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Get to know the new Grow Asia team

SINGAPORE: Grow Asia is growing in capacity and we have recently expanded the team to help us support our ongoing efforts to take Country Partnership projects to scale. Keep reading to learn more about our newest members and all the experience they have to offer the Grow Asia Secretariat.

Julian Peach, Director of Knowledge

Q: Can you briefly describe your role and the experience you bring?

Julian: Director of Knowledge sounds grand but it represents one part of our work – that Grow Asia should be able to help country partnerships to make best use of knowledge in the wide range of fields in which they are working. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but will do my best along with colleagues! I’ve been asked to improve the scale and sustainability of the impact of Grow Asia’s activities. We work indirectly and so this means improving the way we facilitate others to achieve their dreams.

I have about thirty years of experience in the development and growth of agricultural markets, and have in the last fifteen years tried to specialize in facilitation rather than direct delivery. It’s challenging but rewarding when it works well. SE Asia is a flag-bearer for countries in other regions and I’d like to be part of helping farmers, companies and governments to work together better to increase incomes in a socially and environmentally sustainable way.

Q: What are your priorities?

Julian: Firstly, understanding what people in working groups are doing together and how they are being helped by country partnership secretariats. Secondly, identifying ways that Grow Asia can help increase the scale and sustainability of that done by working groups. In my first eight weeks of work, I’ve been in all our countries to meetings with businesses, government officials and farmers: from crab farmers in Mindanao, to introductory meetings with huge international companies new to tri-sector work, to informal conversations with special advisers to a minister of agriculture. This is important work because it respects local power and accountability, builds on the strengths that already exists, harnesses the power of markets and businesses to achieve large and lasting change, addressing one of the world’s oldest challenges – food system leadership.

Paul Voutier, Mobile Agriculture Manager

Q: What are your priorities for the rest of the year and where do you expect to be with this role in 3 years’ time? Any exciting new ideas that you can share?

Paul: Many industry leaders can already see how digital is going to shape how companies connect with small holders. My priority is to see this vision convert into action. One area where digital has so much potential is providing farmers with access to loans. Mobile phones make is cheaper for banks to gather data on loan candidates and easier to distribute loans. Realizing the potential will require partnerships between buyers, input companies and tech providers, I think that’s where Grow Asia can play a role.

Q: How will your area of focus contribute to Grow Asia’s pathways to scale?

Paul: Many of the leading firms in our industry are already doing great work with farmers in training, finance and market access. While these approaches are valuable they are expensive; the farms are just so fragmented and remote. Digital solutions make these approaches cheaper, this makes scale possible.

Q: If you could do any other job outside of agriculture for one week, what would it be and why?

Paul: It might take more than a week, but I would love to build a house.

Pranav Sethaputra, Learning Partners Network Manager

Q: Can you briefly describe your role and the experience you bring?

Pranav: Though “Learning Partners Network (LPN) Manager” is a bit of a mouthful, my role is essentially to build a community of (and encourage collaboration between) agribusiness and research partners through a learning alliance. The goal of the LPN is to facilitate the identification of research that is relevant to business and, in turn, encourage the adoption of good practice by business and smallholders alike. You see, there’s a lot of information out there – it’s just that figuring out where to look and what to look for can be quite daunting. My job is to make that easier.

I believe that pre-competitive platforms are key to encouraging sustainable development, and creating and managing these have the focus of my career. Prior to joining Grow Asia, I managed MCI Group’s sustainability champion program and the Global Destination Sustainability Index.

Q: What are your priorities for the rest of the year and where do you expect to be with this role in 3 years’ time?

Pranav: Over the next few months I will be identifying the knowledge needs of agribusinesses in the region and the sources - be it existing work or research institutes - that have the potential to fill these gaps. With the support of our members by the end of the year I aim to roll out a national learning alliance in Myanmar and the Philippines, and by 2019 I hope to have alliances in all five of the Grow Asia country partnerships. It’s going to be a challenge but, given the amount of potential the program has, one that I’m very excited about.

Q: If you could do any other job outside of agriculture for one week, what would it be and why?

Pranav: A portrait artist because I’ve always loved drawing (and the human face, in particular). They would all be terrible of course, but I’d still love it!

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