With the Mekong AgTech Challenge (Match), the Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) has launched the region’s first agricultural startup accelerator programme. Sambath Sak, MBI’s country manager for Cambodia, explains how it works and how it can help.
What are some of the challenges facing Cambodia’s agriculture industry?
In Cambodia the irrigation system is really weak, so people are still really dependent on the weather and the rain… And access to working capital and finance is also really important in scaling up production, but it is difficult for farmers to access working capital from commercial banks [or] microfinance institutions… It’s hard for them to be competitive without using technology, without having a good facility for their production, for example.
What do you see as the solution?
I see that technology is important. It could be homegrown technology; it could be being produced in other countries… You could facilitate that connection. Businesses in Cambodia face certain problems, but there might be solutions out there in other countries, like in the US and UK, which have advanced technologies and skills. So the issue we see is the disconnect between these two groups. What we are trying to do is bring these groups together.
How does Match work?
We put a global call out to the region and to the globe, saying these are the problems that are being faced by agriculture businesses within [a certain] country, and if you have a solution, you apply, and you can get a lot of incentives. Incentives are not just cash incentives – it’s visibility for their technology, market opportunities, they will be allowed to get in contact with different investors, partners, policymakers, in addition to cash.
What kind of technology are you looking for?
For example, an entrepreneur in Indonesia [developed] a small sensor that they just put into the fish pond and [it] will provide you with information, like how much feed is needed for this pond, what level of water quality needs to be maintained… [The] technology can be basic, like irrigation systems, where you can use a drip system to save water.