Rabobank, a global bank in food & agri and sustainability, has announced the launch of the Food Loss Challenge for startups in Asia.

An open innovation challenge, the event will see disruptive startups present their ag-tech solutions to reduce food loss to a platform of leading food and agri industry leaders, investors and other startups. The challenge will act as a platform for startups to access mentorship and connections to grow their businesses.

The challenge aims to address the global problem of food loss. Every year, 1.3 billion tons of food is lost worldwide whilst world population is expected to increase by two billion people to over nine billion people. To meet the increased demand for food, global food production will have to increase by at least 60 per cent, while at the same time arable land and natural resources are nearing their limits.

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To address this fundamental concern, Rabobank aims to contribute to one of the most pressing issues identified by the UN Sustainable Development Goals to halve food loss by 2030. Against this backdrop, Rabobank Asia is launching the Food Loss Challenge Asia, an initiative to facilitate constructive dialogue between solutions providers, F&A corporates and small holder farmers.

“As the leading global bank in food & agri and sustainability, Rabobank recognises its responsibility to help address the world’s food challenges of increased demand for food, changing consumer preferences and the need for sustainable food production,” said Rabobank Asia CEO Diane Boogaard.

“This is why we kickstart the Food Loss Challenge Asia with our partners. One of our priorities is to leverage on our food & agri knowledge and expertise, and advise our clients to adopt a more sustainable food production. This will enable a more efficient use of raw materials and will improve the stability of food supply and efficiency of the food value chain,” Boogaard added.

“Most food loss happens on the journey between the farm and the supermarket shelf,” said Mark van Binsbergen, CEO Rabobank Singapore and Innovation Lead for Rabobank in Asia. “Hence we are looking for innovative ag-tech solutions mainly focusing on the pre-consumption phase. Solutions could be in the area of improving agricultural production and farm management, quality control, market access, logistics, packaging & preservation and processing.”

Rabobank Foundation Head of Innovations Albert Boogaard said: “Especially at the farmer’s level, we see huge opportunity for improvement. While productivity is increasing, the supporting post-harvest infrastructure has not kept the pace and a substantial part of produce is lost even before the harvest takes place. Since the vast majority of farmers in Asia are smallholders we are excited to be involved in this challenge as the impact for our target group can be huge.”

Applications for the challenge are now open. Startups that are both product-ready and business-ready can apply before September 19.

The top-20 shortlisted will be invited to attend the pitch day in Singapore on 26 October 2018.  The top-5 finalists will be invited to the finale in Singapore at Rabobank Asia’s Food & Agribusiness Advisory Board meeting, which brings together C-suite level decisions makers of leading food and agribusiness companies.

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The challenge is supported by Rabobank Foundation and its partners — Temasek, Archer Daniels Midland Company, Charoen Pokphand Group, and UPL Ltd. They will act as judges of the challenge and will share insight or tips to help selected startups scale their impact.