Agritech startup aims to upgrade agriculture in Thailand and Southeast Asia
About 20 million Thais, or about 40 per cent of Thailand’s population, are farmers. But while hundreds of billions of baht circulate in the farming sector, most farmers are low-income earners and, until now, have not been big users of high technology.
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In the plans of Thai agritech startup Ricult Thailand, that is about to change.
The firm’s co-founder and executive, Aukrit “Earn” Unahalekhaka, revealed to The Story Thailand that Ricult is using big data to create a platform that aims to benefit farmers and their industry. Its key products are a free app for farmers and licensed software for factories. The two products share the same database, but their interfaces are different because farmers and factories have different needs and problems.
Ricult’s app for farmers works like a reliable assistant. It is designed to support farm planning, and promises to reduce farmers’ risks and boost their access to useful services for their greater convenience and better harvest yields. It gives accurate details of weather conditions and forecasts, uses satellite data to monitor individual farms, and supports searches for fertilizer, seeds, or financial assistance.
Meanwhile, software for factories in the agricultural sector offers executives the advantages of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) in their pursuit of digital transformation. It aims to maximize the efficiency of factory operations to achieve the most cost-effective manufacturing processes.
Ricult’s income comes mainly from software licensing. Interested factories pay subscription fees to access software that facilitates farmer management and crop purchases.
Ricult also receives commissions from transactions conducted through its software. For example, if farmers sell sugar cane to a factory or straw to a power plant, Ricult receives a commission. When a factory sells fertilizer to farmers, a commission also goes to Ricult.
Big agricultural market
Aukrit says Thailand’s agricultural industry is now worth hundreds of billions of baht, or about 10 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
He points out that Thai startups in the seeding stage usually think about this figure only as a reason to be jumping into the agricultural sector. However, Ricult has a different perspective. When it pitched its proposal to investors, it highlighted its potential to expand from Thailand into neighboring countries. The company’s goal is to become an ultimate data platform for agricultural industries throughout Southeast Asia.
“Our dream is not just about being a Thai startup,” Aukrit says. “We dream of becoming a world-class startup.”
On the other hand, Ricult also hopes to become a reliable digital platform for rural people, out of a conviction that its vertical business expansion will help to improve the quality of life of people living in Thailand’s provinces. For example, with Ricult’s innovations, farmers should be able to access life insurance, car insurance, and job opportunities more conveniently and efficiently. Some farmers, after all, want temporary jobs to support them through the agricultural “off-season”.
Moreover, Ricult has plans for expansion in the near future, using interesting new business models. Its operations will soon move into loan services for farmers and production of energy from biomass.