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This episode is a good follow up to Episode 250 about one example of how agtech is helping smallholder farmers in developing countries. We are again talking about the potential for agtech in developing markets in this episode, but this time from a different perspective. My guest Igor Buchatskiy sees real opportunities in very large integrated agricultural operations. Whereas last week we focused on smallholder farmers, this episode is about the very large, sophisticated operations that are hungry for technology and innovation in the developing world.
Igor is a mechanical engineer by training, but after getting his MBA at the University of Chicago, he started a career in management consulting. That led to a job with a family office back in his home country of Ukraine. It was in that role that he discovered his love and fascination for agriculture in 2007. Since that time, he’s worked all over the world with agricultural operations and agtech startups. He’s based in Boston, but you never know where in the world he is going to be. In fact, at the time of this interview he was working on a project in Saudi Arabia.
“(Working in agriculture) was a revelation. Seriously, I thought wow, that's what I should have been doing for the last 10 years instead of mechanical engineering and management consulting because it was just an amazing experience. So I dove head in into that business and we started growing it, bringing new technology, new breed, new genetics, et cetera, et cetera.” - Igor Buchatskiy
Igor shares that he was able to be a part of the “Ukranianian Golden Rush” which involved former Soviet union republics recovering from the collective farm system that was no longer in place. The economics and margins were very favorable in the agricultural sector that had previously flown under the radar of other investors. He observed the consolidation of many small farms into large dominant players in the industry.
“What gets me excited is the fact that there are so many bright ideas, you know out of the box ideas that are happening now. And we are at the point in time where the technologies are becoming more accessible, more affordable, and we're getting to the sort of a scale at which all these technologies and all these ideas are starting to converge.” - Igor Buchatskiy
Igor shares that in Ukraine and Russia he is observing a lot of large vertically integrated operations. By virtue of the size and employment support of these companies, they are able to use, take advantage of and capitalize on new agriculture technologies where a small benefit in margin can create major revenue on that scale. This allows for large gains in agricultural technology companies by engaging with some of these major players.
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