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sushi tech challenge 2024 semi finals
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In 2022, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) set a goal to increase its number of startups, unicorns, and collaborative projects between governments and businesses by 10 fold over the course of five years.

Since then, it has launched a series of initiatives to invigorate startup culture in Tokyo, transforming it into a vibrant hub for innovation, knowledge exchange, and investment potential.

One such initiative is the two-day SusHi Tech Tokyo Global Startup Programme 2024, which connects foreign startups, including those in APAC, to opportunities in Japan’s business network, allowing them to expand their companies to the city.

As part of the programme, there will be a pitch contest—the SusHi Tech Challenge—where the winner will receive a cash prize of JPY10 million (S$86,430). Startups with promising pitches will be offered with supplementary prizes such as business matching opportunities as well.

Yesterday (May 15) marked the commencement of the pitch semi-finals, where the top 20 startups, shortlisted from a pool of 507 startups across 43 countries, pitched their innovative ideas.

Out of the 20 startups vying for the top prize, five hail from Southeast Asia. Here’s who the startups are, and what they do.

1. ImpacFat

ImpacFat
Image Credit: ImpacFat

ImpacFat is a Singapore-based startup that was founded in 2022 by Mandy Hon and Shigeki Sugii, and it is the first ever foodtech company to develop cultivated fish fat.

The company extracts stem cells from the fat tissue of premium fish species and grows them in a bioreactor. Once these cells mature into healthy fat cells, they are then harvested in bulk and incorporated into food products.

According to ImpacFat, there has been a lack of focus on cultivated fat production, and it’s one of the biggest gaps in addressing consumer concerns about alternative protein. 

Fat cells play a key role in animal products, delivering mouthfeel and texture. Fish fat, in particular, provide additional nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids.

The integration of ImpacFat’s cultivated fat into other alternative meat products will enhance the taste, juiciness, aroma and nutrition of these proteins, which in turn, can increase their consumer acceptance.

While ImpacFat’s cultivated fat production is currently in its research and development phase, the company is looking to bring its fish fat to consumers’ tables by this year.

2. E-Port

Image Credit: E-Port

Singapore startup E-Port is the company behind maritime supply chain “super app” eLSA.

eLSA, an abbreviation of eLeveraging Ship Agents, is an AI-enabled platform that connects stakeholders in the industry, including cargo owners, ship-operators, and port services providers, and delivers real-time data access and visibility to reduce operational efficiencies and costs, while helping the long tail of MSMEs in maritime commerce digitalise.

In Singapore, E-Port has been instrumental in digitalising over 75 per cent of the city-state’s fleet of Water-Taxis, significantly enhancing operational efficiency and sustainability within the maritime sector.

The company has seen a twenty fold revenue growth in just four years, going from S$2 million in 2020 to about S$40 million in 2024, achieving breakeven this year. It aims to achieve S$5 billion in revenue by the end of 2027.

3. Entomal

Entomal
Image Credit: Entomal

With an aim to address the global challenges of food waste, emissions, and food security, Entomal is a startup from Malaysia that utilises Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae to process biowaste into usable resources. The company was founded in 2021 by Vicas Pui, Thomas Pui, and Yanni Ching.

Entomal functions off three different revenue streams. The main one, contributing to 85 to 90 per cent of the business, is its consultancy services, leveraging the technical expertise of the founders, such as engineering and processing methods.  

Apart from this, the startup also works with municipalities, corporations, restaurants, F&B factories, shopping malls, and hotels—places that involve big pools of people having meals and eventually causing food waste—to offer customised waste solutions, including mobile biowaste conversion plants.

Last but not least, Entomal also focuses on downstream products such as pet food. Currently, it has a brand of cat food, while developing other products such as a wound-healing cream and recipes for aqua feed, chicken feed, and more.

4. BUYO Bioplastics

Image Credit: BUYO Bioplastics

BUYO Bioplastics was founded in 2022 by Hanh Do, Hoa Trinh, Thu Vuong, and Linh Le. The startup aims to fight plastic pollution by converting biowaste into biodegradable plastics.

