How can the bank make hard-to-finance plans possible after all?

Innovative food entrepreneurs often need more than traditional bank loans to realize their ambitions. In the rapidly changing world of food and agriculture, how can bankers add value for these entrepreneurs? With this question, bankers, entrepreneurs and designers set to work during the first Food Forward activation day.
Published on Jun 10, 2024

Taking innovation further

It is a major dilemma in the transition of the food and agricultural system. Innovative plans have not yet proven themselves, are therefore risky for financiers, and are therefore less likely to qualify for financing - both from a bank and from other providers. How do we ensure that entrepreneurs with innovative plans, can still be helped further with knowledge, network and ultimately financing?

 

"The cooperative aspect is really Rabobank, but I think the bank is struggling with that. It requires a new structure and approach within the bank, without abandoning the cooperative. Food Forward can help shape this cooperative mindset in a modern way."

The Role of Food Forward

To crack this code, Food Hub and Rabobank founded the Food Forward platform. The platform aims to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs who want to contribute to a future-proof food system and providers of knowledge, network and financing, including Rabobank. The initiative hopes to provide answers to the transition questions facing the bank. Alex Datema, director of Agri & Food at Rabobank, sees a lot of potential in Food Forward: "Food Forward, in my view, is a building block for what we need to do a lot more. We can give customers a push to make certain choices, using the available knowledge and expertise. I am convinced that Food Forward can be the answer for many entrepreneurs."

Last December, Rabobank presented a new vision for food and agriculture, captured in the AgroFood Vision 2040. In addition to its traditional role as a financing partner, Rabobank also wants to position itself as a transition partner for entrepreneurs. However, fulfilling this new role is a complex challenge. Joris Lohman explains: "The cooperative aspect is truly Rabobank, but I think the bank is struggling with that. It requires a new structure and approach within the bank, without letting go of the cooperative. Food Forward can help shape this cooperative mindset in a modern way."

Rabobank officials and entrepreneurs sit at table during Food Forward activation day

The activation day for bankers

During the activation day, bankers from different regions of the country worked with five entrepreneurs. Under the guidance of Joszi Smeets and designers from Reframing Studio, they bent over cases brought by the entrepreneurs. The bankers were challenged to revise their own expectations, adopt a different perspective and thoroughly analyze the customer journey, all from the "Food Forward mindset.

 

"Food Forward, in my view, is a building block for what we need to do much more. We can give customers a push to make certain choices, using the knowledge and expertise available. I am convinced that Food Forward can be the answer for many entrepreneurs."

A broader role for the bank

In addition to providing loans, Rabobank can play a crucial role in the transition of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs in the midst of a transition are not always ready for a loan, but can benefit greatly from the knowledge, network and alternative financing options the bank can offer. By supporting them in these ways, the bank can make a valuable contribution to a more sustainable food system.

 

Actively listening to and supporting food entrepreneurs is crucial for Rabobank to live up to its role as a transition partner. Initiatives such as Food Forward can help bankers modernize their cooperative thinking and contribute more effectively to a future-proof food system. The activation day showed that there is great potential to work with entrepreneurs to accelerate the transition to sustainability.

Alex Datema, Joris Lohman
Joris Lohman (left) and Alex Datema (right). Photography: Pablo Teijeiro