What are the challenges facing women wanting a career in agriculture and technology?
When you think about technology and agriculture (particularly from a farming perspective), who do you picture working in these industries? Men? Traditionally, both industries are male-dominated and are often stereotypically perceived as career paths for men.
For women wanting to build an agtech startup, the obstacles facing them on their journey increase significantly, with a recent study showing only 3% of the $16.9 billion invested in agtech funding went to female-only startups in 2018. Some of the clear challenges facing female-founded startups include:
Difficulty securing funding if the startup is founded by females only
Many of the decision-makers at a high level are men, often resulting in bias
An underrepresentation of female founders
At Farmers2Founders, we are working towards changing the stereotypes and overcoming some of the challenges facing female-founded startups within the agtech space by ensuring our programs feature a diverse representation of people. We strive for (and generally achieve) a 50/50 representation of men and women.
We recently spoke to Malkah Lara Muckenschnabl about the challenges on her journey to becoming a female founder. Malkah is a recent Farmers2Founders Hone graduate and has just launched her first company Lymbo.
Malkah Lara Muckenschnabl
Relationship Credit Analyst, Specialised Agribusiness–ANZ Bank
Malkah is currently employed as a relationship credit analyst with the ANZ bank. This role involves working with corporate businesses in the agriculture banking sector across Victoria and Tasmania. She is also the founder of Lymbo, a company that has created an app that helps connect young people with jobs in agriculture.
When we asked Malkah why she decided to pursue a career in agriculture, she told us she sort of 'fell into it' as her mum works in agriculture. With no idea what she wanted to do, she ended up applying for her degree because her friend was. Otherwise, she would likely never have heard of the industry. This is due to the lack of awareness of the vast number of career opportunities in agriculture.
"…agriculture should be at the forefront of the world… everyone's turned their heads to it because of COVID and how we've sort of kept the economy running. But, you know, we have existed for a very long time…we feed the nation…it's a really exciting space, and I think it's just not really made aware, the way that it should be, or maybe perceived the way that it should be," said Malkah.
Malkah started her foray into agtech after attending a work seminar held by the Grain Research & Development Corporation. One of the topics was a discussion on labour shortages across the agriculture sector. She was the youngest in the room and one of the few 'non-farmers'. Producers were discussing how they could not find young people who wanted to work in the sector. She spoke to one of the producers after the event.
"…I said to her it's actually really interesting…because all of my friends and all the people I know are looking for jobs, and they don't know where you are, they don't know where to find you," said Malkah.
This chance encounter triggered Malkah’s idea for her agtech startup, Lymbo. She wanted to connect producers and young people to help the labour shortage problem and to help young people find a career in agriculture (that might not have thought of the industry otherwise). And the idea for her agriculture recruitment app was born.
But Malkah didn't have a tech background, just a tech idea that had the potential to help the agriculture industry. One of the key takeaways from our program was that she realised she didn't need to know or learn how to code—she needed to build a team around her that could help bring her idea to life.
"…the biggest thing is just really realising that you're not in it alone.…it can be quite a lonely journey, and you sort of feel like an intruder in the space…I think that you shouldn't really think like that… it's not just you—you're the brains of it because you have the idea, and you're really trying to drive it forward. But it doesn't mean that you can't have the team and the support around you to make it happen," said Malkah.
Malkah told us that on her journey so far, one of the key takeaways for her to help with the challenges she has faced is to build a support network and to learn how to network.
"…the support and the networks that you have really sort of build your pathway forward… whether that's in a corporation, whether that's being an entrepreneur, whether that's just having friends and wanting to be invited to your friend's party…I think it's just part of life. It's actually so incredible because I was never really aware of networking until I joined this program," said Malkah.
Although men still outnumber women, when we asked Malkah if she could see the number of women growing during her time in the industry, she said the opportunities for women are increasing—there is a big push for it.
"I think nowadays if you wanted to be a young woman in ag and you wanted to make a difference or do something, I think you'd be able to find support in most places that you go…whether that be programs like Farmers2Founders, or whether that be joining a company and advocating for women. I think there is a lot of room for that. And that's the way that it's going because of the wonderful women from two generations ago that have paved the way," said Malkah.
Malkah feels that the greatest area for improvement would be for women to be represented at a higher level in the industry. While women are coming in at the grassroots level, there are very few women at the management level.
"… there are women coming in, but there are no women higher up, like the higher up you go, the less women there are. And essentially, the higher you are, the more power you have to make decisions and really make change," said Malkah.
How can Farmers2Founders help you?
As Malkah has shown us, a great business idea often comes from a flash of inspiration. You don't need to be in agriculture or be a tech expert to start an agtech business. All you need to get started is a willingness to bring your idea to the table and work with producers to find solutions to their problems.
When you join one of our programs, we will show you how to validate your business idea, support you as you build your startup, and then help you commercialise your business internationally.
Do you have an idea but are unsure whether it would work? You can book a 1:1 coaching session with us if you need some guidance or want to explore your agtech idea further. We'd love to work with you!