Innovation: Rice Startups

From Burma to Japan, tech startups are making our relationship with the ancient crop of rice a bit more manageable. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Grown since 14,000 B.C., rice is a staple grain for most of the world, especially Asia. With tech startups booming in Eastern countries, we didn’t have to wait long before some innovations surrounding rice came up. From Burma to Japan, let’s see what the creative founders have conjured to make our relationship with the ancient crop a bit closer and more manageable.

Golden Paddy Platform, Burma

“We give demand-based advice to farmers, through this advice we make knowledge accessible to make farmers more independent.” — Impact Terra

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Educating farmers and informing them of weather patterns, offering tips, crop-related advice, access to financing, and more, the Golden Paddy Platform is a free digital platform founded by Impact Terra’s Erwin Sikma from Burma. More than half of the arable land in Burma is covered with rice paddies. The agtech startup has been able to raise US$3 million and the platform is available to access through a mobile app, web app, and Facebook. There are almost 2 million farmers in their Facebook community who regularly check the app for timely and practical information.

Mebiol, Japan

Mebiol Inc. from Japan has taken into consideration the enormous growth in world population and the limited resources we all need to share, and made it possible to grow rice anywhere, from contaminated land to deserts. Founder Yuichi Mori claims that his company has succeeded in developing a membrane called Imec (Film Farming), that plays the role of soil. His technology has made ripples in several regions like Dubai where a company turned desert into farmland. Check out one of his Ted talks, where he explains how it works.

The patented tech is reportedly more efficient than hydroponics, and it doesn’t require expensive initial setup. “The system consists of a water supply unit and planting bed composed of film, nonwoven fabrics, waterproof sheet and two irrigation tubes,” according to the company’s website.

(Image: Screenshot / YouTube)
The patented tech is reportedly more efficient than hydroponics, and it doesn’t require expensive initial setup. (Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

Trade Connex, Thailand

Helping Thai farmers sell their crops in real-time, Trade Connex offers an online spot auction system, a platform for negotiation, and support services. The crops they handle include several types of rice (broken, brown, organic, and white rice berries) and rubber. The markets they cover include: Khon Kaen SPOT Rice Market, Chieng Khong, Pakkayang, KhiriMat, Banhuayplado, Chaiprakarn, Yipta Udon, Kor Kod Kra SPOT Rubber and Chiengrai Center.

They also assist farmers through auto-matching their commodities with market boards and by accepting bids and volumes.

Bethesda Scientific, Taiwan

Pests are farmers’ enemies. Apple snails are highly invasive and cause a large amount of damage to rice cultivation. Taiwan’s Bethesda rose to the challenge and introduced their “Controlled Release Technology” that consistently releases pesticide over a period of 21 days. They claim that one bottle or one pack is enough to treat 247 acres. It’s natural and free of toxicity, and significantly reduces the workload of farmers.

Alchemy Foodtech, Singapore

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a ranking of how carbohydrates affect glucose levels in the blood. Foods with a low GI value are generally considered to be healthier options. These foods will be digested and metabolized slower than foods with a high GI, like refined carbs, ensuring a slower rise in blood glucose levels. Eating high-GI foods increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

(Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)
Foods made from whole grains have a lower GI value and are generally considered to be healthier dietary choices. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Alchemy Foodtech has introduced Alchemy Fibre, which is “a patented blend of plant-based ingredients and is a slowly digestible carbohydrate (SDC) high in dietary fibre.” It’s added in with rice, bread, noodles, and other carb-based foods, and slows down digestion rates to something comparable to that of wholegrains. Made from plants like tapioca, peas, and corn, it increases the overall nutritional value of our food intake. The company secured US$2.5 million in late 2018 from SEEDS Capital, Singapore.

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