Eight potential AgriTech startups gain places for May Tokyo AG/SUM event


This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.

Image credit: AG/SUM

The Japanese/Asian edition of AG/SUM, also known as “Harvest” in the US where it originated, is an agriculture-centered “summit” particularly highlighting agricultural technology. A pitch competition for potential startups was held in February in Japan, a country which now faces such problems as aging farmer population and dwindling agricultural operations. Japan’s Nikkei News group backed the Tokyo competition.

Technology has today become a mainstay in the agricultural sector, including genetic manipulations and cloning, some twenty years after Dolly the sheep dominated the world headlines. There will be a main AG/SUM meeting again in Tokyo this May and eight startup candidates won the pitch. Among the eight was PPAP (Passionate Productive Agriculture with Pecan-nut) of University of Tokyo, but more on this team later.

Image credit: “Tex” Pomeroy

The requirements for giving the pitch held at the Toranomon Hills meeting room in Minato City were that the teams had to offer tech-related solutions to farming issues and that operations had not been started up at competition time. Interestingly, there were in addition to half a dozen winning pitches covering standard agriculture (including the University of Tokyo Faculty of Agriculture team).

One pitch was focused on insect ranching for human consumption, by Musshine, and another on fisheries to keep down wasted aquatic ‘harvests’ (as termed at a Japanese agriculture ministry-affiliated research institute), by Tail. However, not all the others were pitching from conventional farming-oriented angles like plantation and soil conditioning, one of the six offering an AR-based farming experience while one more availed a soil-minimal approach with their fintech-applied agrobusiness funding presentation.

Image credit: “Tex” Pomeroy

Regarding the latest in tech trends, IoT use was offered by Hackerfarm. Yet, most fascinating was the agronomically-soundness and science-based PPAP team effort led by Dr. Hiroyoshi Iwata, looking to use novel technologies to stimulate and make profitable the nut industry in Japan by expanding pecan-nut production. As it happened, coinciding with FOODEX confab in mid-March, an International Symposium on Food Production Technology centered on the now-lucrative cash crop… nuts… was held at the institution where Dr. Iwata is attached to.

The University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Sciences hosted the symposium which brought leading-edge researchers like Dr. G. Barton Beuler and Dr. Jennifer Randall (New Mexico State University) among others. In particular, focus on use of high-tech farming techniques and genetics to realize a profitable and sustainable agrobusiness grounded in the nutritious yield. The scientific basis for promoting production of the versatile foodstuff was even more convincing upon hearing from experts and makes it worth waiting until the for-public May presentation.