Agribusiness Innovation Hubs: Critical Catalysts for Agtechs


At the global economy’s heart, agriculture stands out not only for its significance but also for its dynamism. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2020, innovation in the rural sector yielded a 10% increase in productivity in several regions. This remarkable leap highlights the importance of cultivating and promoting innovative environments, and, in this scenario, Innovation Hubs emerge as lead players. They are prominent environments that foster, enhance, and consolidate startups involved in cutting-edge solutions.

The excellence of an Innovation Hub is not the result of chance but of the synergy of multiple key factors. These include good management, governance, physical infrastructure, technological and scientific know-how, strategic geographical positioning, organizational maturity, networking, and a comprehensive range of value-added services.

The management feature addresses the expertise required to manage such innovation environments, especially regarding the exclusive commitment of the managers, their familiarity with innovation habitats, and the backing provided by sponsors – a legal entity under public or private law that provides the necessary resources for the Innovation Hub to function and represents it in legal terms. In a sector as complex as agribusiness, the management team must not only orchestrate innovation but also be attuned to the nuances of this multifaceted sector.

As for governance, it outlines the structure and responsibilities of the several players involved in the Hub, prioritizing coordinated actions aiming at Science, Technology, and Innovation (ST&I). Solid governance enables transparency and cooperation, harmonizing with the rural sector’s ideals and aligning all stakeholders towards a single long-term goal, significantly sharing human and financial resources, risks, and investment.

Regarding infrastructure, Hubs should be fortresses equipped to support Agtechs. As well as providing individual and shared rooms – such as meeting rooms and spaces for training and events –, equipment, furniture, communications, and connection to the internet, it is essential to have specialized laboratories that are epicenters of research and innovation.

Technological and scientific know-how is crucial. Innovation Hubs, as intermediary organizations, are seen as catalysts for basic and applied research developed at universities, capable of creating an innovation-fostering environment and building networks among players. The proximity of Hubs and startups to science and technology institutions – which stand out for their excellence and are able to promote advanced technological development based on innovation –, as well as the interaction between academia, researchers, and businesspeople, yields the conditions for building the scientific potential required to create and consolidate companies with a high technological content.

The aspect of geographical location is not a simple detail; it is a strategic determining factor. Directly influenced by the biome, the soil, and regional demands, a smart geographical positioning can be a vector of unparalleled competitive advantages for the Hub and its linked startups.

A Hub’s maturity, reflecting its longevity and experience, means competence and expertise. Years of commitment to agribusiness and innovation consolidate its role as a reliable guide for up-and-coming startups.

The networking feature examines the feasibility of running the Innovation Hub by setting up a network of players: the sponsor, science and technology institutions, different levels of government, investors, industry federations, and associations, among others. Hubs that interact and are involved with a specific and adequate set of stakeholders and access resources besides those of the sponsoring institution tend to be more robust and dynamic. A variety of players and shared material and immaterial resources yields new knowledge and impacts positively the results – i.e., the performance of innovation habitats within these networks – and can also be reflected in the success of the Agtechs linked to them.

Aspects related to providing value-added services in the rural sector are linked to the variety and quality of specialized services delivered by Agtech Development Hubs. These Hubs are critical for supporting linked startups, helping them in their actions and growth in the rural sector. Innovation Hubs in agribusiness are acknowledged for providing management support, enabling entrepreneurs to develop and use entrepreneurial, leadership, and management skills. This motivates them to achieve the expected results more promptly and effectively. Environments that offer higher value-added services tend to have more significant impacts than those providing only basic services, such as physical infrastructure, especially in the dynamic agribusiness sector.

Managed by the CNA Institute, based in Brasilia (DF), Brazil, the CNA Digital Hub is a program devoted to mapping and making technological solutions available to rural producers, always in line with agribusiness challenges. With a vision of developing and consolidating innovative businesses, it seeks to turn disruptive ideas into practical and efficient solutions for the countryside. In addition, it highlights the relevance of open innovation by means of testing and integrating solutions from startups that directly address rural producers’ hindrances. Launched to be an environment that promotes innovation, the program connects startups, specialists, private institutions, public agencies, and rural producers, setting up a network of collaboration and innovation. In doing so, we induce growth and strengthen opportunities for emerging businesses, placing them strategically in the rural sector. Learn more at: 

Matheus Ferreira – Deputy Executive Director of the CNA Institute

Danielle Leonel – Coordinator of the CNA Digital Hub