The Yield Lab LatAm has announced its new cohort of startups selected from a pool of 171 global applicants. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the Buenos Aires-based program is going full steam ahead.
“The main thing this year is that we saw a lot of deal flow. We were extremely active in the midst of everyone else maybe taking a step back,” Camila Petignat, principal at The Yield Lab, told AFN.
“We doubled down on our intention to be a leader in the sector, specifically in Latin America. We managed to get a lot of connections in new locations that we were hoping to develop once we traveled such as Mexico or Colombia.”
Launched in 2018, The Yield Lab LatAm mirrors its sister programs in the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific, which have been running for a number of years. It awards selected startups with $100,000 in investment, access to its global network of mentors, tailor-made coaching sessions, and individual mentorship from its leadership team.
Applicants this year included a number offering precision ag solutions, while supply chain technologies were another key theme.
“The third [main segment was] foodtech and new food ingredients. Last year, we got maybe one or two applications and this year there was an outburst of new companies that are appearing in that sector,” Petignat said.
Several applications were submitted by entrepreneurs from other industries coming to agriculture to apply their expertise to new problem sets, including fintech in particular, said Kieran Gartlan, managing director at The Yield Lab.
“I think fintech is an area that will really help push technology onto the farms,” he told AFN. “If you can offer credit and insurance and other financial services to farmers with the caveat that you have to show some visibility about how you are producing and your sustainable methods, that is an incentive for farmers to adopt more technology.”
When deciding who makes the cut, a strong team tops the list of criteria for The Yield Lab LatAm. Here are the startups selected to participate in its 2020 program:
- Botanical Solutions – This Chilean startup manufactures plant-based active ingredients and products from advanced botanicals. Its first farm input product is Botristop, a ‘natural’ fungicide for the control of the botrytis fungus in grapes, strawberries, and similar crops being sold in partnership with Syngenta.
- @Tech – Hailing from Brazil, this startup uses AI, data science, and IoT tech to integrate supply chains and enhance value creation in the animal protein industry. It claims its first product, BeefTrader, can predict the optimal trading point in cattle both for feedlot and grass systems. It’s also piloting similar solutions for poultry and fish.
- Voa – Another Brazilian outfit, this startup offers a ‘fully-integrated’ drone fleet and analytics-based service for precise application and monitoring of biological agents, agro-chemicals, and nutrients.
A fourth company, from Argentina, was also selected for the program but remains undisclosed.
Accelerating through a pandemic
Covid-19 has presented countless challenges for companies, from remote working to finding new ways to approach sales. The obstacles have been no different for The Yield Lab LatAm, which would normally have spent a lot more time in the air and on the ground throughout the call-for-applications and selection process.
Normally, the program completes the selection and closes investments before June. This year, things were a bit different.
“We did a mixture of things. While we were doing due diligence, we ran some accelerator sessions with the companies that we were actually reviewing,” Petignat said.
Having to reinvent the wheel can be frustrating – but sometimes rocking the boat has its benefits.
“The sector was maybe comfortable in doing things the old way. For us, it disrupted our programming but in a positive way,” Gartlan said. “In the end, we can actually see a lot more startups virtually than we could previously in person.”
The 2020 program is relying on virtual sessions in lieu of in-person meetings. While many of us are feeling the fatigue of video conferencing and being cooped up at home, The Yield Lab LatAm team is optimistic.
“We expect that next year we will have a little bit more flexibility to travel. Eventually it will come and we will meet them in person,” Petignat said.