Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are not usually associated with food and agriculture but five startups have shown that such technologies can play a major role in minimising food loss. Some 1.3 billion tonnes of food are lost worldwide each year.They were the finalists of the inaugural Rabobank Food Loss Challenge Asia, which aims to raise the awareness of agri-tech solutions to the growing global problem of food loss and wastage from farm to market.
After two rounds of assessment and presentation, the five startups — three from India and one each from Kenya and Singapore — made their pitch to a panel of judges and a C-level audience in CHIJMES, Singapore.
Each startup was a star in its own right with solutions ranging from tracking fish farming supply chain to insurance and logistics.
India firm Ecozen Solutions won over both the judges and the audience with its integrated solution that covers both big and small farmers, and extends across the entire ecosystem. It took home both the Jury’s Prize of US$15,000 and the Audience’s Prize of US$5,000.
Ecozen’s solutions enable the farm-to-fork movement of perishables by providing solar-based cold rooms at the farm level. The renewable energy-based products that can store and transport perishables along the value chain, minimising food loss while maximising returns for farmers.
“Food loss is a key issue in all developing countries and we at Ecozen are striving to build solutions to prevent this. This Challenge will help us to reach out and collaborate with like-minded businesses and organisations working towards tackling food loss. Further, it can also provide access to capital which would fast track our product development and business expansion plans,” said Prateek Singhal, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Ecozen.
Ecozen has implemented its solutions in Indonesia and Vietnam, and is looking to expand further into other developing countries in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Organised by global bank Rabobank, the competition had a panel of judges from Rabobank Foundation and partners of Rabobank – Temasek, Archer Daniels Midland, Charoen Pokphand Group, Olam International, and UPL.
“We chose Asia for the Rabobank Food Loss Challenge because of the size of the problem of food losses in the region, but also because of the huge potential to solve it due to the presence of so many startups with very bright people,” said Diane Boogaard, CEO of Rabobank Asia.
“In Asia, more than 80 per cent of farmers are smallholder farmers and we believe many of these start-ups, while reducing food losses, also help improve the lives of smallholders. One of the main objectives of the Rabobank Food Loss Challenge was to connect start-ups to investors, users and other stakeholders to stimulate cooperation between them – already our leading entries and top five finalists have been exposed to senior representatives of world-leading food & agricultural businesses and investors,” said Albert Boogaard, Head of Innovation at Rabobank Foundation.