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Investment in the Agri-Technologies Ecosystem

Posted on October 28 2015 | Author: Dave Smardon

I recently returned from a Global Investor Conference in Montreux, Switzerland. It was quite the eye-opener. Participating were large family offices, fund of fund organizations and institutional investors like pension funds and endowments. What was particularly noteworthy was the growing interest in agricultural technologies, food security, and water security. One could make the argument that up to 2 years ago, very few investment organizations were paying close attention to these areas.  Much has changed in a fairly short period of time and it is not hard to understand why.

One of the presentations at the conference was from the U.K. government. The U.K. is committing £70 million for the creation of the Agri-Tech Catalyst Fund and a further  £90 million targeting the support for creation and commercialization of agricultural innovation. The U. K. is not the only country that has trained its sights on agriculture. The Netherlands, France, Brazil, Ireland and New Zealand have each launched similar programs to support their own home grown agri-tech companies. Word on the street is that Germany will be next.  Add to this the fact that the European Economic Commission has designated agriculture, food, and water as key targets for their European programs to support research, development and commercialization. Countries like these are taking steps that they perceive will position them as future global leaders in the development and commercialization of new and innovative agriculture, food, and water technologies.  Some of this government funding must be matched with private capital and is often matched at conditions that are most favorable to the private investors. 

In the U.K., funds can be invested in new venture capital and private equity funds as long as there is a critical mass of private capital and the recipients are willing to establish a local U.K. office. No doubt they will be able to attract investment firms that see the U.K. as a viable source of capital, investment deals and a logical place for an office. Once again, New Zealand, Singapore, and others are taking the same approach. Offer up some capital, match it with the private sector, and domicile it locally. Admittedly, its not a bad strategy to build and grow your investment eco-system and benefit the targeted sector; agriculture.

So as I return home to Canada, I cannot help but wonder where are we in this race. Historically, Canada has been a global leader in agriculture commodity production and our governments have funded an enormous amount of agricultural R&D.  But where are we with respect to our investment in agriculture, food and water technologies, and specifically as a catalyst in driving our investment eco-system. Canada’s agricultural revenues as a percentage of GDP rank way higher than many of the countries previously mentioned. And yet, we have no such focus on our agri-tech eco-system.  Furthermore, while other countries have recognized the dire need to attract investment capital into this sector and have developed aggressive programs to do so, Canada has not. This is worrisome!  If we are to maintain our leadership position in agriculture, we need to focus on agri-technology and implement programs that will position Canada as future leaders.

Dave Smardon
President & CEO
 






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Are you making the most of your team?

Posted on October 14 2015 | Author: Jessica Taylor

You aren’t unleashing the full potential of your team until they are collaborating.  Collaboration isn’t just another 21st century buzzword; it is an integral part of all successful teams. Collaboration in the workplace allows for new, innovative, and creative solutions to problems.

But how is effective collaboration achieved? How do we avoid working in silos with individual roles and responsibilities?

It is important to recognize that forced collaboration can actually prove to be more detrimental than no collaboration at all. Collaboration should be built into your company culture and processes. Consider the following as you work on fostering collaboration in your organization:

Clear, Open Communication
Management teams must clearly communicate their company goals and mission. When employees understand the bigger picture goals and how they impact their individual role, they will naturally identify areas of collaboration with other team members. It is also important that lines of communication are open and welcoming to ensure all members of the team feel comfortable to interact.

Recognition of Individual and Team Success
Historically, workplace recognition involved promotions, salary increases and bonuses. While all of these incentives can motivate employees, it is equally important that effort is acknowledged in alternative and less formal ways.  These types of recognition create a sense of comfort and confidence within a role and encourage employees to share their ideas and questions with others.

For example, creating interdisciplinary task forces or teams to strategize and provide solutions to ongoing issues, implementing employees’ ideas or having them take the lead on a project, activity or meeting are all ways to empower your workforce.  Be sure to emphasize individual successes as well and promote the benefits and outcomes of working as a team. This will empower the team with the confidence to engage with both internal and external stakeholders

Cohesion & Understanding
Everybody thinks differently, works differently and approaches problems from a different angle. Getting to know how each of your team members prefers to work and communicate enables you to work together efficiently. 

