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Agriculture and food technology that aims to make the farming process as efficient as possible have dominated the agenda this week as startups and investors in Turkey met at the Ventures60 event to discuss the latest trends.
From field monitoring to the food supply chain itself, agricultural technology, commonly abbreviated to agritech, works on innovative methods to transform the way in which food is grown and processed and tries to ensure it reaches households in the safest way.
The talks and discussions at the Ventures60 event featured startups with innovative solutions for healthy and sustainable food supply. For instance, Nanomics enables agricultural products to reach consumers through natural protection methods, while Agrovisio detects pests and makes crop predictions via algorithm.
On the other hand, Pişir.com provides services to working people having difficulties in dealing with food at home, while Limkon Gıda drew attention with its smart beverage production. Finally, Foodback platform stands out with its solutions regarding food waste.
Not pesticide but poison
The Nanomics initiative comes forth as a natural solution for eliminating the terrible effect of agricultural poisons. After all, from the point of view of human health, the continued use of agricultural poisons negatively affects public health.
I prefer to use the word “Agricultural Poison” because the term “Agricultural pesticide” makes the thing used look innocent. The Agrovisio initiative also reveals how valuable it is to prevent speculation by accurately predicting the scalable production of agricultural products.
While it is noteworthy that such technological initiatives contribute to healthy and sustainable agricultural production, it is also of great importance to increase the interest of investors, especially during the growth phase.
Why shouldn’t a billion-dollar initiative in the field of agriculture and food technology come out of Turkey?
Günce Önür, a partner at Startup Wise Guys, one of the groups investing in Agrovisio, says one of the leading early-stage venture capital funds in Europe has 13 startups from Turkey in its portfolio.
“We are an investment fund that focuses on software services from institution to institution in Turkey. We also focused on initiatives that will have an impact in the post-pandemic period,” Önür said.
She said Agrovisio attracted the fund’s attention with the talents and projects of its founders.
“We thank them for accepting us as investors. We were very impressed with their desire to grow abroad and the expertise they have. We think that we will contribute to their growth abroad by using the relationship network we have. Our desire to invest more in food and agricultural technology initiatives has increased further,” Önür noted.
“We would like to invest in more agricultural and food technology initiatives.”
Nanomik products for non-toxic natural food
Buse Berber Örçen, co-founder of Nanomik, says the natural conservation management of plants was an important inspiration in the establishment of the startup.
Sharing the details of their solutions, Örçen said they are developing natural protection solutions instead of chemical materials used in agriculture.
“The Agriculture Ministry has banned the use of nearly 200 chemical products, which we call pesticides, this year. This is important both for human health and for the export of agricultural products. Governments have quickly begun to ban the use of these agricultural chemicals. We have made efforts to achieve the most natural solution that has an affordable price as much as chemicals used in agriculture and to reach healthy food,” she noted.
Örçen said they use the solution that plants use to protect themselves to prevent mold formation.
“All agricultural organizations wishing to sell in the European Union have to reset the use of pesticides. We believe that this will be the main criterion for every agricultural enterprise. Moreover, we have turned it into a solution that will be used not only by farmers, but also in grocery stores, restaurants and at home,” she underscored.
It is currently being sold with Turkish rapid grocery delivery pioneer Getir, Örçen noted. “For non-toxic natural food, Nanomics products can be used from the field to the shelf.”
Agrovisio: Smart eye of farms
Established in 2018 by Emre Tunalı, Caner Çalık and Sinan Öz, Agrovisio produces smart agriculture-related solutions for sustainable food production and security.
The venture has become the smart eye of the fields with satellite images.
“We are three founding friends. We have carried the journey of one of our friends that started from one farmer’s field to 40 million hectares in Turkey, Italy and the U.K,” says Agrovisio co-founder Tunalı.
“We are creating a platform where they can get answers to hundreds of questions such as what is plant health in the field, has the plant completed its growth, does the irrigation need continue. We provide services with an annual subscription. When production is carried out in very large areas, some negative developments may escape the producer’s notice. This, in turn, leads to a significant loss of production. We publish detailed forecasts on the annual harvest forecast, how much of the crop is harvested and harvest figure per year. Thus, we avoid speculation. We share all the data with the Agriculture Ministry and various farmers’ associations. We think it is very important that the data is transparent at this point,” he noted.
Pişir makes cooking at home simple
Arda Galin, co-founder of the Pişir (cook in Turkish) initiative, says their venture facilitates the operation of cooking at home.
“We wanted to carry our solutions to other restaurants first to make it easier for the facilities we operate in a total of 19 branches, consisting of our own restaurants and coffee stores. With the pandemic, we decided to take solutions we have developed to facilitate the business processes in restaurants to homes,” Galin noted.
To cook at home, people spend at least an hour a day only for the preparatory part, he said.
“A person is able to do an average of seven to eight dishes well. We have currently uploaded 102 dishes with recipes from our experienced chefs to our application. Our goal is to list 1,500 dishes. After all, people spend 70% of their food expenses on cooking at home. We are currently able to make delivery within an hour to some points in Istanbul and within a day to the entire city. Now we want to move this to other cities. We are setting up warehouses for this. Our goal is to ensure that people save on food supplies and time.”
Social startups offer innovative food solutions
Ayşe Sabuncuoğlu, a co-founder of Impact Hub Istanbul, says they are a social innovation platform.
“Initiatives that have the potential to create an impact can hang in the balance before they can even implement their ideas and projects. We support entrepreneurs with programs created together with the government, public institutions and companies. One of these programs is Empowering Women in Agrifood (EWA).”
“We have also invited women entrepreneurs working for a better agriculture and food sector to join the program. We need healthy data to enable the effect created becomes permanent and makes more of an impact,” Sabuncuoğlu explained.
Workforce of 60,000, 130,000 decares of plantation area
Stating that they aim to create a sustainable brand that can compete anywhere in the world within 50 years, Limkon CEO Ilker Güney drew attention to the importance of the stakeholders sharing the project.
“We need technology to manage scarce resources. Technological transformation in the agricultural sector takes time. Our minds are in our eyes. As soon as you offer people visibly good examples, people invest by believing in you. It takes time for the wheels to turn. We are focused on creating a brand. The players of the agricultural sector are very few in number. But here it is very important that every player who creates an ecosystem does his job in a global quality, that is, the capabilities that the ecosystem has are very important,” said Güney.
The value of investments is now growing in direct proportion to the players of this ecosystem, he noted.
“I want to give you an example. We have returned to the strategy of selling brand products in five years. There is a region called Zengen. A land that has been empty for thousands of years. We started tomato production on 2,000 decares (494 acres) with no water in the central province of Konya’s Ereğli region. The buyer was ready, from Japan. We shared the land investment. Now this territory has turned into a rural development project. A 60,000 labor investment was created. The plantation area has increased to 130,000 decares. Now global brands have begun to build factories here, produce tomato paste,” he said.