Indoor Ag-Con is a proud media sponsor of Agritecture Xchange, a virtual conference connecting key innovations in the field of AgTech to the future health of our cities coming up in December! Agritecture sat down with Anton Wibowo, CEO of Trendlines Agrifood Innovation Centre, prior to Agritecture Xchange. Anton will be speaking on the panel, Investor Viewpoint: Most Impactful AgTech Developments of 2020.
Meet Anton Wibowo at Agritecture Xchange, buy your tickets today and save with our Indoor Ag-Con Promo Code -IAC10.
Tell us a little about yourself! What sparked your interest in the field of agriculture and led you to work for Trendlines Agrifood Innovation Centre?
I come from Indonesia, with a family business background in the agricultural commodities trading industry. So, in some ways, I’ve always had interest in agriculture. Before joining Trendlines, I worked in a Singaporean tech startup that developed an agricultural waste recycling technology, a rapid composting process. 9 years in that startup gave me regional exposure to the field of agriculture. In short, my career to date has always been related to agriculture.
What can we expect to hear about in your intervention at the “Investor Viewpoint: Most Impactful AgTech Developments of 2020” panel?
To keep the suspense going, I’ll only reveal a little bit for now. I have been seeing a rapidly increasing trend for the utilization of big data and analytics in almost every aspect of agtech development this year. From biotech (seeds genetics, active ingredients screening) to automation (robotics, farm management), and even “fintech” (yield prediction, microloans to farmers).
What limitations have you seen the financing front causing for farmers? In relation to this, why do you believe it’s important to educate and aid farmers in this aspect?
This is a topic that is very close to my heart. Almost 80% of the farmers in the Southeast Asia region are smallholder farmers who live hand to mouth and are often just one bad harvest away from falling below the poverty line. Sadly, big organisations are unwilling to provide financing, understandably due to the perceived high risk. The farmers become vulnerable to “unlicensed and unregulated moneylenders” that charge exorbitant interest, making it incredibly difficult for the farmers to come out of that cycle.
In your experience, how have farmers and AgTech businesses been challenged financially and otherwise during this pandemic? How does the current Covid-related agricultural landscape compare to that of the past?
In my opinion, Covid has exposed the many vulnerabilities of the food supply chain, especially those affecting farmers. The problems that have been around for several years are brought to surface because people are beginning to realize that if we don’t support farmers, there is no sense in having seamless logistics and food manufacturers.
How has the management and investment experience in the Singaporean biotechnology and agribusiness communities been for you during these unprecedented times? Do you think there is a stronger need for such work given the growing agricultural challenges?
Yes, I definitely think that the need for tech will only grow here onwards. Working with the various stakeholders in agriculture is also extremely important. For instance, I see that the adoption of tech is much more complex than just having brilliant technology. The business model has to adapt, the big corporates who often have the distribution channel have to buy-in, and the regulators have to approve.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our audience prior to watching you address the panel?
There is no more pressing and yet exciting time like today for you to make a positive impact in this industry.