to urban areas.
Who are you serving?
We have worked in two regions of Chile; one of them possesses one of the lowest median household incomes, with the highest occupation in agriculture and the highest percentage of indigenous population. More than 50 young students (65% women) ages 14 to 18, are summoned by our team, with their teachers. All supported by the local public education service, that know their specific needs. The students are transported to and from the university and research centers where the program is executed where they are received and trained by a multidisciplinary team, so they can tackle agricultural problems in their locality through knowledge and innovation. They are organized in work groups where each one is mentored by a volunteer university student that guides their reflections and self-evaluations on a daily basis. We also work with their parents, being in permanent communication with them, and notifying the arrival/depature of the students and also answering their enquiries. Once the training is finished, our beneficiaries present their projects to the community and authorities. Subsequently, a network of students from the academy is created, monitoring and advancing agricultural innovation projects to create a prototype that can become a long-term source of employment.
What is your solution?
Our solution to increase agricultural development and production in a sustainable way is an educational program aimed at young students (mainly women) from rural sectors, which is made up of a series of training in biotechnology tools and project formulation. We get them to develop their own scientific research project that aims to solve, in an innovative and sustainable way, a local agricultural problem. We work in an integral way and generating alliances with local public education services, public / private universities and local agricultural research centers, in order to link students with the academic, scientific and professional environment. Through practical experience we inspire them to generate local agricultural solutions.
The Biotechnological tools provided in this academic workshop include theoretical and practical experience. We work every day in the laboratory with a team of experts, learning the handling of biosecurity techniques, molecular biology, genetic engineering, microbiology and in vitro plant cultivation applied to the agricultural field. In parallel, they are trained in project formulation, which includes development of leadership skills, teamwork, oral and written expression, English, use of ICTs to search for scientific information, entrepreneurship and innovation.
In summary, we provide a high-quality non-formal education service, which incorporates a project-based learning methodology for the development of scientific skills through biotechnology tools and project formulation, in order to encourage agricultural development and production through innovative and sustainable solutions generated within the rural community. More so, we influence every single student that participate in our Biotechnological workshop, giving them tools that will help them throughout their lives, and opening doors for them that would otherwise be too difficult to access, simply because of the reality they are born into.
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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Santiago, Chile
Our solution's stage of development:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Our initiative is pioneer in combining a project-based learning methodology together with modern biotechnology tools that include a gender focus, in a non-formal education program aimed at young students (mainly women) from rural areas to promote knowledge, development and innovation in an agricultural context within their locality, aiming to promote in the long term the increase in agricultural production in a sustainable way and offering new opportunities for labor development and overcoming poverty in their rural communities. Also, we are pioneers in providing access to laboratory techniques allowing the manipulation of state-of-the-art technology to young high-school students so that they learn through practice and that they also work collaboratively and comprehensively with different actors in the local environment, such as public education services, public/private universities, research centers and farmers. Among the agricultural innovation projects that our students have generated we can highlight: rizofiltration systems for the treatment of contaminated waters; biofungicides for agricultural pests; organic fertilizers from microalgae; recovery of native species with commercial potential through in vitro cultivation, among others.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Agriculture is a sector with great growth potential and that can be up to four times more effective than other sectors in raising the income of the poorest (WEF). The strategies to turn farmers into rural entrepreneurs should take into account gender considerations, an environmentally sustainable approach, provide access to information regarding efficient agricultural methods and innovations, and combine ability development with training and technological packages (FAO).
Understanding what Biotechnology is, generates an objective and informed vision of sustainable bioindustrial development, inviting students to be protagonists and future agents of change in our society, by knowing, experiencing and living in a world that is increasingly more “bio” and more “techno” (Díaz, 2014. Biotecnologia en todos lados:...).
