Connect with us

Entrepreneurship

China’s New Agro-Investment: Future of Sustainability?

Published

on

A major opportunity exists in China’s recently announced massive farm investment: it could shift the country’s agricultural systems toward more sustainable agricultural development. To meet future food security, poverty reduction, and sustainability needs, new farm investments must prioritize the health of people and ecosystems. Crop protection against herbivory damage represents a classic case of multiple tradeoffs between food production/farm income, environment, conservation, and health involving multiple layers of decision-makers in shared landscapes, as well as the kind of thinking and new approaches needed to seeking solutions. Particularly, human’s desire to fight against biotic stress (which is reinforced by the indiscriminate use of pesticides) can have detrimental impact on human health and the environment but its management also relies on decisions made both at the farm scale and the larger landscape scale.

Chinese farmers’ awareness and knowledge about natural enemies of crop pests and the services they provide is alarmingly low, a phenomenon not uncommon in developing countries—click here for another example. This is a major missed opportunity: natural enemies of crop pests could add significant value to society. A forthcoming paper by Jikun Huang and others finds that that doubling the ladybeetle densities over two thirds of the Chinese cotton acreage is estimated to increase farm income by more than 300 million USD; as it stands, the value of biological control is diminished by the excessive and sub-optimal use of insecticides.

Clearly, there is a strong economic case for employing policies to move the pest control system toward a more ecologically-based regime, with positive consequences for both farm income and environmental health. Raising awareness among Chinese farmers and policymakers of the costs and value of pest control ecosystem services versus chemical insecticides is a priority toward achieving a more ecologically-based approach to crop protection on smallholder farms.

Research demonstrates that increased landscape complexity typically correlates with higher natural enemy populations and enhanced pest control in agricultural landscapes. However, land management techniques that encourage biodiversity also carry costs for farmers. In particular, uncertainty in crop yields due to pest damages, as well as the need to coordinate pesticide use with neighboring farms, can be important obstacles to establishing the longer-term public good of natural pest regulation.

Paying farmers presents one possible route forward. Current thinking on promoting ecosystem services suggests that payments or other economic incentives are a good fit for the promotion of public good ecosystem services such as pest regulation, but new findings from a framed field experiment implemented in Cambodia and Vietnam suggests that different contexts are not poised equally to benefit from incentives promoting services, and in fact may be left worse off by payments schemes.

As the study and practice of payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs grow, this finding provides an important qualifier on recent theory supporting the use of payments to promote public good ecosystem services. As in many such situations, more is often but not always better; the balance of non-crop habitat and cropland that maximizes benefits is not obvious from the outset, nor is the appropriate level of encouragement to achieve it.

Group-level characteristics have important roles in explaining how decisions by individuals are made regarding cooperative action in a shared landscape—the decision of whether to adopt greater use of non-crop habitat has more to do with others in the farmer’s local area than the traits of the farmer him or herself. Therefore, traditional focus on farm-level technical support in integrated pest management efforts needs to be complemented by innovative collective institutions and approaches to provide the right group-level incentives for cooperative management.

China’s new agricultural investment plan presents a tremendous opportunity. As long as the government is determined to curb agriculture’s environmental footprint and improve ecological functions, the investment plan will have a significant impact on the sustainability of agriculture. Changes in land use can profoundly alter landscape patterns and ecosystem functions, ultimately compromising the provision of ecosystem services. It is paramount for policy makers to closely monitor land use change (including habitat loss) as result of agricultural investments, and assess the potential consequences on ecosystems critical to human wellbeing.

_____________________________________________________

About the Author

This article was Wei Zhang & Michael Victor of The CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE).

Michael Victor is a rural development specialist with 20 years of experience focusing on communication, knowledge management, capacity development and project design in the agriculture and natural resource management sector. He is coordinating communication and knowledge management activities for WLE. Before joining WLE, he worked with the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food.

The CGIAR Research Program on WLE promotes a new approach to sustainable intensification in which a healthy, functioning ecosystem is seen as a prerequisite to agricultural development, resilience of food systems and human well-being. see more.

Entrepreneurship

What Kills A Startup

Published

on

1 – Being inflexible and not actively seeking or using customer feedback

Ignoring your users is a tried and true way to fail. Yes that sounds obvious but this was the #1 reason given for failure amongst the 32 startup failure post-mortems we analyzed. Tunnel vision and not gathering user feedback are fatal flaws for most startups. For instance, ecrowds, a web content management system company, said that “ We spent way too much time building it for ourselves and not getting feedback from prospects — it’s easy to get tunnel vision. I’d recommend not going more than two or three months from the initial start to getting in the hands of prospects that are truly objective.”

