Honey with tahini, coarse salt with spices and sweet nougat are some of the Greek dishes that will take pride of place at the conference center of Plaza Mayor in Medellin, Colombia this year. The Future Agro Challenge (FAC), an international competition for business start-ups in the agri-food sector which was born in Greece, is already in its third year of life and is being hosted this year in South America. Innovation in agriculture is often sidelined, but its importance is not to be underestimated.
The FAC will be a featured event at the at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress– gathering together thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers and other startup champions.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that investment in agriculture must be increased by more than 50%, and it is this context that groups from Chile, Israel, Morocco, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Palestine, Peru, Russia, Sudan and Greece, finalists in their own home countries, will compete with each other on the basis of their business idea at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress.
The prize has not yet been disclosed, but the FAC has, so far, awarded prizes to ten companies totaling €500,000 from private funds, while the global winner of FAC 2014 was also received as a guest at the White House.
“We wanted to give a boost to the Greek producer,” says Dimitra Paraskevopoulos from Ava’s Farm, which will represent Greece at the competition.
“We are not just another e-shop, because we have brought several e-shops together,” explains one of the three people who make up the start-up, which has been active for three years now.
“We give the opportunity to any interested small producer from Greece to open an e-shop immediately (in one day) and without any costs, where they can present between three to 100 products,” Ms. Paraskevopoulos explains.
“Only upon sale, we receive 17% of the price.”
Cutting out the middle man has resulted in many rare and high quality products being up to 70% cheaper. “The innovative platform, available in Greek and English, already has 200 producers from all over Greece registered, while 70 of them are truly active,” she says, recalling that “in our first approach the producers were very cautious, but over time, the climate changed drastically.”.
“Consumers, on the other hand, were enthusiastic from the start, because the quality of food from small producers is something that is well known.”
After each purchase, customers are able to rate the products.
“Hard to find spices are especially popular, such as untreated salt,” concludes the founder of Ava’s Farm.