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Thailand agency boosts agriculture startups with deep tech platform

ANN/THE NATION – Thailand has 81 agricultural startups, with less than 15 focusing on deep technology, and investment in the agri-tech industry surpassing THB1.7 trillion.

The National Innovation Agency (NIA) is driving the growth of agricultural startups through its AGROWTH project this year. The project seeks startups using deep technology in agriculture to develop products or services, test real-world usage, adapt business models, and collaborate with top companies in the sector.

According to NIA director Kritphaka Bunfueang, Thai agricultural startups have secured approximately THB2.5 billion from domestic and foreign investors, indicating steady growth.

There are three deep technology trends worth noting that can serve as a guideline for future Thai startups:

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Using large-scale agricultural data for forecasting and creating new standards can help optimise water and fertiliser usage, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This technology is expected to grow to around THB1.55 trillion by 2028.

PHOTO: ENVATO

Several Thai agricultural startups have won investment in this technology and one such startup is Easy Rice, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) systems to inspect rice variety and grain quality. It has used AI in assessing more than six million tonnes of rice so far, and its usage is expanding to rice growers in neighbouring countries like Cambodia and Vietnam.

This has helped Easy Rice raise more than THB66 million in investment from companies such as AI and Robotics Ventures Co Ltd (ARV), Yip In Tsoi and Jacks Co Ltd, and Innospace (Thailand) Ltd.

ROBOTS AND AUTOMATION

The shortage of labour has driven the demand for robotics and automation in agriculture to boost efficiency and reduce the use of chemicals, resulting in cost reduction and an increase in productivity. For instance, using drones to spray pesticides and fertilisers replaces manual labour, saving a lot of money.

Startups in agricultural robotics that have attracted government and private-sector support as well as investments from key investors and firms, include HG Robotics.

This company develops robots and automated management systems and has attracted investment from True Digital Group. It is the first Thai company to meet global standards in the production of agricultural drones and robotics.

HG Robotics has also produced ‘Tiger Drone’, an autonomous flight software in the Thai language to ensure secure and accurate data collection.

BIOTECHNOLOGY

The need to protect the environment and food safety has made advanced biotechnology a much-needed tool in agriculture and for addressing various challenges. For instance, it can prove to be very efficient in combating pests, drought and creating new plant varieties. The global investment value of agricultural startups applying biotechnology is estimated at THB85.80 billion.

Thai agricultural startups have capitalised on this technology segment, such as UniFAHS with its SalmoGuard, which destroys Salmonella bacteria in the digestive systems of poultry, thus replacing antibiotics and chemicals.

With more than 15 years’ experience in Phage technology, which targets specific bacteria, UniFAHS is working to address problems in the poultry farming industry, both in Thailand and overseas.

The company won the BioTech Innovation Award at the world’s largest startup competition, Global Finalists 2022, and is now expanding into aquaculture with up to THB53 million in investment from ADB Ventures, Innospace (Thailand) Limited, and Innovation One Fund.

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