FoodTech and AgriTech startups were the key focus of the Future Food Asia Award 2017, offering an opportunity to look into the developing challenges towards the sustainable production of food in Asia as well as globally.
Launched by ID Capital, and supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board and American food processing and commodities corporation Archer Daniels Midland Company (NYSE: ADM), the event brought together a community of investors, large corporates, governments, academics and entrepreneurs.
Food security is a pressing issue for Asia-Pacific with estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations suggesting that Asia-Pacific will need to increase its food production by 77% to adequately feed its population of nine billion by 2050.
Despite the pressing need for such solutions in the region, investment has largely been concentrated in other areas like fintech and ecommerce. Hence the focus of FFAA to support the development of region-specific solutions that could possibly also be implemented on a global scale.
Nutritional Value was a key part of this push for sustainability in the food supply chain, making up 34% of the startups that applied for the award. With 40% of food lost after the harvest and 30% lost further down the value chain, startups focused on the supply chain, precision agriculture and maximising yield made up the remainder of startups that participated.
Check out our 2 Key Takeaways from the Event:
1. AgriTech and FoodTech developing traceability in food production will offer cross-industry applications
Traceability in food has mainly focused on addressing food safety by identifying the source of the food products as well as certify that it is not a counterfeit.
For example, FFAA’s Grand Prize Winner, String Bio, is engaged in the conversion of methane gas into value-added products. Their key product is single cell protein production which can be added to animal feed. It offers a similar protein profile to fishmeal whilst delivering cost savings for businesses by being 30% cheaper than soybean. Full traceability on their platform enables businesses to examine how their protein was produced, giving them and consumers a peace of mind.
However, traceability in food production also offers other opportunities as showcased by SmartAHC – a platform using predictive analytics to improve the productivity yield of pig farming. Recognised for its innovative approach to transforming the food supply chain, it received a S$50,000 grant from SPRING Singapore at the event.
A key aspect of their technology is the introduction of e-traceability for pig farmers that provides important information about the farm, such as a the number of pigs. Linked to the blockchain to prevent data tampering, the technology decreases the likelihood of insurance fraud as each claim is tied to a specific insured pig. The data also offers banks a better assessment into the credit risk profile of the pig farmer, offering them lines of credit for expansion and productivity investment.
2. FoodTech and AgriTech focusing on customer centricity will drive sustainable food solutions
With food being an essential part of everyday life, it is no surprise that these startups have also prioritised customer centricity in the design and development of their product.
In the AgriTech sector, FarmFriend – the on-demand marketplace for agricultural drone services – also demonstrated their understanding of their end user. Noting some inefficiency with using WeChat in China’s more rural areas, they developed an online platform as well as call centres to reach out to farmers. Working with key opinion leaders (KOLs) like bigger farms, they have successfully managed to demonstrate their in-house offerings for customised fertilisers and pesticides. Their own sensors on the private drones also showcases actionable data for farmers, demonstrating the return-on-investment (ROI) of their system and has made farmers more confident in trying their platform and becoming repeat customers.
Elsewhere, Israeli startup Doux Matok – a FoodTech company providing targeted delivery of flavour ingredients, such as sugar and salt – has used customer centricity to maintain their focus on enabling healthier consumption of foods without compromising taste. Using a carrier for the sugar, they are able to reduce the amount of sugar used by 20-50% without the effects of other sugar substitutes such as a metallic aftertaste and so on. By partnering with leading multinationals in the food & beverage industry, they have conducted successful experiments and are expected to scale-up production and commercialisation of their technology by mid-2018.
Hope that this has given you a quick overview about the opportunities for FoodTech and AgriTech in APAC!