Turkey has always been a land of agriculture. Historically, greater parts of the population has always been working in the agricultural industries. Today, agriculture makes around 23% of the Turkish economy, with 2.4million farmers working within 20 million hectares of space. This means that there’s roughly around 60.000 acres per farmer in the country. If we take a look in the demographics, an average Turkish farmer is aged 54 years old, while an average Turkish person is 27; this contrast in the demographics shows one of the important needs in the Turkish agricultural scene, the young farmers.
In production, wheat farming takes the biggest share, but grains generally makes up the general production of the country. This is also the reason why an agripreneur’s biggest challenge and goal in Turkey is to improve the yield in grain production; aiming more yield on 60% on grains and 40% on wheat. The rest of the production is more focused on hazelnuts, oranges, figs and apples. These products are also the key products for Turkey to compete in international agriculture market. Especially in Middle East, Black Sea and Central Asian Turkic Republics regions are the main markets for Turkish products; but also Turkey aims to compete more strongly in European markets with its agricultural produce.
Regarding the producers, Turkey’s production is sustained by small scale farmers. 69% of the producers are small scaled with only the 18% of the total farmers producing in medium and big scale as farming companies. The rest of 13% is defined as “unsustainable” and only 0,1% of the farmers are contracted to farming companies. So, there’s a gap in the production and in the producer’s financial ability. This gap also represents the outcome on the age demographic, with an average of 54 years old farmers in the country.
Turkish Government created a subsidy program in 2016 to tackle this issue, it was called “Young Farmers Projects Support Program” by the Food, Agriculture and Farming Ministry with Minister Faruk Çelik’s act. Program aims to support young farmers aged between 18 and 40, with a goal of taking thousands of “potential young farmers” from big cities to move in to rural areas, to create an reverse immigration, while also increase Turkey’s agricultural revenue. The total budget of the project is estimated as $132 million, and expected to support 16,100 young farmers till 2018. Main goal of the program is to give $90 million from the budget to 11.000 young farmers to help them construct cattle and small ruminant farms; which 51.000 cattle and 100.000 small ruminants will be distributed directly as subsidies to the young farmers, by the government.
Considering the 69% of the farmers of Turkey are small scaled farmer, this financial gap creates a fragile agricultural economics; also opportunities for agripreneurs who are focusing on agricultural financement management projects.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE TURKISH AGRIPRENEUR SCENE
Turkey has a great potential with its warmer climate and geographical advantages. Climate opportunities gives Turkey ability to grow various products within its regions, as such making it possible to grow food from tropical to Mediterranean climates within short rides in the country. Therefore, for precision agriculture entrepreneurs, it’s easier to collect data around the country and provide solutions for challenges. This also gives entrepreneurs to work on better traceability within their production.
The Turkish agripreneur scene is mainly focused on precision agriculture. Speardhead projects like Doktar and Tabit are the leading force in this section of agriculture. Both are supported by telecom companies, Doktar by Turkcell and Tabit by Vodafone, working to support farmers to use precision agriculture techniques and services to increase their production and also sustain it. Difference in their approach comes with scale.
Doktar, founded in 2012 by Founder and CEO Tanzer Bilgen, mainly working within Aegean and Mediterranean coast regions, provide services of precision agriculture with a database of simulations to support the producers. Doktar also, in collaboration with designers Oki Kasaijima and Semih Özdemir, designed an agricultural sensor platform called “Koya”, which aims to provide necessary information to farmers regarding the physical condition in their filed.
Tabit, previously founded as social agriculture platform in 2004 by Tülin Akın, had a different approach on precision agriculture. Tabit, previously worked as tarimsalpazarlama.com (Agricultural Marketing) and aimed to bring together farmers digitally to empower their reach of information. In 2013, with the CEO Çoşkun Yıldırım, the company was reestablished as Tabit, to work on agricultural information technologies. After the reestablishment, in 2015 Tabit built an precision agriculture village, called Smart Village(Akıllı Köy) in the Aegean region, city of Aydın. The village, known as Kasaplar Köyü, has been equipped with sensors and drone systems to follow up on the production and also provide farmers the necessary information throughout their production. Tabit also approaches precision agriculture with aims of social impact. Project aims to create a pilot village in Kasaplar Köyü which is equipped with high-tech agriculture equipment and also educate the farmers to sustain their production to create a positive socio-economic effect. Therefore Vodafone, as part of their social impact mission, has funded Tabit with 23million Euros to support them technologically and also financially. One of the main challenges the CEO Çoşkun Yıldırım wants to tackle is also food waste due to agricultural production. Approximately 30% of the total food production in Turkey goes to waste and Tabit aims to tackle this issue, through the precision agriculture.
Regarding agro-financial entrepreneurship, Tarfin is the leading force within this section. Established in 2016, Tarfin provides financial services for producers, they aim to tackle the economical struggles of the producers for their agro-loans from banks and dealers. Tarfin provides financial management systems for producers and also working with agriculture dealers to help out the financial transactions between dealers and producers with creating traceability and follow up systems.
In a different scale, there’s also a trend for urban farming entrepreneurs in Turkey. Mimi Çiftliği (Mimi Farm) as one of the entrepreneurs, founded in 2015 by Founder and CEO Nesrin Demirer, the company works on growing microgreens within urban setting. Started in a small household in Beyoğlu District in Istanbul, Mimi Çiftliği moved their production out of the city in late 2016. Mimi Çiftliği define themselves as “urban farmers”, therefore their main focus is to use urban farming techniques as such hydroponics, in modern city setting.
FUTURE AGRO CHALLENGE TURKEY
Due to the high average age of the Turkish producers, there’s a great deal of potential for young farmers in Turkey. Agripreneurs who are equipped with agritech knowledge and adaptable projects, quite possibly find great source of potential within the Turkish agricultural scene. Financial gaps within the producers also creates great potential for the financial management projects, and aiming at young generation of farmers who are familiar with platform technologies and eager to learn precision techniques, quite possibly end up as the next generation of super farmers.
Super farmers of Turkey will be created by empowering the agripreneurs within the country. Future Agro Challenge Turkey’s goal is to empower these agripreneurs to create platforms for potential young farmers and potential agripreneurs and to raise awareness for a sustainable future for food production. Tackling food waste could become one of the main challenges for Turkey but also crafted food production, as a quote from Tanzer Bilgen, CEO of Doktar, figuring out the “mathematics of flavour” would be the key for establishing a position in global competition for Turkey. Yield would still be an issue for older generation of farmers but within the younger generation, taste and precision would be the key issue for better production. Therefore, Turkey’s agricultural scene would prosper with the young farmers and international agripreneurs approaching for collaboration with the young entrepreneurs.
Future of food will be sustained by food entrepreneurs, therefore Future Agro Challenge Turkey’s mission will be empower the agripreneurs to create the next generation of super farmers.
Author: Semi Hakim, Co-Founder at Kok Projekt