Future Agro Challenge Held May 10-12 in Tbilisi

The 2019 Future Agro Challenge Georgia was held on May 10-12 at Tbilisi’s Tech Park.

Future Agro Challenge is an international competition that aims to foster a community of startups, farmers, manufacturers, distributors, and what the organization calls “agro-visionaries.” The competition brings together stakeholders from countries worldwide to start a global conversation, focused around discovering fundable food, agricultural technology, agro-tourism and agriculture innovators and “agripreneurs.”

This is the first year Georgia has participated in Future Agro Challenge, supported by the Tbilisi Startup Bureau, Georgian Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA), and Beeline. Each year, there are different categories delimited by Future Agro Challenge. This year, there are nearly 30 categories, ranging from the more traditional: agro tourism, farmers’ incomes, indoor agriculture, and food traceability and safety, to the innovative: dairy alternatives, drones and robots, food e-commerce, and precision agriculture.

Participants in the Future Agro Challenge are owners of an agribusiness venture that has existed for less than five years, which claims an innovative, scalable clear business model, has a customer segment, has initial market traction or a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and has unique, strong and applicable technology or innovation.

In the weekend’s competition, Georgian agribusiness startups participated in a 48-hour hackathon after which the eight finalist teams pitched their agribusiness concepts to a panel of judges. The winning team, Qvevri XYZ, was deemed “Agripreneur of the Year.” Qvevri XYZ was selected by the judges to represent Georgia at the Future Agro Challenge Global Championship, a central event of the Global Agripreneurs’ Summit, which will be held this year September 7-11 in Thessaloniki, Greece. Participation in the Global Championship will grant the national winner access to world class mentors, investors, potential clients and new market opportunities, along with winners from 59 other countries. The national winner was also granted a cash prize.

The grand prize winner, Qvevri XYZ, is a young Georgian company that has decided to take on a national icon, the qvevri, a clay amphora-shaped vessel traditionally used for fermenting wine. While the qvevri wine-making method was granted the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2013, Qvevri XYZ argues that the 8000-year-old “primitive methods of production,” make modern qvevris “inaccessible, inconsistent and not of good quality.” They offer another approach: 3D printed qvevris. The company pledges to retain elements of the traditional qvevri-making process, blended with modern technology to “improve its structure and quality, yet [keep] its unique characteristics.”

Two other ventures were recognized at Sunday’s finals: Insect Killer, a company that manufactures a device to catch and kill the brown marmorated stink bug that has ravaged Georgian agriculture in recent years, received a GEL 2000 ($730) cash prize, and SoilQuick Tester, a hardware and software product that helps quickly test the soil, which received technical assistance from the Georgian Farmers’ Association.

Future Agro Challenge Georgia’s partners are the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom South Caucasus, Caucasus University, ISET - International School of Economics, Agro Solutions, Wolt, Agricopter, Gogra.ge, Georgian Farmers' Association, Enterprise Georgia, Georgian National Tourism Administration, and the Tbilisi Night Economy Development Project.

By Samantha Guthrie

Image source: Future Agro Challenge

13 May 2019 18:00