In May, Asia’s first agritech and foodtech startup up competition will take place in Singapore. The Future Food Asia Award (FFAA), launched by consulting firm ID Capital, is currently accepting applications from startups with at least $100k seed money, that plan to raise at least $2 million in the next 18 months. The startups must be looking to make a positive impact on the food ecosystem with an innovative and sustainable technology.
We caught up with Isabelle Decitre, founder of the awards, to find out more about her motivation for launch FFAA and why it’s needed in Asia.
Why did you decide to launch the Future Food Asia Award?
When I relocated to Singapore, I looked for an investment vertical that was about to change radically. I looked into several and agritech
rapidly emerged as the best candidate. The choice was made easier because I come from a related industry, spending several years working with Wines and Spirits companies. Further research convinced me that agritech and foodtech would need a revolution in the next 20 years and that technology would be a fantastic enabler.
Asia-Pacific houses 60% of the global population and yet, in this large and fragmented region, there is no structured ecosystem to foster startup-driven innovation at the moment. The agritech vertical is still in its infancy here, so if we want to have impact, we need to be pan-Asian.
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Seeing the growing number of multi-national corporations (MNCs), impact investors and various stakeholders willing to embrace this revolution in the making, I came up with the idea of creating the Future Food Asia platform. The target is to mutualize the resources available to startups in the space and accelerate the growth of this ecosystem. And to create a momentum, we decided to start with the Future Food Asia Award, the 1st-of-its-kind competition in Asia.
What will startups win?
For this first edition of the award, the winner will receive a $100k cash grant. In addition, all finalists will be invited to pitch in Singapore in front of a qualified audience of investors, strategic partners, experts and like-minded entrepreneurs.
What response are you having from startups and investors?
From both sides, we got a very positive response. Startups see an opportunity to get instant pan-Asian visibility, which would be incredibly difficult to get from their respective markets. They value the efficient format of the 1.5 day event in May to connect with relevant industry players and investors. They also know that beyond the event, we will create further opportunities to give them exposure. As for investors, it is likewise a time-efficient way to take the pulse of the entire region and inform their investment decisions. Apart from the event in May in Singapore, we help startups and industrial partners to communicate on a regular basis. Startups are glad to be part of a bigger community.
Who are your corporate partners and what roles are they playing?
The Economic Development Board of Singapore (EDB) has been an early supporter of FFAA. Our open innovation platform is aligned with EDB’s drive to establish Singapore as a leading center for value creation by encouraging collaborations between companies. They are actively helping promote the platform overseas at a corporate level.
In addition to EDB, our partners are industrial players and professional services firms.
The best example is Archer Daniels Midland, which we welcome as the lead sponsor of FFAA. If there is mutual interest between them and a startup, ADM will be able to invest or develop a partnership in a variety of other ways. They define their goal as to find and develop mutually beneficial relationships that can further innovation in the food and agritech industries.
In the early days of applications, have you noticed any particular trends in innovation among Asian agritech startups?
We launched the competition three weeks ago and have already received applications from 14 countries. There is definitely a lot of appetite for FFAA from all around Asia! And although it is a little premature to draw formal conclusions, it kind of validates the model of Future Food Asia, in that there is no dominant country.
In terms of trends, we’ve noticed a significant proportion of aquaculture-related innovations. There is plenty of evidence that this sector in important in the region. What is new and worth noting, though, is the emergence of smart and nimble innovations in what is usually considered as a relatively traditional industry.
Do you think there are enough resources for startups in Asia in the food and agritech space?
No, not at the moment. The venture capital investment vertical is a fairly new one. It started to grow significantly in the US only a few years ago. Here it is very nascent. That is one of the aims of FFAA; to help develop the Asian ecosystem. It will take some time because of the diversity of Asia. The traditional VC ecosystem with business angels, headhunters, VCs, etc…will have to grow in the whole region. And players will need to be able to have a regional offer but also cater to local specificities. Given the size and the challenges of the foodtech and agritech market in Asia, we are confident this will gradually happen. Being the most advanced financial center in the region, Singapore is a good place to push the development of this ecosystem.
What’s the plan going forward for ID Capital?
The first step is to make FFAA a success and hence transform it into a leading meeting place for the ecosystem in Asia. This will help us and our partners better understanding the regional deal flow. The next logical step is to set up an accelerator program. Several industrial partners have already expressed interest in working with us on this second step as well.
Are you an agri-food startup innovating in Asia? We want to hear from you! Email [email protected].