2 – Building a solution looking for a problem, i.e., not targeting a “market need”

Choosing to tackle problems that are interesting to solve rather than those that serve a market need was often cited as a reason for failure. Sure, you can build an app and see if it will stick, but knowing there is a market need upfront is a good thing. “Companies should tackle market problems not technical problems” according to the BricaBox founder. One of the main reasons BricaBox failed was because it was solving a technical problem. The founder states that, “While it’s good to scratch itches, it’s best to scratch those you share with the greater market. If you want to solve a technical problem, get a group together and do it as open source.”

3 – Not the right team

A diverse team with different skill sets was often cited as being critical to the success of a starti[ company. Failure post-mortems often lamented that “I wish we had a CTO from the start, or wished that the startup had “a founder that loved the business aspect of things”. In some cases, the founding team wished they had more checks and balances. As Nouncers founder stated, “This brings me back to the underlying problem I didn’t have a partner to balance me out and provide sanity checks for business and technology decisions made.” Wesabe founder also stated that he was the sole and quite stubborn decision maker for much of the enterprises life, and therefore he can blame no one but himself for the failures of Wesabe. Team deficiencies were given as a reason for startup failure almost 1/3 of the time.

4 – Poor Marketing

Knowing your target audience and knowing how to get their attention and convert them to leads and ultimately customers is one of the most important skills of a successful business. Yet, in almost 30% of failures, ineffective marketing was a primary cause of failure. Oftentimes, the inability to market was a function of founders who liked to code or build product but who didn’t relish the idea of promoting the product. The folks at Devver highlighted the need to find someone who enjoys creating and finding distribution channels and developing business relationship for the company as a key need that startups should ensure they fill.

5 – Ran out of cash

Money and time are finite and need to be allocated judiciously. The question of how should you spend your money was a frequent conundrum and reason for failure cited by failed startups. The decision on whether to spend significantly upfront to get the product off the group or develop gradually over time is a tough act to balance. The team at YouCastr cited money problems as the reason for failure but went on to highlight other reasons for shutting down vs. trying to raise more money writing:

The single biggest reason we are closing down (a common one) is running out of cash. Despite putting the company in an EXTREMELY lean position, generating revenue, and holding out as long as we could, we didn’t have the cash to keep going. The next few reasons shed more light as to why we chose to shut down instead of finding more cash.

The old saw was that more companies were killed by poor cashflow than anything else, but factors 1, 2 and 4 probably are the main contributing factors to that problem. No cash, no flow. The issue No 3 – the team – is interesting, as if I take that comment ” I didn’t have a partner to balance me out and provide sanity checks for business and technology decisions made” and think about some of the founders and startup CEOs I know, I can safely say that the main way that any decision was made was by agreeing with them – it was “my way or the highway”. I don’t therefore “buy” the team argument, I more buy the willingness of the key decision makers to change when things are not working (aka “pivoting” – point 9).

_________________________________________________

About the Author

This article was produced by Broadsight. Broadsight is an attempt to build a business not just to consult to the emerging Broadband Media / Quadruple Play / Web 2.0 world, but to be structured according to its open principles. see more.

Continue Reading

Callum Connects

Jasmine Tan, Director of Stone Amperor

Published

on

Jasmine saves her clients time and effort when doing kitchen fit outs with her biz Stone Amperor.

What’s your story?
I started working in the industry in 2003. I was in a marble and granite supplier company for 5 years. Even though I left the company, I still had customers calling me for my services. I referred them back to my previous company but they refused to because they loved the fast response service that I offered. I realised that customers do look at prices, however most of them prefer quality over quantity. Thus I have decided to establish a sole proprietor company also known as 78 Degrees which later rebranded as Stone Amperor in 2014.

What excites you most about your industry?
The kitchen countertop industry is a very confusing market. There are many brands, materials and prices to choose from. What excites me the most is my ability to help clients choose the best materials and brands within their budgets, whilst saving them time and effort.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have been in Asia all my life and I love Asia. No matter where you go there is no place like home.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Singapore. This is because Singapore has always been a stable country and it is great for doing business. However as it is a small country, it can be really competitive. I believe that if just do your best and give your best to your customers, you can overcome this.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Take actions. Learn and improve continuously. An idea without action is just a dream.” This was really good advice that I received from my partner.

Who inspires you?
A very down to earth billionaire from Malaysia, Robert Kuok

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Property is the foundation of every business.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Own instead of renting property for my business.

How do you unwind?
I enjoy going shopping, watching movies and hanging out with friends. I am quite a simple being.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love going to Taiwan as I love the culture there. Everyone is so polite and the weather is great.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Sun Tzu, Art of war

Shameless plug for your business:
Perfect top, Perfect price, Perfect life from Stone Amperor

How can people connect with you?
Email me at [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@StoneAmperor

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Continue Reading

Trending