The final pitching session was held in Singapore, seeing pitches from the top 14 finalists, which were shortlisted from a total of 138 competitors from all over Asia.
The session saw pitches covering a variety of market-ready data-driven technologies and innovative solutions that aim towards the development of increased efficiency for supply chains, which are expected to increase sustainability practices within the food production industry.
Stellapp Technologies took home the win for its SmartMoo solution, which drives digitisation of the dairy sector by capturing data from the entire supply chain from farm to collection centres to chilling centres in India.
“We have three major targets with this solution: To increase productivity to help the farmers, to increase quality and demand linkage to benefit milk processors, and to improve traceability so as to help consumers,” Stellapps Technologies Program Manager Umesh Parjapat told us after the winner announcement was made.
“In terms of addressing India’s current food safety issues to do with milk adulteration, we are also now working with (competition Merit Prize winner) AgNext to use their cloud technology and services to detect this sort of adulteration.
“Transparency is also a major focus - we want to make the supply chain more transparent and visible, so that the system can incentivise farmers to provide a higher quality of milk.”
Speaking to FoodNavigator-Asia after the results were announced, Rabo Foundation Head of Innovation Albert Boogaard said that the judges had found it ‘very difficult’ to make the judgement due to the high quality seen, and that it had been a ‘close’ race between the top few winners.
“One very important point we considered was that these winners were very focused on particular target groups or sectors, and had developed a broad range of solutions to address problems being faced by leveraging technology and digitisation,” he told us.
“We looked at this in terms of good integrated services, added value and scalability, such that a business case would be the next logical step for the winners.”
He also expressed admiration for the advances in Agtech and Fintech in Asia, saying: “In terms of scale and focus both on specific target groups and end users, what is happening here in the region is really impressive.”
The second and third place winners were India’s DeHaat for its farmer-focused connection platform and China’s Longcom IoT for its IoT agricultural solution respectively. Two merit prizes were also awarded, to India’s Agnext and Indonesia’s CROWDE.
Stellapps will be walking away with the winning cash prize of US$10,000, DeHaat and Longcom IoT will get cash prizes of US$5,000 and US$3,000 respectively, whereas AgNext and CROWDE will each get merit prizes of US$1,000.
All Top Five winners will also be given the opportunity to pitch their solutions to leading APAC food and agribusiness companies at Rabobank Asia’s annual Food and Agribusiness Advisory Board Meeting in Shanghai come October 31.
The SustainableAg Asia Challenge was supported by the Rabo Foundation in collaboration with ADB Ventures, ADM, Bayer, Bits & Bites, COFCO International, DSM, Future Group, Temasek and Olam International, which representatives also acted as judges for the final pitching session.
Sustainability challenges: MNC-innovator partnerships
An expert panel discussion held during the event discussed the major obstacles for the F&B industry to solve sustainability issues in Asia, as well as barriers to effective MNC-innovators partnerships.
The panel comprised of Olam International Cashew Business President and Global Head Amir Khirbat, COFCO Managing Director (excl. China) Frederik Groth, Bayer Crop Science Customer Experience and Digital Starategy Head APAC Kohei Sakata, Future Group India Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Jain, and ADM Business Development Director APAC Sid Jain.
According to Khirbat, one of the main challenges that sustainability in the region faces is that of demand.
“There is simply a lack of consumer demand for sustainable and traceable food here – there are those who are willing to pay more for such food, but this is a very small segment,” he said.
“Companies also don’t tend to build in the cost of externalities such as environmental impact into the cost of the product, so there is no dollarized value placed on sustainability impacts.”
Groth added that human habit was also a major obstacle, saying that: “To achieve sustainable results, we must take the extra step to change [our lifestyle], but unfortunately humans always continue with the patterns that we are used to.”
Establishing partnerships was highlighted as ‘the only way to change’ by Sakata, who also said that mindsets needed to change significantly in order for this to happen.
“No one single government or organisation can make this change, but today we’re still seeing a competitive mindset hindering true partnership – this should be changed to a ‘complementary’ mindset so that we can truly work together.”
The panellists also agreed that a ‘lack of understanding’ between MNCs and innovators was a common issue hindering partnerships.
“The issue is how to develop a ‘language’ that everyone understands, and not have each side talk in terms of different ‘measurements’ such that things cannot be effectively compared,” added Groth.