Through Villanova’s Global Practicum, MBA students help farming app creators expand into new territory.
By Yasmine Iqbal
A required capstone for the Professional MBA program, the Global Practicum partners students with an organization working in a non-US market to evaluate strategic opportunities for development and expansion. For Mackenzie Manning ’22 MBA, the MBA Global Practicum provided an opportunity to research and better understand the factors that shape international markets, knowledge that she could directly apply as a professional 10 years into her career in the aerospace and defense industry.
A tailor-made app designed for small fruit producers, FarmUp allows users to track crop yields, log irrigation data, manage the labor force and perform other essential functions necessary for business. Led by CEO Jose Pericao, the Portugal-based creators of FarmUp needed to evaluate the markets in five new countries where they were considering expansion—Serbia, Poland, Greece, Kosovo and Morocco.
Under the guidance of Manuel Nuñez ’03 MBA, associate dean of Graduate Business and professor of practice, Management and Operations, and Marie Witman, senior associate director of Program Operations, Manning’s Global Practicum team of 31 students partnered with FarmApp to conduct this market research. “We are a very small company with big ambition but limited resources,” Pericao says. “This was a great opportunity for us to gather this valuable information by collaborating with Villanova MBA students.”
The team did their due diligence, examining labor force issues, regulatory considerations, the political landscape and openness to trade, among other key factors. “The students had to consider macro- and micro- level issues to determine how to optimize the app’s performance and utilization,” Professor Nuñez says. “They also had to right-size their recommendations and balance technological innovation with practical application.”
They came to the conclusion that Morocco offered the greatest potential for expansion, based on positive economic, political and social indicators.
At the culmination of the practicum in June 2022, Manning and 16 of her team members took a week-long trip with their professor to Morocco and Portugal to participate in a whirlwind of cultural and business events, including meetings at the Chamber of Commerce in Casablanca and a presentation with Pericao in Lisbon. “The trip was one of the most enriching experiences of the entire MBA program,” Manning says.
The highlight: a visit to a Portuguese berry farm. “That’s when we were able to see how the app we had been evaluating for months was actually being used by the workers,” she says. “It gave me a whole perspective on the work we had done.” FarmUp is planning for eventual expansion into Morocco in the next year or two.