Agri-Tech and Financing feature on Day 2 CIF 2022

Agri-Tech and Financing feature on Day 2 CIF 2022

InvesTT applauds the overwhelming response to the Caribbean Investment Forum (CIF 2022) currently being held at the Hyatt Regency – Trinidad. Over 600 local, regional and international persons have registered for the event which ends on Friday 11th November, 2022.

‘Plan, prepare and pivot” was just one of the overarching calls to action on Day 2 which featured an ambitious morning agenda that examined the Agri-Tech sector and took a deep dive into the investment financing through the lens of regional and international financial service providers. Recurring themes that transcended each session included bridging the gap between available investment capital and development of bankable investment projects, the role of technology in advancing and improving the development of Caribbean agricultural sector and the important role of legislation to the ability in the adoption of renewable energy.

Book launch: Enhancing India-Caribbean Economic Relations and Prospects for the Caribbean Region

Event Highlights

The opening keynote address for Day 2 titled Enhancing India-Caribbean Economic Relations and Prospects for the Caribbean Region, delivered by Shri N. Ramesh, Deputy Managing Director - India Exim Bank focused on deepening India-Caribbean trade and investment relations emphasizing mutual benefits to both regions. The joint study prepared by the Caribbean Export Development Agency and India Exim Bank was launched at the close of the address.

Financing the Energy Transition in the Caribbean:

Opportunities and Innovating Solutions followed with Aaron Bielenberg, Partner, McKinsey & Company, who shared insightful data that zoned in on the challenges in catalyzing energy infrastructure and transitioning from fossil fuels into renewables. According to Mr. Bielenberg, challenges to energy transition comes from the unique island factors which lead to different conversations around new energy adoption. Currently, 80+% of fuel in the region generally comes from fossil fuels which present fixed high costs and volatility to market changes. Governments have had to subsidize very high fuel costs which itself provides a huge opportunity to transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy. 

Agri-tech panel members

Agri Tech

The first discussion panel for the morning session, AgTech Roundtable - Achieving 25 in 5: Reducing the Food Import Bill through AgTech Investment was moderated by Joseph Cox, Assistant Secretary General, CARICOM Secretariat and featured Mezuo Nwuneli, Managing Partner, SAHEL Capital; Ralph Birkhoff, CEO & Founder, ALQUIMI Renewables LLC; Vassell Stewart, President, Caribbean Agri-Business Association, Mohindra Persaud, Chief Executive Officer, Nand Persaud & Company, Richard Sellers, Owner Circular Fuels. The discussion examined information on the panelists’ experience in the AgTech sector, ways in which technology can be adopted into the agricultural sector to achieve the target of reducing the food import bill by 2025, the need for technical skills development, repurposing food and agricultural waste into biofuels through circular economies, the lack of bankable projects or investable projects for capital to be invested into the sector and challenges to farmers in accessing collateral. Vassel Stewart commenting on the issue of risk and accessing collateral indicated that, “AgTech is making it far easier to reduce the risk. Development in a large range of industries are all being brought together to be used in the agricultural sector. The risks are being mitigated and included into the entire value chain to make agriculture more profitable.”

"Small farmers should act collectively to access support services"

The importance of small farmers to act collectively as a model to access support services was identified as a viable model and the need for farmers to be better organized with public policy to be developed to support them. According to Ralph Birkoff, “There is demand for agriculture in CARICOM. We need to accelerate how we grow food and how fast we grow food. There are technologies that allow for this to be done. Access to the technology needs to be made available to grow food that is imported.”

Today’s morning sessions followed an equally packed Day 1 afternoon agenda yesterday with investment pitches from St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Barbados, Curacao, Grenada and the Caribbean Development Fund and concurrent panel discussions and B2B meetings.