MaGIC and 1337 Ventures’ spurs innovation in agriculture
It is not every day that you witness more than 10 startups tackling problems in the agritech and food tech space in Malaysia. The MaGIC Agritech and Food Bootcamp powered by 1337 Ventures held its Demo Day on the 15th of November where 13 startups from the programme pitched their ideas to a panel of judges from the industry.
The bootcamp organised its demo day during the Global AgriTech Summit 2019 held in Bank Rakyat Convention Centre. The demo day marked the end of an intense 10-day bootcamp, during which each team underwent mentorship from 1337 Ventures, startup founders and corporate partners regarding their customer, product and market development.
Corporates and partners that assisted in the startups’ journey include the Bioeconomy Corporation, AgroBank, MARDI, Food for Thought, Sime Darby Plantation, and CREST (Centre for Research in Engineering, Science and Technology).
Agriculture and food is a big opportunity in Malaysia. According to the Global Food Index 2018 report, Malaysia ranked number 40 in food security, which is a far contrast to Singapore that ranked 1st, even though they are far smaller than Malaysia.
Commenting on the bootcamp, Dzuleira Abu Bakar, MaGIC CEO points out that agriculture is changing with the pace of change quickening. “Entrepreneurs in agritech have gained encouraging momentum in the past couple of years,” she explains, highlighting that drones, sensors, robots and a slew of new and advanced technologies are being deployed in agriculture.
Many startups are looking to tackle the pressing issues by providing exciting and innovative solutions across the supply chain. Technological invention and innovation therefore becomes integral in keeping the agriculture sector attractive for younger generations as well.
And while agriculture in the past, has been underfunded and not deemed a “popular” industry, Dzuleira notes that things are changing rapidly which also brought about change in how the industry is seen.
All participants came up with innovative solutions to address this issue and at the demo day, the three startups that emerged as winners were Sayur.Farm, Life Origin, and FarmExchange.
Sayur.Farm is developing a machine-learning based farming assistant for young and tech savvy farmers to increase their future yields. They aims to optimise agriculture yield by at least 20% through a precision farming device, similar to a FitBit for plants. This device updates the current condition of the crops and its environment, collating info via artificial intelligence, and data visualisation to provide yield forecasts, plant health, recommended prescriptions, data sharing, insights, profit analysis, and yield analysis.
This device aims not to replace farmers, but to anticipate status based on conditions unobservable to the naked eye.
Life.Origin on the other hand is producing black soldier fly (bsf) larvae using organic waste and turning them into livestock, animal and pet feed. 60% of the world’s grain is fed to farm animals and Malaysia imports 60% of its chicken feed, which greatly affects our food security. To combat this, Life Origin proposes an alternative – providing black soldier fly as animal feed. Not only do they grow fast (they can be harvested in just 10-15 days), they are extremely nutritional, resilient, and are non-invasive species.
The third winner, FarmExchange is making P2P investment into agro-food farming simple and transparent. Currently, Malaysia faces a lack of sufficient and reliable data to assess the investment risk. This lack of method to assess risk has made funders much more risk-averse.
Next comes FarmExchange, which plans to launch a closed marketplace, where farmers can get loans directly for their required equipment. Through FarmExchange, farmers can receive a credit score, and lenders can get a transparent view of the farmer’s requirements, proposed ROI, and timeline.
1337 Ventures’ founding partner, Bikesh Lakhmichand, said, “Our collaboration with MaGIC has enabled us to explore new areas of interest, such as AgriTech and the food bootcamp. We believe that this bootcamp has been very effective as problems in the agriculture market have traditionally been very hard for entrepreneurs to tackle.”
“By having industry experts such as researchers and farmers in this current batch, we were able to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and industry experts. We were also thoroughly impressed with how teams used deep tech and fintech solutions to optimise the agriculture scene. Moving forward, 1337 is keen to explore this developing space as a very interesting vertical to invest in,” concludes Bikesh.
Meanwhile Dzuleira reminds that, impactful innovation and optimum deployment of technology tool comes with a clear problem statement. “At MaGIC, our aim is to provide solutions to the various industries (in this case Agriculture), and that is done through entrepreneurial talents in the form of tech startups.”
Dzuleira assures that MaGIC will continue to monitor post program as well as roll out more programs. “We are bullish with the future of AgriTech and its transformational potential to the country especially so with the kind of talent that we see emerging with an interest in this industry.”