In line with this, Rabobank has announced the launch of its latest innovation challenge, the SustainableAg Asia Challenge, which seeks technological solutions to solve various supply chain challenges in Asia.
There are five main issues that the challenge hopes to address: Traceability and food safety, Data integrity and sharing, Sustainable farming practices, Access to new markets and Inclusivity of smallholder farmers.
According to Rabobank CEO Asia Diane Boogaard, this challenge aims to address the rapid population growth predicted for the Asian population from now till 2050.
“Asia’s population is expected to increase from 4.6 billion to 5.3 billion in 2050, [and there is] limited arable land and natural resources available, [but] food production needs to increase,” she said.
“Data and innovation are key to feeding the growing population sustainably.”
All companies with technological solutions addressing the five challenges listed above are eligible for entry, as long as the company and solution are applicable to the Asia region. Applications close on September 1 2019.
Cash prizes from a pool of US$20,000 are up for grabs for the top five selected companies, in addition to an exclusive invitation to present at Rabobank Asia’s annual Food & Agribusiness Advisory Board Meeting in Shanghai on October 31 2019.
Before this though, the top 15 selected companies will gain exclusive invitations to pitch at the challenge’s Pitch Day in Singapore on October 10 2019, where a variety of industry leaders and investors will be present to hear the solutions presented.
Travel grants will be provided for the selected companies’ representatives to cover all travel to Singapore and/or Shanghai.
“The selected companies will benefit from networking opportunities with leading agri-businesses and eco-system partners to help them scale their businesses,” said Rabobank.
“Successful applicants will be evaluated based on their technology innovation, market readiness, scalability and extent of addressing integrity in the agri-food value chain in Asia.”
In addition, the SustainableAg Asia Challenge aims to connect emerging technological solution companies with large agri-business players to cultivate collaboration and accelerate change.
“Data-driven technology enables smallholder farmers, [who mostly lack access to finance and knowledge,] to get more insight how to increase their productivity and in turn increase their incomes,” added Rabo Foundation Head of Innovations Albert Boogaard.
The priority of the challenge is to seek ‘immediate pilot opportunities’ with companies, so it is essential for companies to be both product-ready and business-ready in order to qualify.
Innovation for Asia
Launched on August 1 2019, the SustainableAg Asia Challenge is the second Innovation Challenge that Rabobank has launched in Asia, following the Food Loss Challenge Asia held last year.
The challenge focused on technologies that targeted food loss and food wastage issues from farm to market.
The winner was India’s Ecozen Solutions with their solar-powered cold rooms, meant for on-farm cooling usage and the immediate storage of post-harvest produce such as fruits, vegetables, flowers and more.
“[The cold room] does not depend on grid electricity and after a 2-year breakeven, leads to over 40% increase in profits. This innovative product can be suitably adapted for local conditions across the world,” said Ecozen via its website.
The company’s Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Prateek Singhal said that the primary benefits Ecozen had seen since winning the Rabobank challenge last year were in terms of global visibility and recognition.
“We were introduced to opportunities as far as in Kenya and Uganda, which we are now studying now [and also] look forward to [more] Rabobank support to collaborate with supply chain companies and potential partners across the world,” he said