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AgIdea has been in the business of innovation for a while now — it’s been 11 years, to be exact, since it was founded in Pergamino, Argentina. But the AgTech company, which aims to add value at the intersection of science and agribusiness, is new to St. Louis, where it’s already making an impact.
Although there are countless cities in the States to choose from, founders Mariano Battista and Gonzalo Grigera had been looking to expand to the Midwest since 2014. In the end, they say, there were two main reasons for choosing STL: First, Missouri is very important when it comes to agricultural production. “Our customers helped us see that there was an opportunity for some unsatisfied demand for R&D services.” Secondly, the city is strategically located, with plenty of big agricultural companies nearby.
The company’s staff are young and innovative, with some of the top talent in the field. “We are a young, innovative team entirely dedicated to boost decision-making in pre-commercial processes of ag technologies,” says Battista. “Our multidisciplinary group is highly professional, with PhD, MSc and scientists graduated from top-ranking universities in Argentina and the U.S.”
And the work requires some serious brainpower: the company tests and provides analytical research for seed companies (think Dupont, Monsanto, and Syngenta) to find what genotypes and biotechs works best for farmers. It also looks into seed treatments and agchems, teaming up with sponsors to see studies through from experimental design to monitoring and analysis. “We strongly believe in creating integrated teams with customers,” says Battista.
In the end, AgIdea’s work helps their clients bring the latest discoveries to market in the shortest possible time, says Grigera— and allows companies to rely on what he says is the most accurate performance information out there, allowing their data-driven decision-making to be as accurate as possible. It makes AgIdea an invaluable player in the AgTech market, even when they’re competing against their client’s own R&D divisions and other contracted researchers and consultants.
Of course, such a closely run race means that one obstacle the company faces ties directly into staying ahead of the competition: “One of the challenges we face is continuing to maintain the high quality of the services we offer and customized solutions we’re characterized by,” says Battista—adding that the geographically spread-out, decentralized nature of the company makes it even tougher.
But true to form, the company is one step ahead: Their strategy incorporates a product-management approach while staying true to the passion and values that guided the company from Day One. Delegating responsibilities and allowing staff to take ownership of projects and collaborations has also eased the growing pains as the company continues to expand. And so far, they’ve managed to overcome the challenges they’ve been faced with, applying the innovation that defines their company to their operations with clients.
Case in point: “After the first year of providing very small-scale research services to a client, it was suggested that in the next five years it would need to generate capacities in an area that we never imagined that we could provide support,” Grigera says. “That conversation resulted in an investment project that included infrastructure, incorporation of talents, and establishment of internal processes that led us to triple the turnover between the first and second year.” Above all, he says, it underscored for AgIdea the importance of staying close to the customer and listening to their needs.
The company is continuing to grow. It’s currently working to consolidate a team that’s integrated with the South American operations, but also be independent in its ability to solve problems and meet new challenges, says Battista. And they’re still staying a step ahead: “Right now, we are wondering what will be the next R&D needs that our customers will face in a context of mergers of companies, cost restrictions, greater controls on the safety of the products in relation to the environment, and the health of the final consumers,” says Agustín Cresta, the young manager developing the U.S. business for the company.
“The world will be more competitive and challenging for AgIdea in the coming years, for which the balance between operating efficiently and innovate services to offer or develop markets which will be of paramount importance,” he adds.
And although the company won’t ever be one to rest on its laurels, Battista is pleased with how far they’ve already come: “Putting a foot in the competitive U.S. ag market is already a victory for a company of South American origin,” he says.