While most bioplastic firms use starch, the Vietnamese firm’s proprietary tech converts biowaste from agriculture and food materials into bioplastic, which simultaneously helps eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and water contamination.

According to BUYO, its biodegradable plastics also leave no traces in the environment. In contrast, it could take 500 years or more for polyethelyne plastic bags to be degraded in a landfill.

In its initial stages, the company aims to supply the material to be used in flexible packaging such as edible food wrapping. Other applications in the cosmetic, medical, and textile industries are also in the pipeline.

5. TUBUDD Joint Stock Company

Image Credit: Tubudd

While travelling can be fun and exciting, it can also be challenging as travellers will need to navigate unfamiliar environments and deal with language barriers. This is why having a local guide can make a big difference in enhancing one’s travel experience.

Founded in 2017, by Annie Vu, Ethan Dang and Anthony Cruickshank, TUBUDD is a platform that links travellers with local guides and interpreters to create itineraries customised to their interests and preferences.

Through the TUBUDD mobile app or website, users can choose a destination and book a guide based on their preferred activities. To ensure a safer experience for travellers, the platform’s local guide partners are selected from a rigorous screening process that includes identification checks, language proficiency tests, and letters of recommendations.

Apart from this, the platform also offers specialised services, including a feature that matches professionals with assistants while overseas to help with business-related matters, as well as a health buddy feature where local guides can help travellers overcome language barriers when visiting clinics and hospitals in Vietnam.

TUBUDD is available in more than 30 destinations across Vietnam and 20 countries worldwide.

Who else made the cut?

Apart from these five Southeast Asian startups, here’s a brief overview of the other startups who made it to the SusHi Tech Challenge semi-finals this year.

6. Aeterlink

The Aeterlink AirPlug, the world’s first complete wireless power system/ Image Credit: Aeterlink

Aeterlink is a Japanese company that has developed the world’s first complete wireless power transfer (WPT) system.

Through its proprietary technology, the company assists businesses in factory automation and building management. By eliminating wire breaks in factory lines, it reduces downtime, significantly enhancing productivity and efficiency of these businesses.

7. DRONAMICS

Image Credit: DRONAMICS

DRONAMICS is the first and only cargo drone airline with a license to fly cross-border and long-range cargo drones. The company is based in London and was founded in 2014 by Bulgarian brothers Svilen and Konstantin Rangelov, who aspired to make express cargo deliveries available in remote and underserved areas with limited access to affordable food, medicine, spare parts, and other goods

DRONAMIC’s flagship drone – the Black Swan – is currently under flight testing and this phase is expected to be completed this year. Following the testing period, the company plans to launch its commercial operations in Greece.

8. Teckel Medical S.L.

Image Credit: Mediktor

Teckel Medical is the startup behind Mediktor, an AI-powered medical chatbot for triage and pre-diagnosis that allows users to evaluate their symptoms anywhere and at any time.

Founded in Spain, the company aims to improve healthcare access worldwide by collaborating with a variety of players in the healthcare industry, including health insurers and telehealth providers to offer more efficient care navigation for patients.

9. CancerFree Biotech

The team behind CancerFree Biotech/ Image Credit: CancerFree Biotech

Taiwanese startup CancerFree Biotech is a biotech startup that focuses on personalised treatments for cancer patients.

The company’s breakthrough method shortens the process of drug selection, minimises ineffective use of drugs and reduces the risk of side effects. Only a small 20ml sample of blood is needed for the approach, making it highly convenient for both physicians and patients to find an appropriate drug therapy.

10. WRIGHT BROTHERS

wright brothers
A WRIGHT BROTHERS showroom in South Korea/ Image Credit: WRIGHT BROTHERS

WRIGHT BROTHERS is a South Korean startup that is looking to build a specialised secondary market for bicycles.

The company provides a diverse array of services to its users, encompassing bicycle rentals, the refurbishment and resale of abandoned bicycles, and the integration of X-ray technology to assist secondhand sellers in evaluating the condition of bicycle frames.

