The National Innovation Agency (NIA) has been appointed by the Thai government to be the principal agent for innovation in the economy. Its role is to facilitate the support of start-ups in different sectors to drive the development of the new Thai economy.
It was most interesting to have a lengthy discussion on July 21, 2022 in Bangkok with Dr Pun-Arj Chairatana, Director of the NIA, concerning the agency’s activities and particularly the potential for cooperation between Thai and GCC entrepreneurs in a large number of sectors.
We firstly discussed several of NIA’s verticals and focused on their many successes in the medical, fintech and healthtech sectors.
The second part of our conversation focused specifically on the agricultural sector and the potential for cooperation in agritech startups. This is particularly relevant given the emphasis on food security in the GCC and the multiple agricultural business opportunities located in Thailand.
Located in a tropical region, Thailand is abundantly supplied with rich soil, freshwater resources and biological diversity. Agriculture has always been a backbone of the Thai economy and the country is a major exporter of products such as rice, cassava, meat and poultry.
Currently agritech in Thailand is focused on agricultural biotechnology, farm robotics/mechanization, farm management software, novel farming systems (such as vertical farming) and post harvesting logistics. Work is also being undertaken in areas such as setting up agricultural digital marketplaces for farmers and the development of e-groceries to facilitate distribution.
The NIA is extremely aware that the agritech startup ecosystem needs to interact with international partners and there are numerous case-studies they can quote where such cooperation has been extremely successful. A number of Thai startups, on entering the development phase, have begun to export their technology and open overseas branches.
Overall, Dr Pun-Arj Chairatana indicated that it would be most rewarding and profitable to increase cooperation with GCC-based companies, including startups, operating in the agritech space. There is certainly great potential for both sides to explore and develop together the immense opportunities in this sector.