Nikkei presents AG/SUM 2018 in Central Tokyo with an eye to next year, 2020


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

AG/SUM Pitch Run finalists
Image credit: “Tex” Pomeroy

AG/SUM (Agritech Summit) 2018 was presented by Nikkei from June 11 in Tokyo’s Nihombashi area, which from the Edo era has been home to Shinto shrines dedicated to medicinal plants. The district, under redevelopment by Mitsui Fudosan which was a major event sponsor, also has a concentration of pharmaceuticals firms ranging the gamut from Daiichi-Sankyo (with its Kusuri [Medicine] Museum) to Takeda Pharmaceutical’s newly-opened global headquarters building.

The three-day event is part of the newly-launched “summit” series run by Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the flagship daily newspaper of the NIKKEI news concern; originally focused on finance and regulation, it is now aiming at such fields as life sciences and transportation, with an eye to the expansion of business activities in reflection of the Rugby World Cup next year in Japan as well as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics.

The agriculture-centered event comprised a Symposium, an Exhibition and a Start-up Pitch Run plus a Reverse Pitch, in addition to a Marche where stalls lined the underground passageway leading from the main venues of Nihombashi Life Science Building and Nihombashi Mitsui Hall to the nearest railway stations, namely Mitsukoshimae subway station for Ginza and Hanzomon Metro lines as well as the JR Shin-Nihombashi station, nearby Nihombashi Information Center.

AG/SUM Reverse Pitch
Image credit: “Tex” Pomeroy

The Pitch Run was held with 26 participants, in two parts (a.m. and p.m.) on June 12, with the Reverse Pitch being gathered in the early evening of the same day. The competitors vied for the main Nikkei Award while the Mizuho Award (namesake after Mizuho Bank, Mizuho standing for the Japanese phrase meaning plentiful harvest, roughly equivalent to “cornucopia”) was subsidiary. The Reverse Pitch was more of a participant feedback and follow-up session for pitch participants.

The a.m. session judges were Plug and Play Tech Center’s Seena Amidi, World Innovation Lab’s Namiko Kajiwara, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings’ Uraki Fumiko and Nihon Keizai Shimbun’s Keiichi Murayama while the p.m. judges were Bits x Bites’ Matilda Ho, RocketSpace’s Shaina Silva, Mistletoe’s Eriko Suzuki and euglena’s Akihito Nagata; Mizuho Bank’s Naoto Oohitsu was a judge for both sessions.

Musca CEO Mitsutaka Kushima
Image credit: “Tex” Pomeroy

The joint winners of the Mizuho Award turned out to be three companies, all from Japan – graft biotech outfit Gra & Green, plant factory maker PlantX and insect-tech Musca [“musca” meaning fly in Latin]. The Nikkei award went to the international quartet of U. California Berkeley-affiliated Sugarlogix, Stanford-related Agribody Technologies, vineyard support tech provider Biome Makers and non-fermentation winemaker AVA Winery.

Speaking of wine, along with visitors from Israel (though only contaminant detector manufacturer Inspecto showed up this year, MBR-supported hydroponics firm FreightFarms opting out this year, depriving me of a chance to ask about Kosher foodstuff) and elsewhere in the Middle East (Turkish agro-finance service Tarfin and sensor data processor Tarsens [with NVIDIA backing], where Halal is a huge market), afficianados of the beverage like myself found AVA tech intriguing for such diets.

It is hoped that next year the event can be expanded and brings more general visitors to the Marche and other public outreach aspects – as for example the Turkish start-ups in fact stayed on through Monday after in order to gain more information and further exchange. In addition perhaps more start-up involvement from South American and even Africa, not to mention elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, could be possible.