The Academy's focus on agricultural biotechnology, is supported by a Scientific Frame of Education that offers the possibility of bringing young people, belonging to rural areas, to create and present innovative improvements, applicable to the reality of the agriculture possessed in their region. The development of scientific competences at the school level allows for the development of tools that may be of use throughout their lives. Our students develop scientific competences, acquire knowledge, techniques, confidence and increase their life expectancies around education, transforming their vision of agricultural problems.
Testimonies: "The Academy changed my vision of agricultural problems" Carolina Barra student 2019,"My daughter is fascinated with the studies they do, I love seeing her with that enthusiasm, it has been a positive experience for her and for me ”, Lerida Vidal, 2019.
Select the key characteristics of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean your solution serves (or will serve).
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
We currently work directly with 75 young students (65% women), from rural areas of the Metropolitan region and Araucanía, Chile. In a period of one year we project to double that number, reaching 150 more students, who come from other regions of our country or Latin America and the Caribbean. If we were to maintain our annual budget in the next 5 years, with no increase in donations, we estimate reaching 375 to 400 students from different rural sectors in Chile and Latin America and the Caribbean.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Our objectives for the present and next year are, on the one hand, to raise financing through national R+D+I funds for the more than 15 agricultural innovation projects created by our students and have results that validate them, in order to enhance the development of ventures in our former students. On the other hand, to continue with new generations of the academy at new and established regions, where we will implement laboratory equipment kits along with proper training for the science teachers at each educational establishment we reach, so that they continue to replicate the development of the academy independently, relying on our advice remotely. Finally, next year and within the next 5 years our goal is to expand internationally, reaching other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, providing opportunities, delivering tools and inspiring thousands of women in rural areas. Since its inception, the academy has alliances and collaborative work with educational and research entities that allow us to provide a high standard of quality and link our students with agricultural innovation and their professional world. Each academy has the collaboration of the ministry of agriculture, the general government secretariat, public education services, universities and research centers. In this same way we plan to expand the program to other countries, through the collaboration of public and private actors for the formation of a multidisciplinary work team, which will be trained by us to replicate the academy and its model at the national level in different rural towns.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
The main barrier to achieving our short and long term objectives is obtaining fixed financing. Although we hope to generate self-financing over time through the ventures that arise from our academy, we currently have the financing of public and private funds that are awarded and become renewable each year; this generates uncertainty since they can be modified, reduced or not renewed at all.
At a technical level, we have the advantage that “science” has a universal language, which makes it easier to form a technical work team, in which the challenge is how to integrate into the methodology, or training process, the socio-cultural aspects of each country or locality, such as ethnic groups or indigenous communities in each sector, local knowledge and ancestral natural medicine, language, agricultural practices, among others.
In legal terms, it is worth noting the need to study the legislation of each country with respect to research and development funds, remuneration, and policies associated with agricultural development (percentage of the available funds allowed to cover wages, equipment, supplies, etc.). Also, the public / private funds available to finance business ventures that could help develop any agricultural innovation that arise from the academy at each country. And finally, within a year, our main barrier is to coordinate execution times considering the contingency and uncertainty caused by the global pandemic caused by covid-19.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
To overcome and cushion the barrier of fixed financing, we are going to create a self-financing system through the generation of agricultural innovation projects that, once they become true enterprises and / or patents, generate ethical remuneration and allocate a percentage of this earnings to continue the development of the academy. In parallel, we will look for private sponsors or financial partners (agricultural or biotechnology companies) that have an interest in contributing to the development of agricultural innovation in the local communities in which they maintain facilities or that have an interest in the area. Likewise, our current collaborating entities (both public and private) already have external alliances with similar entities in Latin American and Caribbean countries, so we count on their support and advice to resolve the technical-legal challenges for the implementation of the program in other countries. In this way, we will use our main resource, our collaborative alliances, to generate new alliances and replicate the model at an international level, further supported by our results, which have been presented in internationally renowned scientific education journals. In terms of socio-cultural barriers, we will meet, reflect and co-design with the local educational communities of our target rural areas before implementing the academy, collecting first information regarding the locality, its socio-cultural aspects (basic needs, agricultural problems, main crop that is developed in the town, among others), providing the community with a space to meet and comunicate.
