With the AgTech industry developing rapidly around the world, how can entrepreneurs and private sector actors collaborate to develop successful solutions? Our latest AsiaBerlin event, “Agrifood & WaterTech Innovation by Corporate-Startup Collaboration”, brings together key players, from the public sector to startup space, who are creating impact in the industry across Asia to Berlin to answer this question. Here are edited excerpts from the online event.
Public Sector Support for Startups in Sri Lanka
Shasheendra Rajapaske, is the Hon. State Minister of Agriculture Technology in Sri Lanka. She believes her country is ripe for innovation from agritech startups. “The opportunities lie in how can we help to really leverage technology to increase production,” says Shasheendra, “Technology infused into our agriculture production, from seed production to land utilization to crop diversification and also with all the different steps in the value chain.”
She notes that while entry into the Sri Lankan market and finding reliable partners may be a barrier for startups, the space is there to support founders. “There is a lot of potential between the government and ICTA (Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka) can help to partner and help you enter into the market, to tie up different corporates and government to diffuse new technology into the agri-sector.”
Transforming Ideas to Products Fast in Asia
Mike Richardson is an AsiaBerlin Ambassador and the CTO and Co-founder of vitreo.me. His company aims to make IBC supply chain processes more efficient, reliable and sustainable by bringing them online with IoT sensors and which work with real-time information. His most recent venture, Project Udalak, saw Mike and his team developing a sensor for a Sri Lankan client. Running on a short timeline, vitreo.me was able to turn a prototype into a finished hardware product in just three weeks.
“If you’re going to build hardware – definitely try Berlin. If you want to do systems integration, definitely go to Shenzhen. If you want to build hardware in the region – definitely reach out to Thailand. If you are looking for the best place to test your agricultural technology you go to Sri Lanka, because they cover everything in that amazing country.” says Mike.
Agri-innovations Attracting Investors
Christopher Aw is the Managing Director of Pandan Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm focused primarily on companies in the FinTech, AgriTech, and Industry 4.0 sectors that want to scale in Asia. Bringing in an investors perspective, Christopher says attractive innovations for agritech VCs are within the alternative protein, aquaculture, vertical farming and desalinization space.
Startups Complimenting the Work of Corporates
Ronnie Tan is an Advisor at BASF, a German multinational chemical company that seeks to combine economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility. The company is currently trying to address the issue of air pollution that comes with industrializing the shrimp agriculture sector. Ronnie says BASF is currently able to supply clean energy resources to reduce use of fossil energies and provide feed additives to mitigate diseases among shrimps, reducing loss.
Where Ronny sees corporate startup partnerships materializing will be in the AI and automation space to help enable higher productivity, efficiency and mitigate risk in the farms. Further, he says the project needs asset financing from investors to support the development and resolve capital expenditure restraints. “The idea here is to be able to produce sustainable shrimp and to be able to lead this sector to a blue revolution 4.0.” says Ronny.
Tunyawat Kasemsuwan is the Director of the Global Innovation Centre at the Thai Union Group, a Thai producer of seafood-based food products. The multinational company is one of the founders of Space-F, a global FoodTech startup incubator and accelerator based in Thailand. Focusing on nine sectors, Tunyawat says they are already working with its second batch of accelerator and incubator startups. Ultimately, corporations like Thai Union are actively seeking out new innovations from startups that will compliment their operations.
This event showcased the opportunities for corporate-startup partnerships in the agritech sector – a space heavily supported by both private and public sector actors. Key takeaways are that founders should leverage expertise and production capabilities of Europe and Asia, to quickly iterate and bring products to market. Further, venture capitalists see the potential for outsized returns on investing in the alternative protein, aquaculture, vertical farming and desalinization space. Finally, this event featured corporate speakers who say they are actively looking to partner with startups that can compliment their projects.
Watch the event video here :