By 2030, Southeast Asia’s (SEA) green economy could deliver up to $1 trillion USD in annual economic opportunities. Sustainable technologies and startups are emerging to meet citizens’ demands for a greener, healthier, food-secure region with a higher quality of life.
Sustainability involves preserving and enhancing the environment, people, and the economy. Environmental sustainability focuses on safeguarding natural resources and negating the impacts of climate change. Human and social sustainability deals with health, education, food security, equality, and cohesion. Economic sustainability refers to ethical business and improving the quality of life.
Examples of sustainable practices include food technology (foodtech), which uses raw materials to produce lab-grown food, and agricultural technology (agritech), which applies hydroponics technology and Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) to grow crops.
How Sustainable IT is heralding $1 trillion USD opportunities for Southeast Asia
Another sustainable tech Southeast Asia is focusing on is clean technology (cleantech). It encompasses green energy, environmentally-friendly products and practices, plus reducing the damage to the planet.
In view of the rapidly-changing technology, the question arises as to whether tech can be the solution for sustainability. Here are four sustainable startups and their impact, which might lead us to an answer:
The Indonesian social commerce platform, Super, uses technology to generate and protect resources in the country while supporting human capital in the local communities. It is turning community leaders into entrepreneurs and developing a logistics network at a low cost.
Super’s social-buying approach is establishing warehouses for receiving goods, thereby reducing the misuse of land in setting up multiple businesses. It is lifting up the underserved cities with insufficient infrastructure.
The company has raised $35 million USD in total, with its most recent funding coming in April this year. Its investors include Y Combinator, B Capital Group, Softbank Ventures Asia, Mari Pangestu, Stephen Pagliuca, Arrive, Amasia, DST Global, and Insignia Ventures Partners.
RAD Green Solutions
Present-day environmental challenges need innovative solutions, and Filipino company RAD Green Solutions is meeting those problems head-on. Its engineers and experts are developing groundbreaking technologies to sustain the planet and improve people’s lives.
The company treats infectious biomedical waste with a non-incineration technology named pyrolysis, using water to generate high thermal temperatures, burning the waste without producing greenhouse gases that damage the environment. RAD Green Solutions offers its clients research, engineering, development, fabrication, manufacturing, and support.
Last year, the company provided COVID-19 face shields to border patrol officials operating the country’s checkpoints.
Singapore’s Augmentus provides industry-leading software for programming and automating artificial intelligence (AI) and robots. This technology is aiding the urban farming movement, which champions growing and harvesting food in urban areas. Farmers can automate repetitive tasks and allow their AI robots to handle standard agricultural processes.
Augmentus provides a simple-to-use integrated system that enables indoor farms to operate seamlessly year-round. Its platform deploys faster than traditional systems, and it empowers those with zero robotics training to use its products without barriers. As a result, urban farming protects the environment and crops, boosting food security and community well-being.
The company is funded by Cocoon Capital and had its seed round in July this year, raising an undisclosed amount.
ATEC Biodigesters International
Cambodia’s ATEC Biodigesters International (ABI) is a smart farming solutions company, turning farm waste into a sustainable energy source. It currently uses the M4 system biodigester that can handle up to 40kg of manure per day. The biodigesters turn animal and plant waste into free biogas for cooking and fertiliser for the soil, saving farmers $521 USD annually.
These processes protect the environment from woodcutting and greenhouse gases produced by charcoal burning. So far, ABI has raised $2.3 million USD from Phitrust Asia, Fondation Ensemble, Impact Investment Exchange, and ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies initiative. It also received funding from US-based impact investor Beneficial Returns to launch its Pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) model for rural farmers.
Every country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed up to the United Nations (UN) seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, data from the Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2020 shows that countries will not reach those goals by 2030 without accelerated action. The region has regressed on affordable clean energy, climate action, sustainable cities and communities, greenhouse gas emissions, and other critical environmental goals.
The sustainable tech Southeast Asia is developing will make a massive difference to the environment and how people work and live. Regional governments must consult with stakeholders, make policy changes, and provide investment and support to sustainable startups.
Sustainable technologies and startups can help with data collection and innovation, which will guide the region toward its development goals. The focus should be on expansion in key areas including the foodtech, agritech, and cleantech sectors. If successful, technology will prove to be the solution to sustainability challenges in Southeast Asia.