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LEAF SPEAKER IN FOCUS: Paul Voutier

Paul Voutier is Director, Knowledge and Innovation at Grow Asia, a multi-stakeholder partnership platform that catalyzes action on inclusive agricultural development in South East Asia. Grow Asia was established by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the ASEAN Secretariat.

Paul is building a community of practice that brings together business, government and NGOs leaders who share a commitment to using new innovations to make smallholder value chains more productive and sustainable.  He delivers webinars, open innovation events, reports, presentations and networking events. Digitization is core element of the program, as it will impact every aspect of farming – from advanced technology that can grow more resilient crops, to mobile financing solutions that can help smallholder farmers access credit.

He has significant experience building smallholder supply chains in the cocoa, citrus, cassava and rubber industries. Before joining Grow Asia, he worked with agribusinesses including Mondelez International, Olam, Syngenta, Heineken and Ironbark Citrus.  In 2012, Paul co-authored the landmark “Business in Development” study which established a body of evidence characterizing the nature of core business activities multinationals undertake which contribute to poverty alleviation.

What is your agri-dream for the Philippines, your home region, home country? My dream is to see smallholder householders in ASEAN thrive. Rapid urbanization and new communication technologies are converging to creating exciting opportunities for small farms in Asia.  There is a real change right now to shift gears from survival model to seeing farms as a small business young people are proud to own and manage.

Share your agri journey. My journey began packing shipments of fair trade coffee for cafes and concerned consumers just as the movement began in Australia.  It soon led to taking business leaders into villages in PNG, Indonesia and Lao to sit with farmers and imagine how new business models could be developed.  I have a huge respect for the frontier traders, factory owners and seed sellers who take the risk to partner with smallholders.

How can we take agriculture to the next level? It's all about digital. Technology has made it so much easier for me to buy, communicate, learn and sell online.  The same technologies will deliver these outcomes on for small farms.  For me, its a matter of convenience, on small farms better communication, market access, and learning will be game-changing.

What excites you about LEAF? Trust building. Whether you are talking to input manufacturers, government officials, traders or farmers we all want and need smallholders to succeed, but we need to trust each other more. Forum's like LEAF build this sense of trust a and shared vision.

What is your message to the next generation of agri-champs? Don't make assumptions about smallholder farmers, test your ideas with them, use Human Centred Design methodologies.

What is the future of agriculture in the Philippines, your home region, home country, in three words or less?  Digital Transformation

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