It is also in the midst of launching an electric bike battery inspection service, as part of its efforts to capitalise on the growing demand for environmentally friendly mobility solutions.

11. Cogo Japan G.K.

Image Credit: Cogo Japan

Cogo Japan offers a suite of carbon footprint management products that helps individuals and businesses to measure, understand, and reduce their impact on the climate.

The company has partnered global banks including Natwest Group, ING and Commonwealth Bank to enable consumers to track the carbon emissions associated with their spending habits through their everyday banking apps, making it easier to accurately understand the impact of their spending and take meaningful action to reduce their impact on the planet.

12. Nanjing DeepCtrls Technologies

Image Credit: DeepCtrls

DeepCtrls is a service provider for digital intelligence innovation and energy conservation. The B2B Chinese startup leverages Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) technologies to develop energy usage management systems.

Most recently, DeepCtrls has developed a plug-and-play IoT energy management/monitoring system that requires little to no coding experience to use, reducing the cost and improving efficiency for companies in various industries.

13. Elephantech

Elephantech
Image Credit: Elephantech

Elephantec is a startup based in Tokyo and it is the first startup in the world to successfully mass produce electronic circuit boards using environmentally friendly metal inkjet printing.

Through its proprietary manufacturing process for electronic circuits, the company has achieved a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 75 per cent and water consumption by 95 per cent, as compared to traditional methods.

14. Degas

Degas
Image Credit: Degas

Degas is a Japanese tech startup that finances smallholder farmers while also boosting agricultural productivity in Africa through the implementation of technologies like regenerative agriculture.

To date, the company has financed over 46,000 farmers and manages over 20,000 hectares of land across the continent. By improving agricultural productivity, Degas aims to triple the income of 30 million farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.

15. Stroly

Image Credit: Stroly

Stroly is a web platform in Japan that allows users to upload offline maps with region-specific information to create corresponding online versions.

The online map can contain details such as tourism information, community details, and event data, which can be centralised and made available to other users.

16. Rebirthel

Rebirthel
Image Credit: Rebirthel

Rebirthel was founded in October 2019 in Japan, with the aim of developing novel treatments against cancer.

The company’s allogeneic immune cell therapy is a new treatment method that regenerates killer T cells—a type of immune cell that can kill certain cells, including cancer cells, making treatment accessible almost “immediately” at a “low cost”.

17. Cool Innovation

Image Credit: Cool Innovation

Also based in Japan, Cool Innovation is a startup that leverages technology to keep agricultural produce fresh without the use of special packaging or chemicals.

The company has sold more than 50 units of its proprietary cold storage system in Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines, and is recognised and supported by the Japan Environmental Office.

18. Asuene

Asuene
The team behind Asuene/ Image Credit: Asuene

Asuene is a Japanese climate tech startup that provides various services to support the net zero targets of businesses.

The startup provides companies with a one-stop solution to visualise, report and reduce carbon their emissions. Through its joint venture with the State Bank of India and Carbon EX, Asuene also provides services for carbon credits and emissions trading.

19. Fermenstation

Fermentation
Image Credit: Fermenstation

Japanese startup Fermenstation upcycles unused resources, such as manufacturing remnants from F&B industries, through its proprietary fermentation technology to produce alcohol.

The fermented residue can be used in the production of various goods, including cosmetics, culinary creations, and even animal feed for hens and cattle.

20. LocationMind

locationmind
Image Credit: LocationMind

With the world’s population becoming increasingly concentrated in urban areas, it’s difficult to assess where and how those living in poor conditions reside, constituting a greater barrier to the adoption of measures by governments and NGOs to improve their welfare.

To overcome this, Japanese startup LocationMind is utilising cutting-edge technologies to analyse and predict human movement, or “people-flow”. With this data, the company aims to tackle a wide range of social problems, including traffic congestion and disaster control.

Featured Image Credit: ImpacFat/ E-Port/ Buyo Bioplastics

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