Hackathon to create solutions for small and medium-sized agricultural producers

Deniza Cristian 22/06/2023 | 12:38

Farmers should understand what consumers want and speak their language, said Marius Tudosiei, founder of Băcănia Veche, one of the best-known spaces in Bucharest and Romania promoting Romanian producers, at the Unicorns Society event, organized by Friends for Friends Foundation (FFFF) in partnership with the Romanian-American Foundation (RAF).

 

“We have been working with local producers since 2010, when we launched Băcănia Veche. We have helped some of them to understand why it is essential to label their products, why to standardize their production and have good working conditions. We helped them to understand that if they put a little more effort, they will sell products at better prices than the raw material. Sometimes we have to make efforts for others. For example, we have been promoting Romanian asparagus for years, and now many restaurants use local asparagus. For endives, it took us six years to convince people that Romanian endives are much tastier than Belgian ones. We have learned in all these years that every person can create a brand from the products it sells,” said Marius Tudosiei, founder of Băcănia Veche.

Entrepreneurs need to know their plans and figures extremely well at all times to attract funding

Marius Tudosiei talked about what he has learned in 13 years of entrepreneurship and collaboration with Romanian farmers at the Unicorns Society event, part of Policlinica de Marketing (the Marketing Polyclinic) program initiated by the Friends for Friends Foundation (FFFF) in partnership with the Romanian – American Foundation (RAF). The Unicorns Society meetings facilitate communication between businesses – whether large companies or small, Romanian initiatives – and NGO managers supported by grants from the Romanian – American Foundation.

The first meeting of the Unicorns Society series was dedicated to the agricultural sector and consisted of a hackathon of solutions for farmers and cooperatives. The topics were: finding solutions to help producers and cooperatives grow a business and be ready for investment; building a strategy to promote Romanian products and creating a platform for producers to be  accessible to retailers.

Among the organizations present at the event were: producers such as Aronia Energie, Caseus, Sol Bun, Cooperativa Agricola Produs în Prisăcani, Cooperativa “Legume de-ale noastre de Probota”, Dapis Transilvania and Bunătăți din Cucuieți from Bacău; food hubs supported by the Romanian-American Foundation such as Roade și Merinde from Iași, Nod Verde from Cluj, Helyenvalo from Odorheiu Secuiesc; NGOs such as the Romanian Centre for European Policies (CRPE), Civitas, OpenFields, World Vision Romania, PACT Foundation; social enterprises such as Synerb, NESsT; businesses such as Băcănia Veche and lending institutions such as BCR Social Finance and Patria Credit IFN.

Among the solutions that emerged from the hackathon were a stakeholder partnership to promote local products, a business-to-business platform to simplify retailers’ access to producers or a business plan to develop and prepare for financing a local business.

“By strengthening the financial knowledge of small entrepreneurs and offering them access to specific and tailored financing services according to the type of organizations they run, BCR Social Finance supports the development of the social economy in both rural and urban areas. At BCR Social Finance, we actively listen to the market’s business needs and adapt our financial tools to provide the necessary support to rural businesses that often have limited access to financial support to maintain or expand their operations. Every job created or maintained counts, and every business with a social impact contributes to the development of the entire community”, said Alexandru Codreș, Area Director SUD – BCR Social Finance.

“To attract financing, entrepreneurs need to know their plans and figures extremely well at all times,” stated Raluca Andreica, CEO of Patria Credit IFN.

HoReCa can become the most powerful promoter of Romanian producers

Vlad Taușance, program designer at Friends for Friends Foundation – the organizer of the event, noted that the HoReCa sector (hotels, restaurants, cafes) can become the most powerful means of promotion for local producers.

“Among the conclusions of the event is that HoReCa is not just a buyer, but can become the most powerful promoter of products and producers, from special varieties of vegetables to various types og cheese or meat processed according to individual recipes or preserved and developed over time. At the same time, producers need to share their knowledge and collaborate. Most of them are aware and willing to invest in technology to develop and increase the quality of the products they put on the market. But in this scenario, perhaps the most important thing is to have educated consumers who know what products to choose because then we could also raise production standards”, explained Vlad Taușance, program designer at Friends for Friends Foundation.

Suzana Dobre, vice president for strategy and programs at the Romanian – American Foundation, said that in the programs supported by the foundation, she has always wanted people to work together in cooperatives, food hubs, and associations.

“Agriculture is an ecosystem where there are many elements that work together. If one cog doesn’t work, a whole piece of a sector breaks down. We can’t have good and profitable agriculture without functioning value chains, advisory and support services for farmers, without access to finance, without a set of public policies to help the sector grow. For all these elements to work well, we need producers, producer associations, NGOs, businesses, banks, financiers, universities and public authorities to work together as much as possible“, said Suzana Dobre, RAF Vice-President.

The event was created by the Friends for Friends Foundation in partnership with the Romanian – American Foundation, an organisation that has been supporting and promoting the development of a sustainable economy and a democratic society since 2009.

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