INCAE students win 3rd place in the Graduates category at the IFAMA 2022 Global Student Case Competition

13 July 2022
Institutional comunication

As part of the 32nd IFAMA International Conference, held from June 18 to 23 in Costa Rica, the IFAMA 2022 Global Student Case Competition was held in which various groups of students from universities around the world took part.

Three teams from INCAE Business School participated, made up of a total of 14 students, but one group stood out that took 3rd place in the competition in the Graduates category. Congratulations to Priscila Agreda, Hernán Matute, Felipe Andrés Argüello Valle, Marco Antonio Molina Castro and Andrés Downing Peláez!

Next, they share with us some reflections on how they lived this unique experience.

How did you find out about the IFAMA Case Competition and why did you decide to participate? 

We received the mail from IFAMA at the beginning of this year. Hernán Matute and Marco Molina were the most enthusiastic about it and began to form the team. Of the five participants, four live in the same house at INCAE, and one day after solving a case for a class in the MBA program, we felt very confident and liked the work and the synergy that we generated for its development: that It was a crucial moment for us to decide. The fifth member is part of the CAE of a person on the team and we also knew his potential as a person and as a professional, so we asked him if he wanted to be a member of the team and he gave us a positive response. Not only that: he became the captain and his contribution was transcendental, just like that of the other colleagues.

How did you prepare for the IFAMA Case Competition?

We had difficulties preparing ourselves, because the academic load at INCAE is heavy, and well, we couldn't coordinate when to meet. However, in the last week we got together and divided the roles. Above all, it was important to define how we would communicate and what we would do if there was a difference of opinion. The lack of prior preparation was offset by our ability to work together. There was synergy between the strengths of each one and we started from that place. The synergy was achieved thanks to this prior trust in deciding the formation of the team and the friendship between us.

How did you experience the competition at IFAMA? 

It was an enriching experience in terms of professional growth, the challenges of the cases and the teamwork that this activity requires. But, without a doubt, having the opportunity to meet people from different countries with experience in various areas was what caused the most positive impact on the team. Students, teachers and professionals from the agricultural area, specialized in various branches of this wonderful science, showed us the importance of events of this type beyond competition. We had the opportunity to meet, talk, laugh and get wonderful contacts for the professional future, but we also made great friends that we will certainly see again, as this motivated us to keep in mind to attend the next IFAMA conference in New Zeeland.

The setting was wonderful, we had the opportunity to experience the essence of an agricultural university like EARTH, with an attractive infrastructure and a quite pleasant environmental approach. The weather was a challenge for us, but it was part of the experience.
These events are essential for professional growth and what happens inside, thanks to the people who also took on this challenge, is what makes us feel very happy to have participated.

How did you experience the qualifying rounds? How did you find out that you were part of the finalist teams?

The case was exceptional, many things occurred to us from past experience in agriculture and sustainability. We thought that we would have enough time to practice, but with the half hour we lost we had to take everything very quickly. The first challenge was to organize ourselves. We all agreed on the strategy to take, but each one had a different contribution to the company, so we worked on it in parts, but with a lot of communication. We felt that we communicated without the need for words, we were so coordinated and focused on the same goal that the ideas flowed and connected very quickly, so we contributed our ideas with total confidence. 

Something funny happened to us before we went to the final. At 11 p.m. an email arrived whose subject and summary read: You did it! So we all hugged each other and were very happy to go through to the final. But the email was just: “You did it! You are on IFAMA” That is to say, we had not passed, they only congratulated us for having participated that day. We started to laugh, so much so that a colleague threw himself on the ground holding his belly. 

The next morning they did tell us that we had passed: indeed, we were in the final. It was a very tense moment, because we didn't ask for further instructions, we just walked out excited, and actually we had to prepare in a different location, but we quickly coordinated and started working again on case B.

How did you feel when you found out you had won third place? What does this achievement mean for INCAE, for Costa Rica and for the region?

It was a mixture of feelings. Our group was convinced that we had the ability to come in first place. However, it was very gratifying to achieve third, as we worked so hard during the days of the competition. It is an achievement that shows that INCAE students are at a level of world competition. The fact that INCAE uses the case study methodology allowed us to feel confident because of how familiar we are with said methodology. 

What do you take away from this experience? Do you have any suggestions or reflections derived from it?

One of the main lessons that we take from this experience comes from the words that the president of IFAMA, Dr. Raj Vardhan, gave us off the record: “If we want to promote agribusiness and sustainability to achieve the UN sustainable development goals, Let's always keep very close to the farmers”. And it is that as time passes, the goal of feeding the world by 2050 becomes more and more blurred when we move innovations, talent and technology away from the small agricultural producer.

Yes, there is a reflection on INCAE. Taking into account the understanding that the institution has shown about the role of agribusiness and sustainability as pillars for the comprehensive development of nations, through its recently created master's degree in agribusiness and its active participation in IFAMA, INCAE must give it the brushstroke end to the formula that has to consistently place on the podiums of the case resolution competition for the category of graduates.

And it is that in the last 12 years INCAE has only achieved 2 podiums and never a first place. INCAE provides its students with the tools and conceptual frameworks to resolve cases in the best way. Likewise, it facilitates the registration of teams by affinity with relative ease, but the missing link in the formula is to connect the participants of the past generations with the new ones for the exchange of information. We consider that a factor that makes the difference between the teams that win and those that do not win is the active follow-up and enrollment of an experienced counselor who accompanies the team throughout the competition, supporting them with advice, motivation and feedback on the team's dynamics. By integrating these two pillars into the formula, we have no doubt that INCAE's name will be mentioned in all future awards.

Do you remember any curious details that you would like to share with us?

A curious detail that we noticed was the presence of the EAP Zamorano on the podiums for different competition categories. Zamorano is a highly prestigious agricultural school in Latin America based in Honduras, and currently, together with INCAE, they have developed a master's degree in agribusiness. In case creation, second place went to a former Zamorano professor, Dr. Ernesto Gallo. In the graduate category, the ISAM (Spanish School of Agribusiness) team was the first place winner and had a Zamorano graduate, Ing. Lilia Paz. Second place in the undergraduate category went to the Zamorano team, and finally, our team was made up of three Zamorano.

What can you tell us about the Steve Aronson Chair and its sponsorship?

sponsorship of the Steve Aronson Chair showed blind confidence in our willingness to participate and funded our participation without regard. This was a source of immediate confidence and opened the doors to this magnificent experience for us.