The SWITCH to Solar Start-up Showcase (S2S) is an initiative that promotes the use of solar energy in the agri-fishery industry in Cambodia. The event hosted in Phnom Penh featured twelve start-ups that are working on solar energy solutions, and provided a platform for them to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.
The S2S program is funded by the European Union and Czech Development Agency, and implemented by the NGO People in Need in partnership with Sevea and EnergyLab.
Cambodia’s agri-fishery industry plays a significant role in Cambodia’s economy and employs a large portion of the population. The sector is diverse, comprising both small-scale farmers and large-scale agricultural and fishing operations.
Judges evaluated the business ventures
The SWITCH to Solar Start-up Showcase (S2S) featured a panel of judges with experience in Cambodian business ventures to evaluate the participating start-ups.
The judges included Men Vansonita, Sustainability Speciality & Business Mentor at Sevea; Cassinerio Alessandro, Program Manager for People in Need; and Ian Jones, Co-Founder of Mekong Inclusive Ventures.
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Six start-ups seeking a place in the S2S Acceleration Program presented their pitches during the first session. The second session featured seven start-ups that had completed the S2S Incubation Program or Acceleration Program, which provide support for the launch and growth of start-up businesses or for scaling up and preparing for capital and investment readiness.
After each pitch, the judges provided verbal feedback on the potential of the ventures. The event concluded with the presentation of certificates to the seven start-ups selected for the Acceleration Program.
Pre-Acceleration Start-Up Pitches:
- Eco Green Energy promotes quality solar energy technology and accessories.
- Green Farmer Community harnesses sustainability practices using solar and environmentally friendly production techniques.
- EcoSun Solar Cambodia supports Cambodian households to reduce their energy consumption through an extensive range of solar products.
- Pteah Baitong supports farmers by providing solar water-pump technology with the PAYGO financing scheme.
- Agri House creates sustainable, nutritious food that provides alternative livelihoods to local communities through insect farming with innovative agri-tech smart kits.
Start-ups that Completed the Incubation Program:
- Agro Agape is a women-led start-up that provides farm to table and back to farm services for coffee producers. The start-up distributes coffee and produces charcoal briquettes from coffee waste.
- Sanitary Enterprise Cambodia strengthens groups of livestock owners and agri-fishery MSMEs to effectively manage renewable energy in Solar Animal and Fish Feed Processing.
- Solar Aerator Cambodia provides solar aerators – pumps that increase the survival rate of white fish species, and increase the biomass capacity of ponds they are installed in.
- Green Tech supports farmers to increase crop productivity via Smart Solar powered irrigation systems.
- Kasekor Chhlat modernizes food processing by using a solar dryer solution to increase efficiency in post-harvest processing.
- Elephant Pump provides high-flow affordable floating solar water pumps to help farmers who lack the benefits that come with large-scale irrigation systems.
- Harvest the Sun sells solar dryers and dried spices
Selection Results for the Acceleration Program:
Seven of eleven start-ups were selected for the 2023 Acceleration Program. These start-ups are: Eco Green Energy, Kasekor Chhlat, EcoSun Solar Cambodia, Pteah Baitong, Agri House, Harvest the Sun, and Solar Aerator Cambodia.
“The potential for solar energy to benefit the agri-fishery industry in Cambodia is enormous. The SWITCH to Solar Start-up Showcase provides a platform for innovative companies to pitch their ideas and take the first steps towards making a real impact in their communities,” an EnergyLab representative said.
“As a mentor and coach for clean energy start-ups, we at EnergyLab know firsthand the challenges that these companies face in bringing their products and services to market. That’s why we are committed to supporting the S2S program and helping these start-ups succeed,” they added.
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The agriculture and fishing sectors are important components of the Cambodian economy and contribute significantly to the country’s GDP. According to the World Bank, the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector accounted for approximately 22.4% of Cambodia’s GDP in 2020.
“The showcase highlighted the hard work undertaken by each venture, and the need for continual validation of assumptions to overcome key challenges in the agri-fishery sector – the length of time required for behavior change with early adopters, and the cost of introducing new technologies. Each of these approaches requires unique financing needs, with Khmer Enterprise providing innovation capital for early-stage ventures, and others securing purchasing contracts or accessing impact debt,” Ian Jones told Cambodia Investment Review after the event.
“What is clear though, is that innovation and diversity in solar for agri-fishery technology sector is abundant. Ventures clearly articulated their unique value propositions, from the deployment of solar aerators for the increase in fish yields, to large-scale solar water pumps for irrigation, and even solar-powered cricket raising kits, which are able to generate more income than a small rice field,” he added.
Challenges facing the industry
The industry faces a number of challenges, including limited access to modern technology and infrastructure, low productivity, and environmental degradation. Solar energy has the potential to address some of these challenges by providing a cleaner and more reliable source of energy for irrigation, lighting, and other needs in the agri-fishery sector.
The adoption of solar energy solutions could help increase crop yields, reduce energy costs, and improve the sustainability of the industry. The SWITCH to Solar Start-up Showcase is an important event that promotes the use of solar energy in the agri-fishery sector in Cambodia and supports the development of innovative start-ups working on these solutions.
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The goal of the program is to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth in rural areas of Cambodia by generating green employment opportunities for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and reducing the environmental impact of energy consumption.
The program will benefit around 1.14 million Cambodians across six provinces and 15 districts in the Tonle Sap region. Seven start-ups were selected for the S2S Acceleration Program, which provides intensive training and support to help them scale up their businesses and achieve investment readiness.