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Opportunities in ASEAN for Australian Agrifood tech and innovative food businesses

Asia represents one of the fastest growing markets in the world, with 66% of the global middle class expected to reside in the region and a population expected to reach 5 billion in 2050 that will account for 60% of global consumption.

To meet this demand, governments across the ASEAN region are aggressively pursuing strategies to ensure greater food security and this includes actively encouraging agrifood tech and innovative food entrepreneurs to help grow the local ecosystem by establishing themselves in the region.

The distinctive combination of economic, cultural and environmental factors in ASEAN has created ideal conditions for agrifood businesses to launch internationally and leverage the opportunities presented in the region. The ASEAN region is set to become the equivalent of the world's fourth largest economy by 2030 (from article here).

Four of the top reasons to grow to ASEAN:

  • Increased investment in agrifood businesses and technological entrepreneurship in ASEAN

  • Increased consumer demand for high value and high quality food solutions due to a growing middle class in the region

  • Australia’s reputation as a supplier of high quality and safe food and beverage products

  • Over 73 million smallholder farms are operating in ASEAN and are highly fragmented resulting in opportunities for agtech solutions to solve critical challenges

As documented in the AgFunder ASEAN 2020 Agrifood Tech Investment Report, the region consists of an “expanding group of middle-class consumers, who have more income than preceding generations” (pg. 11). This creates the means for increased purchasing power by this influential section of the market, generating opportunities for food and agricultural tech innovations such as alternative proteins, plant-based foods and bioceuticals.

Additionally, ASEAN presents a unique opportunity for agrifood entrepreneurs to provide technology to farmers who currently operate “with restricted access to modern technological innovations in farming” (pg. 4)

There have also been significant increases in investment in the region, with Singapore emerging as a key case study. Recently, the Singapore Food Agency launched their $21 million 30 x 30 Express grant to lift domestic food production (from article here), while Enterprise Singapore reserved $39.5 million “to help accelerate “promising” agriculture and aquaculture companies” (from article here). There has also been investment announced for businesses capable of assisting with food security in the region – with a $206 million fund announced to “provide financial support to startups working on “national priorities” such as food security amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.” (from article here).

Where to start?

A fast-track for Australian agrifood tech + innovative food and beverage companies to scale into Asia remotely

The GROW2Asia program acknowledges the major opportunity provided by ASEAN for Australian agrifood businesses. In a commitment to help Australian businesses internationalise, leading agrifood innovation systems design firm Food Futures Company and Southeast Asia’s agrifoodtech ecosystem catalyst GROW have partnered to launch GROW2Asia, with the support of Austrade. This partnership forms a direct link between Australia and Singapore, providing entrepreneurs with market-specific internationalisation support to do exactly that, “grow-2-Asia”. The support from Austrade will help raise the profile of Australian food and agri innovation in Asia among food manufacturers, agribusinesses and investors in the region.

The six month program is integrated with GROW’s Land x Launch™ platform, providing Australian entrepreneurs with a gateway to Asia with the added benefit of capitalising on GROW’s agrifood-specific partners, network and capability in the region.

“Entrepreneurs will first land in Singapore to adapt their businesses before launching into their identified new market. The platform plugs companies into the respective local agrifoodtech ecosystem and connects founders with other founders from around the world who are looking to do the same in Asia,” says Joshua Soo, CEO of GROW.

How does it work?

Australian companies who see opportunities abroad are challenged by the issues of fragmentation and complexity of Asian markets, amplified by the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on business travel. GROW2Asia overcomes this by filling the knowledge gap and provides on-the-ground support in Asia so that Aussie companies can continue to gain traction internationally while building the company from Australia, remotely.

“We see enormous growth opportunities for Australian agrifood businesses in Asia and Singapore is well-positioned as the gateway to launch into the ASEAN region. It has a proactive and supportive government that understands the role of startups; there is a young and well-educated pool of talent to tap into; and it is an easy and friendly place to do business. We see heaps of energy and more and more global players and investors being attracted to the region,” says Dr Christine Pitt, Co-Founder & CEO, Food Futures Company.

GROW2Asia is a program designed for the “next normal” of COVID-19. The digital program will start in Australia to help selected companies validate their fit for the market and then co-develop a roadmap to establish their in-market presence. Recognising the uncertainties of travel, the program offers a variety of options to grow the team and presence in Asia physically or remotely. It will include access to Food Futures and GROW’s extensive network of mentors and experts, research partners, and corporate customers both locally and across the globe.

Applications to the six-month GROW2Asia program are now open until 22 August 2021. You can find more detailed information and apply here.

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