Transitioning Agriculture Technology from Research to Commercial Application

business model images at CIMMYT
Client: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
In partnership with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, we helped align technology features to the needs of farming stakeholders and define a business model hypothesis specific to Mexico’s Yaqui and Mayo Valleys.

Client’s Need

Nitrogen fertilizer use in Mexico's Yaqui Valley, which has doubled since the mid-1970s, is a major environmental pollutant and the largest input cost in the country's largest wheat-producing region. To address nitrogen fertilizer use, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) collaborated with Oklahoma 
State University to develop a nitrogen diagnostic tool that provides fertilizer recommendations to farmers.

While the diagnostic tool had been used on more than 48,000 cumulative hectares since 2006, its recent use had been dropping.  The CIMMYT team saw the need for a more commercially sustainable business model for the technology. RTI Innovation Advisors partnered with them to better align technology features and the benefits of adopting the technology to the needs of farming stakeholders and identified a viable business model hypothesis.

Our Work

We partnered with the CIMMYT team to

  • define discrete technology features and test the desirability with users
  • quantify economic benefits through measured cost savings of technology use
  • identify need gaps, misaligned incentives, and opportunity areas in the existing ecosystem through in-country, ethnographic-style interviews
  • develop multiple business model concepts and facilitate human-centered design exercises using low-fidelity concepts


At project conclusion, we provided CIMMYT with a conceptualized business model and mapped achievable and realistic next steps for “today” [planning], “tomorrow” [pilot and refine], and in the “future” [commercial launch]; these next steps would help CIMMYT guide subsequent project phases. Because CIMMYT is one of 15 independent, international, nonprofit agricultural research organizations that make up a larger global research partnership, our project sets a foundational methodology that it can replicate in similar technology commercialization efforts in other regions.

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