If you selected “I am planning to expand my solution to Latin America/Caribbean,” please provide an overview of your expansion plans. What is the market opportunity for your business or product in Latin America and the Caribbean?
Our solution has been implemented in rural communities in two regions of our country. To expand to other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, we are seeking alliances with the international private sector related to agriculture, innovation and biotechnology. Through their area of corporate social responsibility we will be able to provide financing for the execution of activities in other countries. Likewise, we manage these alliances with research centers and public-private universities at national, regional and local levels to link beneficiaries with the means of agricultural innovation and the use of their facilities. Once this network and funding have been secured, public education services or local educational establishments are contacted to extend the invitation to participate in the project to the local educational community. In the same way, we hope and work so that in the long term a product of agricultural innovation emerges from our academy that generates an impact at the international level and attracts the attention of new financial partners or sponsors. Regarding the market, there is a growing demand to increase food production worldwide, therefore agriculture is one of the sectors with the greatest potential for economic growth and which requires the implementation of capabilities, skills, technologies and information in rural communities, as well as involving women and encouraging their development, all for turning Latin America and the Caribbean into a pantry for world food, contributing to the economic development of the region and reducing extreme poverty in rural areas.
Select an option below:
How many people work on your solution team?
We have a multidisciplinary team that works internally (full time) and externally (part-time) in the academy. Internally, there is the project manager (biotechnologist), laboratory manager (biotechnologist), innovation manager (biotechnologist) education manager (teacher) and agriculture and sustainability manager (agricultural engineer). Externally, there are monitors (undergraduate students of biotechnology, agronomy or a similar degree), scientists and academics from universities and research centers, authorities and coordinators of public education services and teachers from the educational establishments involved. We have a total staff of 25: 5 internal and 25 external.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
As project manager I have 4 years of experience leading scientific education and environmental education projects, leading work teams, planning, executing and making financial returns of our organization and its projects. Also, managing relations with our collaborating entities and applying for national and international financing funds. I also have two years of experience in research and laboratory work in the context of agri-food development. For the success of each initiative, our multi-disciplinary team has vast experience, where our laboratory and innovation managers have at least 4 years of experience in research, innovation and raising funds for the development of scientific ventures with an agricultural focus (we are recognised in funds such as All Biotec, Copec-UC, Aplica tu idea). Our teaching team has vast experience in education and working with teachers through the implementation of different trainings (at least 6 years), teacher training (leading subjects of science didactics in teacher training at prestigious universities) and academic publications. Likewise, our agriculture and sustainability team has worked in the implementation of agricultural projects in rural areas, having experience in raising the needs of the community and solving them in a sustainable way. Everyone in our internal team has a great vocation for community service, being involved in different educational projects with social focus, working with communities of people with high social risk and vulnerability, working under pressure, overcoming challenges, working as a team collaborative. We constantly evaluate and measure impact factors to quantify our results, assessing possible improvements.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
We are currently working in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture (coordinating authorities and raising agricultural problems), General Secretariat of the Government of Chile (financing and rendering of the project, government support), Mayor University (working in its facilities and materials for laboratories and rooms), Millennium Institute of Integrative Biology IBIO (academics and scientists, advice on cutting-edge techniques), National Institute of Agricultural Research INIA (field trips and lines of research in agricultural innovation) and local educational establishments and public education services to summon beneficiaries, teachers and support to work with the local educational community. We work with all organizations in a collaborative, participative, comprehensive and organized manner, updating content and innovations and supporting the development of projects that arise from the academy, working intensively during the development of the program. All of them provide the project with financial and non-financial contributions that allow its operation.
What is your business model?
