Levi Brewer and Nathaniel Haight, both students in the Master of International Affairs program at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, recently traveled to Portugal as part of the Young Ag-education Innovation Cooperation (YAIC) team to attend the Thought for Food Global Summit. The team was led by Juan Whiting, an international agricultural development graduate of Texas A&M, and included Andrew McCardle, from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and Shiva Thompson and Taya Brown, from Texas A&M.
YAIC aims to reduce the negative perception of agriculture and help youth create innovative agricultural practices that better their own lives and help feed the world. The YAIC team was one of ten finalists from around the world selected from more than 300 entries. Each team made a five-minute pitch about its project to judges, hoping to win $10,000 in seed funding. The judges were from both private and public sector entities around the world.
Before the presentation, Brewer and Haight spent three days working with Startup Pirates, an organization that serves aspiring entrepreneurs, to further refine their business model and create their five-minute pitch.
The winner was team FoodFresh from Bangladesh. While YAIC did not win the grand prize, the team considers the experience a success because of the invaluable interactions and contacts they gained with other teams and representatives from NGOs, international organizations, and private companies.
“The best part about being in Lisbon was that there were so many other teams from different parts of the world with whom to interact,” said Brewer. “Seeing what these other teams were doing gave us new ideas for our own project,” he added.
The YAIC team left Portugal with new connections, fresh ideas, and a stronger desire to continue working on their agricultural cooperative curriculum to help feed the world.
“There is such a need for interest in agriculture, not only to replace aging farmers but also to develop innovations that will help improve food sustainability,” Brewer said. “The team also left with a more refined business model that is both sustainable and replicable.”
Among YAIC’s next steps is creating a curriculum that will teach young people how to start and run successful cooperatives. The plan is to pair youth with mentors and help them secure micro-funding to start their cooperative. The mentors will also help the cooperatives identify the agricultural innovations that would work best in their areas since the YAIC team believes that successful youth cooperatives will help feed people in the future.
Brewer said his experience at the Bush School complemented his interests in the future development of economics and agriculture.
“My Bush School education has definitely enhanced my experience,” Brewer said. “The classes I am taking in development and economics have given me invaluable knowledge to draw upon as I help make decisions with YAIC.”