“If you have a big problem you’re trying to solve, you need a lot of people to try to solve it. You cannot close yourself off.” Those were Caleb Harper of MIT Media Lab’s opening words at the 2017 Youth Ag-Summit in Brussels, and it was a theme heard again and again throughout the week. Whether through impactful storytelling, consumer outreach or world-changing innovations, the message was clear: cooperation must be at the heart of the future of agriculture, starting with the smallest of steps. 

Inspiration for impacting the world with small actions was plentiful, whether hearing from President of Wageningen University and Research Professor Louise O. Fresco on the future of food, or Global Citizen’s Hugh Evans on getting global leaders onside. Emmy Award-winning journalist Frank Sesno encouraged delegates to tell their own stories, while Adrian Percy, Head of Research & Development of Crop Science, a division of Bayer, took the chance to champion the delegates into action: "Believe in the impossible and remove the improbable. The impossible you can create today.” Susan Hite had them figure out their communication strengths and 'shapes', with the need to 'fail better' reinforced by Srinivas Rao. Being in Europe’s political heart, delegates also paid a visit to the EU institutions to debate agricultural policy with MEPs Richard Ashworth and Tom Vandenkendelaere, as well as visiting Hof ten Bosch, a Bayer ForwardFarm in the heart of the Belgian countryside, to see innovation in action.

Liam Condon, Member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and President of the Crop Science division, was there to lay the groundwork for discussions, emphasizing that, with no easy fix or ‘silver bullets’, long-term change will have to be built from the ground up. To this end, delegates were asked to commit to doing ‘Three Little Things’ on their return home to impact on food security, from small actions like joining ag conversations on Twitter to long-term plans such as grassroots outreach in schools - small actions which could be the first step in winning over communities. 

Youth-Ag Summit Closer

And this call to action was a central pillar of the Summit. Every afternoon, delegates diverged into ten ‘Thrive for Change’ project groups, each focusing on unlocking solutions to a specific SDG under the umbrella theme of ‘Zero Hunger.’ And unlock solutions they did! Whether it was empowering older farmers to benefit from technology, educating the public about the impact of food waste,  or breaking down barriers between rural producers and urban consumers, their efforts did not disappoint.

Inspired by the Swahili word for ‘grow’, AGRIKUA took home the top prize of 10,000 euros for their idea of an online platform where young women can learn about professional development opportunities in agriculture. Members of AGRIKUA will now be invited back to Europe in order to present their project at a relevant stakeholder platform, as well as receiving mentoring to make their project idea a reality. 

But AGRIKUA was far from the only inspiring initiative. Two more groups will also benefit from Bayer funding to put their ideas into action. Runners-up Seeds of Change will use their funding to build a grassroots community of young agricultural champions in schools, bridging the disconnect between producer and consumer; while Imperfect Picks will develop their cartoon campaign to change children’s perceptions of ugly fruit and veg after coming third. And the remaining projects were equally inspired, from Powerful You’s idea of a banking app to incentivize consumers to improve their purchasing behavior, to #storyofAg’s proposal to start a direct conversation between the producer and consumer by launching a grocery store brimming with innovative products, secretly staffed by farmers. Interested in hearing more? Check out all of our ‘Thrive for Change’ projects. 

We can't wait to see how our agvocates will change the world - and we can't wait for the next edition of the Youth Ag-Summit 2019, which will take place in Brasília, Brazil! Will we see you there?