What We Learned About Agriculture With Crop Enhancement

Guest post by BEACN

The Bay-Area Environmentally Aware Consulting Network (BEACN) is a group of undergraduates who take on clients from the Bay Area and beyond for semester long projects. Our members solve everything from supply side sustainability improvements to brand strategizing and market sizing questions for environmental start ups. We work with clients, both private and public, in order to learn more about green business, environmental policy, and cutting edge energy efficient, low waste technologies. We as an organization give students an opportunity to develop their professional skills through consulting projects with institutions who share our belief in sustainability as a critical component to a thriving economy. The Crop Enhancement / BEACN team consisted of seven members: Project Managers Vineet J Nair and Palak Thakur, and Associate Consultants, Jessica Chow, Marc Cunningham, Augustin Hochet, Allegra Saggese, and Zach Woogen. We had the wonderful opportunity to work with Kevin and Dan this semester on a project investigating new markets for Crop Enhancement’s CropCoat® product.

When we had our first team meeting and Vineet and Palak introduced the technology to the team, everyone was in awe and excited for what the semester would hold. We have all heard of the problems with pesticides and the environmental problems they pose, and to see such a simple yet effective solution to the problem was really inspiring. In addition to the health and environmental benefits, it was also heartening to see CropCoat’s socioeconomic benefits, since it is expected to reduce costs and labor requirements for farmers. Our team was more than ready to explore this new field of the agrochemical industry and see the factors that play into successful penetration of the market.

A large part of the semester consisted of creating a crop database of 50 crops that would be an initial “best-fit” for Crop Enhancement. Some of the factors we looked into for each crop were specific diseases and pests affecting the crop, crop value in dollars per hectare, negative effects of current pesticides and total pesticide usage. Out of these 50 crops, 11 were prioritized after looking at location, total pesticide usage, and global market size of the crop. Following this selection, more detailed market entry analysis was conducted on these crops, where we further segmented the crop market into the largest growing countries in order to come up with implementation strategies specific to each region. The team collected valuable information on the pesticide and agrochemicals industry, key players (including competitors and potential partners) in the industry and different regions, as well as pesticide distribution channels in different countries.

We learned that certain crops are more pesticide intensive than others and that regulations and rules differ greatly from country to country. It was also interesting to find out how much pesticide misuse happens globally. The more accurate and reliable access to information on agrochemicals is, the more farmers could benefit from these products without producing the negative effects that improper application causes for human health and the environment. Learning more about the chemical pesticide and agriculture industries, their inter-dependencies, and the areas for improvement in education and regulation, we explored significant channels where Crop Enhancement could most effectively work to reduce the poor use of agrochemicals in some of the world’s most fruitful countries.

The team members have left the project with an additional set of skills, research techniques, and professional confidence in the agricultural marketing, policy, and distribution industries. One particular piece of learning we all had was the value of asking good questions. Because CropCoat is extremely versatile and the global agriculture industry so vast, narrowing down our scope and focusing on the relevant details became critical to keeping our research on track. Although we found many valuable resources with extensive statistics on individual regions and crops, asking the right questions in order to follow a path that produced valuable information for the Crop Enhancement team was always our goal, and we worked hard and discussed often to get there.

The research we did was very exciting because it’s very different from the material we learn in classes, so being presented with the opportunity to look into the agrochemical industry is amazing because it is a huge part of the world’s economy we do not all have exposure to in our academic careers.  The team meetings were always very fun and lively. Palak and Vineet would come back with the new information from Kevin and Dan after the weekly update calls and provide feedback for the project to date. We would then go around and share our findings at the beginning of each meeting and it was always interesting to see what information members had accumulated and surprising facts they found.

Overall, working with Crop Enhancement was an amazing experience. Kevin, Dan and the rest of the Crop Enhancement team were very responsive and helpful throughout the whole project. They were very flexible and open to new ideas and questions that arose from the team. On the final deliverable day, Kevin brought a sample of CropCoat to the presentation and we were all so excited to see the innovative product first hand! The product is well suited to a wide variety of crops and regions, and we look forward to following its rapid growth over the next few years.