• Nadia A. Soerjanto, Manager, Learning Alliance

Accelerating the growth of agritech startups in ASEAN

Together with MUFG and Yara, Grow Asia just completed the first cohort of the Digital ASEAN Program, a program designed to accelerate the growth of promising, mature agritech startups by providing them with learning and mentoring opportunities, small grants, and opportunities to partner with corporates to support that growth.

There were 100 submissions to the program, and 14 were shortlisted to join the selection bootcamp in Singapore. From the bootcamp, we selected 7 startups across 6 countries. The first cohort consisted of the following startups:

  • Cropital - a peer to peer Lending platform for farmers

  • Harvesto - a low cost soil testing technology, testing at scale in remote areas

  • Rise Harvest - a smartphone app to deliver site-specific fertiliser recommendations to smallholder rice farmers

  • Saillog - pest and disease identification using computer vision algorithm

  • Tun Yat - Affordable and reliable machinery rental service for small-holder farmers

  • Koltiva - Fair and Sustainable Supply Chains through Technological Innovation

  • Crowde - Crowd funded finance for agriculture

Throughout the course of eight months these promising startups were put through a remote mentoring process, which was done in combination with several in-person boot camps – including one on Human-Centered Design which was conducted in a remote village in West Sumatra. A Demo Day was conducted at the end of the Digital ASEAN Program to showcase the milestones that were achieved and the partnerships that were established throughout the program.

So what’s next?

Three of the startups from the first cohort of the program entered pilots together with corporate partners. The pilots are designed to address specific needs of each startup and range in terms of scope and approach. For example, Cropital is undertaking a pilot to enable retail store partners to have an automated loan application process to access their services. Saillog is undertaking a pilot that is focused on improving the user experience and interface of their application to enable easier adaptation for farmers. Harvesto is implementing soil testing labs at fertilizer dealers in Lampung, Indonesia, which is designed to help farmers boost their yields, optimize their fertilizer use, while at the same time help our corporate partner maintain a good relationship with the local farmers. Other outcomes from the program include targeted sales training for Crowde’s field team and establishment of a partnership with a technical partner to address specific inefficiencies in Tun Yat’s current fleet logistics.

The three main inefficiencies in agricultural value chains in Southeast Asia revolves around finance, logistics, and trade. These are extremely complex challenges that are exacerbated further by the fact that farms in the region are often very small in size. Partnerships between startups and corporates combines the entrepreneurial approach of these startup founders with the efficiency and scale of large agribusinesses, which offers a unique approach in addressing some of these complex challenges.

However, while there is a lot to gain from corporate-startup partnerships – the reality is that these partnerships are difficult to execute. Our recent session in the Grow Asia Digital Learning Series yesterday on Corporate-startup Partnerships featured executives and founders who shared their success stories on building these partnerships across the region. For more information on the session, please visit the following link.

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