May 2

Scott Anderson

FEATURED EVENT: ‘Cracking the Nut’ on Public/Private Agricultural Investment

In its second year, the Cracking the Nut 2012 Conference, set for June 25-26 at the Enrique V. Iglesias Conference Center in Washington, D.C., has a narrow focus with broad implications: Leveraging public private partnerships to develop rural and agricultural markets. Improving value chains, successful investing and best practices in connecting multinationals with mid-level suppliers and the rural smallholder farmer, are all on tap for the conference, which will feature more than 30 sessions and 70 speakers.

Increasing the productivity of farmers across the globe is not only critical to reducing poverty, but key to feeding a growing world. As Bruce MacNamer, CEO of TechnoServe noted recently, we will need to produce an estimated 70 percent more food by 2050. The greatest potential for productivity gains lies in the millions of small-scale farms in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

For more on the conference and its goals, I spoke with Nikolaus Eichman, Agribusiness and PPP Specialist at AZMJ – the event organizer.

Scott Anderson: For readers not familiar with Cracking the Nut 2012: Attracting Private Sector Investment to Rural and Agricultural Markets, what are some of the over-arching goals of the conference?

Nikolaus Eichman (pictured left): Lessons learned.

As the title suggests, Cracking the Nut 2012 is focused on bringing to light best practices in attracting private sector investment to rural and agricultural markets. We will be exploring this subject utilizing 5 core themes;

1. Expand to New Markets

2. Tap New Sources of Supply

3. Create Effective Partnerships

4. Make Finance Work

5. Forge Positive Government Support

While exploring best practices we will also bring to light the greatest challenges that still lie ahead. With the wealth of knowledge aggregated by the conference we will release a publication available to all interested in investing in growing rural and agricultural markets. Once this nut is cracked, the potential to expand business while alleviating poverty will be immense.

SA: What are the four themes of the conference this year and how does that translate into different tracks?

NE: There are actually 5 themes this year, each an important piece in attracting investment to and mitigating risk for rural and agricultural markets. The first 2 themes are focused on facilitating the business case for entering these markets, while the last 3 focus on strategies for strengthening the investment proposition.

  1. Expand to New Markets
  2. Tap New Sources of Supply
  3. Create Effective Partnerships
  4. Make Finance Work
  5. Forge Positive Government Support

SA: This is the second year of conference; how will it differ from last year’s?

NE: Last year we were focused on bringing together a vast set of knowledge in overcoming obstacles to rural and agricultural finance. We wanted to show how far we have come and where we still needed to go in order to bridge the gap between financing markets with high potential and realizing that potential by reaching the end market. We accomplished what we set out to do. We also listened to last year’s attendees when they suggested we bring the private sector to the table for this year’s conference. This year we have a much more ambitious goal and plan to crack the hardest nut yet of unlocking strategies to attract private sector investment to rural and agricultural markets. Our competitive process has attracted the best of the best giving attendees an unparalleled look at how development is meeting market demands to accelerate economic growth while facilitating private sector companies to enter new markets.

SA: What types of professionals should attend Cracking the Nut and what should they expect in terms of outcomes, learnings, or connections?

NE: Our speakers will reflect our audience providing a mix of development, agribusiness, finance, not for profit and government organizations. Any and all professionals with interest in investing in developing economies should not miss this event. There will be ample opportunity to not only learn specific methodologies and tools within the context of the 5 themes, but also make the vital business connections necessary to enter and invest in expanding rural and agriculture markets. By being a part of the conversation, our speakers and attendees will ensure they are on the cutting edge of tomorrow’s agribusiness investment opportunities.

SA: Will new research be presented during the two-day event?

NE: The goal of Cracking the Nut 2012 is to bring forth the cutting edge of methodologies and tools within the 5 themes of the conference. All of our speakers were chosen through a competitive process including a panel of industry experts focused on innovation. Research will be presented within the context of presentations, but the focus will be on the evidence of what works. Business moves at a fast pace making our Cracking the Nut 2012 publication a very relevant result for both researchers and businessmen alike.

SA: Let’s talk about your keynote speaker: Beth Keck, Head of Agricultural Strategy at Wal-Mart? Why is her role important and what will she be addressing in the speech?

NE: Walmart estimates its fiscal year 2012 sales will be $444 billion, greater than the GDP of most countries. There is no doubt that Walmart is a force in the world economy with an increasingly strong focus on agriculture. What many people do not know is that Walmart is also a force for sustainability and development for rural and agricultural markets. Beth Keck will set the tone for the entire conference by laying out Walmart’s ambitious sustainability plan within the context of their experience in working within the 5 given themes. Our attendees will then move into the conference with a clear perspective on what it takes to invest in rural and agricultural markets. They will leave the conference with a set of methodologies and tools to help them move forward with their own investments, development programs and business ventures.

Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, Environment
agribusiness, farmers, investment fund, rural development, sustainability, technical assistance