Changing tastes: understanding agritech trends in Asia

The Asia New Zealand Foundation partnered with Fieldays in June for a discussion looking at innovation and agritech trends in Asia. The talk was broadcast live on Fieldays TV on location at Mystery Creek.

The Foundation's Adam McConnochie chats with entrepreneurs Bicky Nguyen and Raymond Mak about some of the latest trends in sustainable farming coming out of Asia

Asia is crucial to the New Zealand agriculture scene with the majority of our exports bound for the region.

To understand the trends in Asia and stay ahead of the curve, the Foundation's director entrepreneurship and leadership Adam McConnochie linked live on Fieldays TV to two leading agricultural  entrepreneurs Bicky Nguyen and Raymond Mak.

Bicky is business development director and co-founder at Cricket One, a company that farms crickets as a protein source used in food, beverages and cosmetics. In 2018, the Foundation brought Bicky to New Zealand to take part in a visit for Southeast Asian agribusiness entrepreneurs. 

Raymond, who is the co-founder and CEO of Farmacy HK, an agri-tech start-up based in Hong Kong’s Cyberport business park, was part of the Foundation's 2019 visit for North Asian agribusiness entrepreneurs.

At Fieldays, the pair spoke about the trends in their respective areas and the innovation they see in their sectors.

For Raymond, the problem he is solving is clear: currently more than 98 percent of Hong Kong’s vegetables are imported, creating potential for supply issues and concerns about sustainability.

“Hong Kong is the most urbanised city in the world and has been facing some tough challenges with regard to food supply." he says. 

His solution: mobile farm units supplied to supermarkets and other food sellers that have significantly smaller footprints than conventional farming practices, using a fraction of the water and zero pesticides.

For Bicky, cricket protein has several advantages – it has twice as much protein as beef and four times as much iron as spinach. What's more, insects require far less food, require far less water and emit far less emissions than other animal sources of protein. 

A further advantage is that crickets have a short lifecycle. "If we plan our production well, we can have 12 harvests a year,’’ she says.

But it’s not always easy for the farmers to be sustainable and make the right choices, she says. They “face a lot of constraints... and need a lot of support especially for the wider ecosystem to provide farmers with solutions and options to be more sustainable."

About the Foundation's entrepreneurship programme

The Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono has been delivering for the Young Business Leaders Initiative for the New Zealand Government since 2012. Funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), the Young Business Leaders’ Initiative (YBLI) is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s initiatives with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The programme sets out to create an interconnected network of entrepreneurs learning together and supporting each other in their business successes across Asia and New Zealand. It does this by supporting young entrepreneurs in New Zealand and Asia to build connections and business relationships; to identify and promote new business opportunities; and to grow sector-specific knowledge and confidence to engage in the New Zealand and ASEAN business environments.