International leading organisations in agricultural technology have gathered in Singapore to announce the formation of the Asia Pacific Agtech Alliance, a group which aims to promote and grow the budding agtech sector in the region.
Though still a niche area of the global startup movement, agtech promises to solve the issues impacting the global food supply chain. Food security become a global concern since the release of UN data indicating that international food output will need to grow by as much as 70% to feed the projected 10 billion global population by 2050.
Within South East Asia, the agriculture industry is the top employer by a significant margin with 40% and 44% of the Thai and Vietnamese workforce respectively employed in farming.
“Agriculture is ranked by McKinsey as the least digitised industry in the world, and many of the practices we use today are literally unchanged from the stone age,” says Andrew Lai Accelerator Director of SproutX the first Asia Pacific agtech fund.
“The potential to lift economic output and improve lives is incredible, and our goal is to encourage entrepreneurs in South East Asia in particular to recognise agtech as an area of importance rather than putting efforts into making yet another dating app.”
Agtech financing deals more than doubled in 2017 with an average of 65% year-over-year increase internationally.
While much has been made of recent deals such as the $200m investment by Japan based Softbank into US vertical farming startup Plenty, activity across Asia is also increasing. Chinese startup Meicei last month raised $450 million to help supply fresh food direct from farms to consumers.
“Agtech is fast becoming the next big business trend and the opportunities within the region are enormous.” said Prerana Mehta, the acting Austrade Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner.
The Melbourne based agtech startup accelerator SproutX is currently touring South East Asian capital cities with Austrade to promote agricultural technology companies and establish local agtech entrepreneur communities. SproutX is Asia Pacific’s first agtech focused accelerator program with a $10m venture capital fund seeking to invest in Asian early stage agtech companies.
In partnership with a range of prominent agtech organisations including Agfunder and Artesian Ventures, SproutX is seeking to run a range of programs and events in Singapore at LEVEL3, an innovation and co- working hub by Unilever Foundry and Padang & Co, to help spur agtech entrepreneurship.
“Growing Australia’s agtech community into the largest in the world has been great in supplying venture capital programs like ours with startups to invest in. We hope for the same in Asia and to help grow a generation of successful agricultural entrepreneurs.” says Lai.
The SproutX team and seven of their portfolio companies are currently visiting Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh city meeting with senior government and corporate figures on how to promote and grow the agtech sector.
Companies on the trip range from Farmgate MSU who are creating a mobile slaughtering unit through to Farmapp, a cloud based horticulture pest management system.
The Asia Pacific Agri-food Alliance is seeking further regional partners to continue growing agtech entrepreneurialism in the region.