Where possible, include as many team members as possible in ongoing conversations. Not only does this allow you to get multiple perspectives, but it also demonstrates your understanding of your colleagues’ strengths. Frequent conversations around workflow and goals, both team and individual, helps the group stay on task and avoids duplication of effort. Another way to build cohesion is making time to learn about your colleagues’ roles and projects. This helps to create a better understanding of your workforce and allows you to identify ways you can collaborate.

Atmosphere
Get together and talk. Hosting both formal and informal brainstorming sessions on a regular basis gets people thinking outside of the box and encourages creativity.  A sense of community and support goes a long way in encouraging people to work together.

Be open-minded. Don’t let your colleagues department, job title or educational background decide whether or not they should be involved in a conversation or project. Their ideas and experiences will provide valuable input.

Bridge Geographic Gaps
With employees situated in various locations locally or internationally, companies need to be flexible and creative in collaborative efforts. Making use of technologies such as online project management tools, document sharing, and instant messaging platforms allows even the most geographically dispersed teams to work together effectively. It is also important to include human interaction via videoconferences, phone calls and face-to-face interactions as often as possible. Water cooler conversations are few and far between with groups outside your office so you need to ensure that there are other open and active lines of communication.

These considerations aren’t just for the CEO or managers. As an employee, you are a member of a team. Empowering your colleagues to work together is important for the success of the company and your own professional goals. Not only will you reap the benefits of collaboration as you find unique, effective solutions for your own projects, you will also be participating in a dynamic process, a process that will increase company productivity and success.

Jessica Taylor
Senior Analyst, Food and Food Systems

Photo Credits: Flickr, Flickr






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Why your website needs to have a responsive design

Posted on October 01 2015 | Author: Jennifer Kalanda

In any market today, having and maintaining an online presence is practically mandatory.  There is also no shortage of elements to consider, but your company’s website will likely be the first thing your potential customers will see.  So, how will they see it?

Are you mobile-friendly?

Did you know Google now uses mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal? 

According to comScore, within Canada, USA and UK, 50% or more digital media time is spent on a mobile device.  As so many users are only accessing content through their smartphone or tablet, it is important to have a mobile-first mindset but to also remember that desktop is still very relevant.

Be more than mobile-friendly.

Simply having a mobile version of your company’s website may not make your company more accessible or generate more business.  Mobile sites are essentially created as separate websites, which are often stripped down, or different from the content offered on the desktop version.  This can result in high bounce rates.  Google may even then interpret high bounce rates as a sign that a website isn’t offering relevant content to users and could lead to a drop in rankings.

Responsive website design.

Responsive web design is a method of design using intelligent coding which helps a website determine what kind of device it is being viewed on and then alter itself to fit to the screen size without any distortion. 

Responsive design ensures the best viewing experience across a wide range of devices, from mobile phones to tablet devices to desktop computers.  This design method increases the ease of reading and navigation with minimum scrolling and resizing.   This also ensures consistency for the user when viewing a website from one device to another.  Sites designed exclusively for mobile devices don’t offer the advanced navigational techniques found in traditional desktop websites.  

Google likes it.

As a website owner, it should be your goal to keep both your customers and Google happy.   A responsive web design means your website only has one URL which enables Google to easily index a website’s content within your domain.  This means that it can improve a site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results.  

Time and money are precious.

A responsive website ensures the best use of your time, since it does not have to be spent on content creation for two versions of a website.   Managing multiple versions of a site also increases development, support and maintenance overheads. 

Generate new business.

If your customer encounters a problem with your site on their preferred device, it is likely you could lose that potential business.  Enhancing a users journey and experience will increase conversion rates and ultimately improve sales.

According to Google’s Think Insights on Mobile, 51% of smartphone users have purchased from a company/brand other than the one they intended to because the information provided was useful.  And when a brand’s mobile site or app makes it easy for a smartphone user to find answers, 69% of those users are more likely to actually buy from them.

Success with social media.

If your site is responsive you can build social shares for just one URL and when the site does get shared, wherever the link is viewed – whether on a mobile, tablet or on desktop – all of the content will be clear and easy to navigate.  Social shares impact SEO, having multiple versions of the same page dilutes the impact of any shares.

 

Jennifer Kalanda
Marketing Manager






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