Launch of FirmaTech, a digital educational farm that brings farmers closer to agricultural start-ups

The FirmaTech project, led by Amine Zarouk, President of Green OpenLab, was officially launched on October 19, in the presence of Agriculture Minister Mohammed Sadiki and other leaders of the agricultural and technology ecosystem.

This integrated center is the first of its kind at the national level. It is part of the Generation Green 2020-2030 strategy and aims to promote modern and efficient agriculture in terms of water and energy efficiency, according to Amine Zarouk. It also aims to empower farmers as part of grooming a new generation of agricultural entrepreneurs and bringing technology and agricultural communities closer together.

A 4 ha campus, 9.5 MDH of investment

“This project will connect farmers and technology players. We will therefore play the role of a hyphen”, indicates the president of Green OpenLab, contacted by Médias24. “This is a campus that offers various services to farmers, where they are supported to access in particular the e-services offered by the Ministry of Agriculture.”

This campus required an investment of almost 9.5 million DH and spread 4 hectares, says Amine Zarouk. “Two hectares are dedicated to the innovation part and another two to the educational farm. We also offer training, support and awareness, as well as a technology tool rental service.”

In detail, this platform comprises a service desk for farmers, a coworking space, a training space, a FabLab for prototyping, a FarmLab for trials and experiments, a demonstration model farm, a weather station, a horticulture area. and orchards with seven varieties.

Two main targets: the farmer and the start-up

Amine Zerrouk explains that it targets two categories. The first target is “the farmer. FirmaTech is also a digital education farm where farmers can come and learn, for example, in smart irrigation, how to manage weather data and more…”.

In fact, this educational farm has a branch that offers the following services:

  • advice on the use of digital platforms for agricultural services (E-Services);
  • electronic filing of grant applications;
  • access to wholesale market rates;
  • weather alerts;
  • a soil fertility map;
  • the sale and rental of portable measuring instruments;
  • sensitization and demonstration on the use of new agricultural technologies;
  • capacity building and retraining (requalification) training;
  • assistance in producing online marketing;
  • technical assistance to carry out rapid analyses;
  • commercialization of innovative solutions for agriculture.

“Agricultural start-ups are the second target of this project. We offer them Lab-to-Market acceleration support. This accelerator will allow young people to move from a technical process to an achievement. This will be deployed on the pilot farm, which is intended to be a showroom.”

“This means that FirmaTech will allow the meeting between the farmer, who comes to train, and the start-up, which comes to implement its solutions, finalize them and sell them.”

Specifically, FirmaTech offers innovators:

  • a Lab-to-Market accelerator (agricultural and technological services cooperative and demonstration platform);
  • rapid prototyping;
  • seminars on entrepreneurship, innovation and sales techniques;
  • hackathons and challenges (Open Innovation, Farmers Challenges).

“The objective is to generalize this experience to develop a national network”

“The goal, with the launch of this pilot farm, is to eventually create an AgriTech network, to be closer to the farmer. Our approach is based on proximitythe demonstration, pedagogy and theopen innovation”, confides our interlocutor.

“We started from an observation on the ground: AgriTech is not very well developed in Morocco. A little digging revealed that there are two parties to the agricultural business, the farmers and the tech people, that do not meet. Furthermore, everyone has a priori in the other.”

“The farmer asks himself several questions. He wonders if technology can really solve his problems, if he is forced to travel abroad to visit farms to reproduce what he has seen in himself… He also believes that AgriTech is not just reserved for large farmers.”

“We also want make agriculture more attractive to young people, especially to resolve the problem relating to succession. Farmers often wonder if their children will want to take over a farm with old practices and arduous tasks. When they visit campus, they often ask to come back with their children. When they arrive, they are accompanied to submit their grant files electronically, or even to carry out small soil analyzes and understand weather alerts. Thus, they gradually integrate the world of technology.”

“We bet a lot on proximity”, insists Amine Zarouk. “The pilot farm is located in Sefrou, a region known for its agricultural performance. We are therefore located in the middle of the farms, making life easier for farmers who have often never thought of stepping into a Technoparc. During the visit, we tried to demonize the technology, allowing them to tap into all the technological tools to hunt down their a priori.”

How many beneficiaries?

“This is a question to which it is difficult to give a precise answer”, acknowledges our interlocutor, stressing that several parameters must be taken into account.

“We are open to all farmers according to our ability. We are about twenty on site and we can comfortably accommodate about sixty people a week. However, some may simply come to submit their work online, a quick procedure that doesn’t take much time, or even rent a technological tool.

“We can also schedule a training day, which can mobilize us. So it’s a question that takes into account different aspects.”

AgriTech is still in its infancy in Morocco

“I think the sector is starting to grow. We are not in a mature state.. We have great actors, who are trying hard, but we can do better. Many startups offer innovative technological solutions, but an educational approach must follow”, says our interlocutor.

“We also have the skills to improve the sector. I know what we’re capable of. Moroccan engineers managed to work in aeronautics and automobiles. In addition, most of our young people are wanted abroad”, concludes Amine Zarouk.

The official launch of FirmaTech was attended by wali from the Fez-Meknes region, Saïd Zniber; the president of the Crédit Agricole du Maroc group, Noureddine Boutayeb; the first vice-president of the Moroccan Confederation of Agriculture and Rural Development (COMADER), Rachid Benali; the first vice-president of the Fes-Meknes regional council, Youness Errafik; the president of the Euro-Mediterranean University of Fez, Mostapha Bousmina; the president of the CGEM Fez-Meknes, Omar Tajmouati; and the president of the Interprofessional Federation of Cereal Activities (FIAC) and the National Federation of Cereal and Vegetable Traders (FNCL), Jamal M’Hamdi.

As a reminder, Green OpenLab was founded in 2018 by Amine Zarouk. Its vocation is to be a catalyst for the transformation of agriculture, through the adoption of innovative and accessible technologies and the promotion of good agricultural practices, respectful of the planet. Its mission is to encourage entrepreneurship and agricultural innovation among young people, support the Geração Verde 2020-2030 strategy, and connect small and medium-sized farmers with young people with the ability to innovate.

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