Six local agriculture startups have been chosen to join the DakDam Incubator Programme, gaining $5,000 in funding and access to mentors.
The winning startups seek to tackle real issues for small-holder farmers.
The DakDam Incubator Programme is designed for entrepreneurs with a prototype or startup that has the potential to improve the agricultural sector across Cambodia.
It is run by Impact Hub Phnom Penh and supported by HEKS Cambodia and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
Judges were looking for entrepreneurial teams with strong leadership skills, a deep understanding of the problems, quality and viability of potential solutions validated by the market, scalability and strategic planning.
The programme started in September and will run until March 2020, according to Melanie Mossard, director of venture support at Impact Hub Phnom Penh. She said 65 teams applied to join the programme in September.
Only 10 teams were selected from the applicants to join a one-month pre-incubation programme. The pre-incubation phase consisted of a two-day innovation bootcamp, meetings with mentors, testing their prototype with the market and preparing to pitch, Ms Mossard added.
“Through the pitching session on Tuesday this week, and after the passionate debate between the judges, they finally agreed on six teams to award the $5,000 funding and intensive support,” said Ms Mossard.
She said through funding, mentoring, network connections and business workshops, the programme supports entrepreneurs to develop a viable and socially responsible business model to get their product or service to the market, with the ultimate goal of benefiting small-holder farmers (in particular women) while minimising the impact on the environment.
Saart Mushroom, an internet of things (IoT) system controlling the growth of highly nutritional straw mushroom, is one of the teams chosen for the programme.
Reacheny, a business that processes bananas into various food items with an emphasis on hygiene, food safety and quality, will also be joining the programme, as well as Camkaseka, a social enterprise providing backyard chickens for small restaurants with a mission to increase the supply of safe and quality chicken in the market.
Junlen, a social enterprise that turns cow dung into high-quality fertilizer with a vision to create a network of earthworm farms throughout Cambodia, has also been selected to join the incubator. Their products include compost, earthworms and education training services.
De Lotusia Enterprise is another winner. It produces natural handmade health and beauty care products inspired by traditional knowledge but made in a modern way. All their raw ingredients are locally grown by local communities.
Finally, Smart Farm Assistance, an IoT company installing devices to control water systems remotely via spp and smart messaging systems, will also be joining the programme.
All the six groups will continue working on their businesses with DakDam Incubator for another six months, until March 2020, according to Ms Mossard.
She added that after six months of incubation, they will compete again over their business plans to select the best team. The programme will then link the business with investors.
DakDam Incubation Programme with Impact Hub is designed to strengthen entrepreneurial capacity and resilience through master classes, mentoring and funding, said Norng Sivouthan, country director of HEKS Cambodia.
“I feel confident that the teams will have a positive impact on smallholder farmers in Cambodia,” said Mr Norng.
“I am happy that we found the winning teams based on their innovation and viable business models providing potential benefits to Cambodian farmers. We know their journey to success will face challenges and hope they can continue to move forward towards their dreams.”
Ms Mossard said the teams are at a very strategic time because they have already found their first customers and they are looking at expanding their sales and strategic partnerships.
“It was really exciting to see the progress, the passion and the commitment of the teams over the past two months. We will be actively mentoring the shortlisted teams during the upcoming months to strengthen their business and personal leadership skills,” she said.