A group of Australian investors and founders have formed a new industry initiative to promote agricultural technology and entrepreneurship through the Asia Pacific.
The Asia Pacific AgTech Alliance (APAA) was launched in Singapore with an aim of growing entrepreneurship in the food and agricultural technology sectors, through a range of programs, events and meetups.
The APAA was founded by SproutX, a Melbourne-based AgTech startup accelerator led by accelerator director Andrew Lai, with other members including investment marketplace AgFunder, Singapore-based innovation consultant Padang & Co, Australian investment manager Artesian, and Singapore co-working space LEVEL3.
There’s huge potential in AgTech in south-east Asia that is yet to be tapped, Mr Lai said.
“There’s a big opportunity in Asia, but no-one has ever really done anything. So we thought, let’s have a go at connecting the ecosystems and see if we can have a bit more of a regional play,” Mr Lai told InnovationAus.com.
"A lot of people there haven’t latched onto the fact there’s billions of dollars of venture capital out there."
"The opportunity in south-east Asia is huge, there are 670 million mouths to feed and food security is a top three priority for these countries."
Mr Lai said the aim is to start a grassroots community of AgTech entrepreneurs in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Just like we’ve done with SproutX, we wanted to do the same overseas. We want to find the partners and help to look for other opportunities to invest in, like agriculture," he said.
"The whole idea is to really spruik entrepreneurship with agriculture in these regions and connect up with the entrepreneur communities.”
“It’s similar to what we’ve done in Australia, with groups where entrepreneurs can come, hear stories and just meet each other.
"Eventually we’d like to run programs over there, similar to what we do here with the pre-accelerator.”
AgTech has the potential to address some of the issues surrounding the global food supply chain and should be a bigger area of focus for entrepreneurs around the world, Mr Lai said.
“The high-level statistic from the UN is that we need to increase food output by 70 percent by 2050 and that’s driven everyone to realise that in order for people to be able to feed themselves.
"It’s vitally important there’s a bit of reallocation of resources from a tech perspective towards trying to solve these problems as opposed to creating new iterations of apps again and again that have already been done,” he said.
The new alliance was launched in Singapore during SproutX’s recent tour of south-east Asia, facilitated by Austrade.
“AgTech is fast becoming the next big business trend and the opportunities within the region are enormous,” Austrade senior trade and investment commissioner Prerana Mehta said.
SproutX is now also looking to run a range of programs and events in Singapore at LEVEL3 in an effort to promote AgTech entrepreneurship in the region.
LEVEL3 is an innovation and co-working space run by Unilever Foundry and Padang & Co. It is run by Australian Adam Lyle, who is also the vice-president of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.
SproutX launched its $10 million fund in late 2016 with the backing of the National Farmers’ Federation and Findex. It also received $1 million in funding from the Victorian state government.
It runs a pre-accelerator, accelerator and co-working space focusing on AgTech startups.