Our initiative provides value to populations in rural areas living in extreme poverty, that use agriculture as a livelihood. Through the delivery of an educational program aimed at young students, mainly women, which includes training in modern biotechnology tools applied to agriculture and project formulation. With this, we deliver value through the development of scientific competences (set of skills, knowledge and aptitudes) that will not only serve them to be applied in the formulation of agricultural innovation projects, but also are useful in a whole way in life, since it includes development of logical thinking, ideas, creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, among others. Likewise, an added value is provided to the beneficiaries through training in the use of biotechnology tools that include various laboratory techniques, which may result in a future source of employment. In addition, through the raising of funds for research and development for each of the projects generated in the academy, we deliver extra value by providing an opportunity for the development of agricultural entrepreneurship, which could give our beneficiaries economic independence and overcoming poverty. At a general level, we deliver added value to the national and global economy by promoting the development of agriculture through innovation aimed at rural communities.
On the other hand, we deliver added value to our collaborating entities by linking them with the values of social responsibility and the development of local agriculture through education, spreading the initiative to the entire community through digital media, social networks, among others.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Our business model is framed within a non-profit organization, which completely reinvests in work, organization development and project growth. This includes the participation of public and private actors / collaborators that provide both financial and non-financial contributions to the organization. Also, in the private sector donations are raised which allow, according to our legislation, to reduce donor taxes through the donations law.
Our operations strategy considers an internal multidisciplinary team that works permanently on our initiative and a team that only works on the execution of activities. Our internal team maintains contact with our external collaborators and is also constantly searching for new sponsors.
Our model considers the delivery of subsidized services by public and private organizations in an integrated way with their business activities and / or social programs. Likewise, it includes organizational support in commercial activities to promote the development of ventures from agricultural innovation projects, aiming to generate sales of products and / or services in the long term, all to guarantee an income for the initiative.
Why are you applying to the TPrize Challenge?
We are applying to the TPrize Challenge to gain International recognition by leading innovative educational entities. Such recognition will open our doors both at National and International level, validating our methodology and results. Another strong reason is the financial support we could gain to expand our project internationally, and also, due to the invaluable experience of meeting, discussing, working, debating and reflecting with other leading innovators in education. Sharing with other experts and academics of our area would allow us to sharpen and hone our own tools and acquire even better instruments to achieve our goals, by simply consulting their advice and knowlegde.
We apply to the TPrize Challenge because we have seen and lived the profound impact that our program made on our students (mainly female), improving their confidence and motivating them to achieve goals in their lives that surpass the gender gaps, aspiring to more than just looking for a husband and start a family; they are inspired to obtain and put all their efforts on continuing their superior education. We transform their vision of agriculture, giving a new meaning to it, an opportunity to develop economically and professionally through science, innovation and entrepeneurship. We are convinced that our initiative and method can transform the development of agriculture in our country, and LAC region, through education and provision of tools that allow for innovative development of agriculture at a local level, enhancing the quality of their lives and both acknowledging and encouraging the female role in this area.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
We would like to generate alliances with International Organizations such as FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), IADB (Inter-American Development Bank), ECLAC (Economic Comission for Latin America and the Caribbean) and/or IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) to align our project with their work and funding guidelines, and also to provide international opportunities for our students. On another hand, we would like to replicate our collaborative model and public-private alliances for the execution of our initiative at an international level. More so, we would like to generate alliances with Universities of International recognition that work in the development of science, agriculture and/or education; with research centers from governments or the private sector that are developing research in agricultural innovations that solve local and national issues; private entities that are dedicated to the development of biotechnological and agricultural products (such as Bayer, Tokita, SQM), so we may gain access to funding or collaborations for our program. Finally, we would like to generate alliances with public education centers and government organisms at a local level to work sinergically at implementing activities for specific communities, reaching also Civil Society Organizations that are working in rural areas.
- Camila Martinez Chacaltana Biotechnology in Agro food, ONG Susténtate