Agri startup, Agrownet wins Beyond the Pitch at startAD

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startAD, the Abu Dhabi-based global accelerator anchored at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and powered by Tamkeen, held its annual Startup Showcase event for the Beyond the Pitch Program on Tuesday (April 16), which was attended by UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, His Excellency Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, and CEO of Tamkeen, John Tate.

Supported by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and the Global Green Growth Institute, Beyond the Pitch seeks to offer guidance and innovation opportunities to the next generation of UAE’s startup entrepreneurs who look to address themes aligned with the priorities of the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Economy. Open to youth in the UAE between 18 – 25 years of age, the program offered teams training and mentorship over the past nine weeks aimed at enhancing their entrepreneurial skills and enabling them to build an efficient and scalable business model.

HE Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi said “We are very pleased to support this initiative in its second year. We believe that the future lies in the hands of entrepreneurs who are environmentally conscious and who always think of building a sustainable tomorrow.

“Our visionary leadership realizes that the youth today are the hope of a better planet for generations to come and that is why their development is at the core of the UAE’s national strategy. The development of the youth is a strategic priority for the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and we will continue to support initiatives like Beyond the Pitch,” HE concluded.

Teams consisting of young entrepreneurs, including university students, researchers, and PhD candidates, had the opportunity to work with leading trainers and mentors, such as UAE based agri-tech specialists Madar Farms, and the UAE’s leading integrated environmental, recycling and waste management company Bee’ah.

The winning team Agrownet, from BITS Pilani, received $3000 in the category of Best Business Model for their project focused on using technology to train farmers in rural communities on soil and water quality, pest infestation, low operational performance and additional agricultural problems. The project, which connects rural farmers with agricultural experts worldwide through a language agnostic app, will now move forward to the launch of the beta form of their app next quarter.

Airborne, with founders from the Masdar Institute of Technology and NYU Abu Dhabi, won the award for Best Pitch, receiving $1,500 for their project, an app that allowed advanced indoor navigation technology for people of determination. Meanwhile, Bactowatt, from Manipal University Dubai, won the Viable Business Solution award for their project which focused on the conversion of waste water into electricity.

The delightful founders of Agrownet said: “We’re delighted to have won Beyond the Pitch 2019. Taking part in the program gave us insights into the process of establishing a startup that has been an invaluable learning experience. Our model started very differently from what it is today, but through taking part in the program, we received knowledge and insight to refine our idea into its current business model.

“We’re looking forward to developing our business model further and acquiring new customers. To all those students who are considering applying to BTP, we would urge them to go for it – it’s a wonderful experience, and they will learn to do things beyond anything they imagined themselves.”

startAD Director Robyn Brazzil added “Beyond the Pitch is a manifestation of startAD’s mission to support UAE’s 2021 vision of ‘nurturing and supporting a new class of entrepreneurs’ among citizens and residents of the UAE. Creating the right initiatives to harness the entrepreneurship potential of our youth is an important step in making this vision a reality. We see a lot of students who have amazing technology-enabled projects winning hackathons, innovation challenges and producing amazing research. However, once they win this recognition at an idea or early-prototype stage, there is no follow-on support. These high- potential ideas remain unaddressed because of a lack of customized mentoring and training.

“Beyond the Pitch is specifically tailored to fill this gap. We immerse students with existing ideas into the exciting world of innovation and entrepreneurship where they learn and apply the business processes to their ideas.”

Acting UAE Country Representative of the Global Green Growth Institute Mohammed Angawi commented “The private sector is a critical component in identifying opportunities for sustainability and climate action, and programs like Beyond the Pitch are a great way to support startups and encourage innovation and viable green businesses. The teams in this year’s program have shown great deal of enthusiasm, creativity, and dedication and we are very proud to have been a partner to startAD throughout the process.”

This year, Beyond the Pitch program received over 200 applications and confirmed 12 high-quality teams from seven universities in the UAE – of which 55% founders were female and 45% male. The teams were then matched with 1 or 2 mentors who are experts in their industry. Over the past 9 weeks, these teams have benefited from 1-1 mentorship, participated in a rigorous 4-day Bootcamp, took part in 9 workshops, and each team has identified and interviewed over 50 potential customers for their projects – refining their product and validating their business model.

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