Startups selected to reshape Northwest Cambodia agrifood sector

Photo: Eatable Adventures/ICONE

ICONE and Eatable Adventures, a foodtech accelerator, are collaborating to drive innovation in the agri-food sector in northwest Cambodia.

Photo:GIZ ICONE/Eatable Adventures

ICONE is a GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation) project promoting the competitiveness of Cambodian businesses.

The joint effort aims to integrate sustainability and develop solutions to enhance local agri-food productivity, thereby supporting the country’s economic progress.

An analysis of the sector revealed opportunities to boost local businesses and contribute to Cambodia’s economic growth in three key growth areas. GIZ ICONE and Eatable have launched an international call to the foodtech startup ecosystem to pioneer innovative solutions with three challenges: transforming tropical fruit production, boosting agri-food global business relations, and expanding Cambodia’s portfolio of premium products.

Seven innovative startups in Europe to Asia have been selected to enhance local businesses and help Cambodia’s economic growth.

The companies

It’s Fresh is a UK company specializing in ethylene control solutions. Its technology not only extends the shelf life of products during transit, storage, and retail, but also preserves their texture and flavour, ensuring optimal freshness from farm to table.

BNS (Bio Natural Solutions) is a Peruvian enterprise dedicated to harnessing agricultural waste to create natural solutions that not only enhance the longevity, disinfect, and protect fruits and vegetables but also contribute to sustainable agricultural practices and environmental conservation efforts.

Bio2Coat, a Spanish startup, is pioneering a solution to tackle food waste and reduce plastics. Through its 100% natural coatings, it extends the shelf life of foods like fruits and vegetables, enabling them to stay fresh for longer periods.

GreenPod Labs is an Indian company providing cost-effective post-harvest solutions to extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables during storage and transportation. It is developing active packaging pouches that trigger built-in defence mechanisms in fruits and vegetables to preserve their quality.

Tenbox is a Cambodian company offering a wholesale e-commerce platform designed to simplify product sourcing for owners of retail stores, especially in the food and beverage sector or convenience stores. Its aim is to support small businesses and brands by providing a wide range of products in one place. It offers other services such as inventory control and traceability verification.

Unibaio, from Argentina, has developed microparticles from natural polymers to enhance agricultural inputs. These microparticles efficiently capture the active ingredients of phytosanitary products and fertilizers, ensuring deeper plant penetration. This significantly boosts effectiveness while reducing application doses by up to 80%.

Qartbotech, a Malaysian company, employs nanotechnology to enhance plant photosynthesis and strengthen crops, resulting in increased yields and improved quality. The solution represents an advancement in agricultural technology, addressing the growing need for sustainable methods to boost crop productivity.

The startups presented their solutions in a showcase at Battambang. The event was an opportunity to connect entrepreneurs and local Cambodian corporations, facilitating the introduction of innovations into the local market. Throughout the event, startups presented their projects, demonstrated the solutions, and forged connections with local corporations.

The need for innovation in Cambodia

According to the report jointly developed by GIZ ICONE and Eatable Adventures, Food Innovation and Agro-Processing Sector in North-Western Cambodia, agriculture is one of the foremost economic pillars of the country, contributing around 22% to its gross domestic product (GDP) and encompassing 30% of the nation’s total employment. Agricultural production dominates the primary sector, making up 60% of the sector’s GDP contribution, followed by fishing and livestock farming.

However, only 10% to 13% of agricultural production undergoes processing, leading to most exported products being in raw form. Additionally, a significant portion of these products undergo value-added products in Thailand and Vietnam before being exported back to Cambodia. Therefore, there is a need for the country to focus on developing its processing and value-added capabilities in the agricultural sector to enhance its economic growth and global competitiveness.

The analysis conducted by GIZ ICONE and Eatable Adventures identified three key growth to drive innovative technological solutions aimed at enhancing production processes in the agri-food sector and contribute to its growth and competitiveness.

Jim Cornall is editor of Future Food Today and publisher at Ayr Coastal Media. He is an award-winning writer, editor, photographer, broadcaster, designer and author. Contact Jim here.