‘Innovation strategy responds to a changing world’
The emergence of new technologies provides Rabobank Foundation with new opportunities. In this way, new and more suitable services can be supplied to small farmers in developing countries on the basis of better information. Albert Boogaard, the Head of Innovation, explains.
The world’s population is growing, from a current 7 billion to 10 billion in 2050. This means there will be an increasing number of mouths to feed. At the same time, the amount of available agricultural land is decreasing and food production, especially in Africa, has remained at the same low level for years. ‘But there are opportunities as well,’ says Albert Boogaard. ‘Technological developments and innovations in the field of Food & Agri – agtech – and financial services – fintech – are booming. Rabobank Foundation has therefore developed a strategy to increase the income of small farmers and boost food productivity, particularly through the use of fintech and agtech.’
More information is available
‘Many problems related to the situation of small farmers result from the lack of good information,’ continues Boogaard. ‘The innovation strategy that Rabobank Foundation developed in 2017 responds to this by providing better information about the situation of the farmer and his business. Advice and financing can then be provided on a more customized basis, reducing costs and risks. The farmer therefore becomes more financially viable and the farmers’ cooperative gains better insight into what members need. They can then give more transparency to the financiers of the cooperative, which can accelerate further growth.’
Four data streams
Digitization is key to the innovation strategy. This consists of a combination of four data streams: field information from the farmer, chain information, geodata and the use of fintech such as a mobile savings account and credit scoring. ‘The great thing is that the strategy actually reflects all the aspects of our work, in which we already have 44 years of experience. Adoption of new technology will continue to be a human effort and a thorough knowledge of our target group will always be the deciding factor in innovation projects. At the same time, we as Rabobank Groep have a great deal of knowledge and experience in the field of fintech and agtech, which enables us to make the connection with the future.’
The four data streams are inextricably linked, according to Boogaard. ‘With the help of geodata, crop development can be tracked more accurately and more frequently from a height of 600 kilometers, but field information is still needed to be able to give meaning to it. The chain information can also provide useful insights into such aspects as the quality of the products. For example, we have now started a pilot with blockchain technology for the coffee chain.'
The innovation strategy ensures that Rabobank Foundation can increase its reach and impact. ‘Moreover, it fits seamlessly into the mission Growing a better world together, in which we as Rabobank also want to tackle the world food supply challenges with the help of knowledge and innovation. And in this way, we are responding to the changing world around us. Digitization is booming, in developing countries as well, and it is precisely the Rabobank and Rabobank Foundation that can play a pioneering role here.’