Wavemaker Impact, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), GenZero, and Singapore’s Temasek have announced the launch of Rize, their new agri-tech startup to decarbonize rice cultivation in Southeast Asia and the rest of Asia.

The startup will be headed by Chief Executive Officer Dhruv Sawhney who was appointed last month, the parties said in a statement on Wednesday.

Following the announcement of the venture in October 2022, the startup is building a platform that will rapidly identify and implement the most effective strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in rice cultivation and the right economic incentives to drive the adoption of sustainable cultivation techniques.

Rize’s first two markets are Indonesia and Vietnam. The startup already has local teams in place, and pilots have been conducted in both countries with positive initial results.

“Dhruv’s wealth of experience is crucial in driving Rize’s vision as a scalable and sustainable platform for decarbonizing rice cultivation,” said Marie Cheong, Rize board member from Wavemaker Impact.

With 90 percent of rice grown in Asia, predominantly by smallholder farmers, she said it is imperative to find an Asian solution to tackle this climate change challenge.

According to her, Rize has already seen promising traction, attracting sign-ups from over 2,000 hectares of rice farms for its trials.

“We have full confidence in Dhruv’s ability to lead innovation and effectively reach millions of rice farmers in the region,

“As Rize plans to expand its operations in the second half of the year to further test its solution, the potential of this venture is truly exciting,” she added.

According to the statement, Rize Chief Executive Officer Dhruv Sawhney joined the team after heading up Nuture.Farm, one of India’s largest digital platforms for facilitating sustainable agriculture.

Under Dhruv’s leadership, Nuture.Farm onboarded over 2.5 million farmers and 100,000 agricultural retailers and led one of India’s largest programs to eliminate burning of crop residue.

In addition to direct experience in decarbonizing the rice value chain, Dhruv is also a successful startup founder having built and exited his food supply chain business to
Zomato in 2018.

“After enteric emissions, rice is the second-largest driver of agricultural emissions globally,

“Technology exists to decarbonize rice cultivation, but it requires farmers to change their behavior,” said Dhruv.

Using carbon credits and other economic incentives, he said he is excited to take on this important challenge and lead the Rize team in developing a highly innovative and scalable solution that creates a win-win-win proposition: improving the livelihoods of the 400 million people involved in rice cultivation in the region, enhancing food security for a staple crop, and making a difference in the fight against climate change.

According to the statement, rice is the greatest climate and food security challenge in the region.

Already a staple crop for more than half of the world’s population, it said rice will see global demand increase by 50 percent by 2050.

It also said rice cultivation is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in agri-food due to methane- emitting bacteria generated from flooded rice paddy fields.

Rice is also the leading source of methane emissions in Southeast Asia, responsible for up to 33 percent of the region’s methane emissions, with methane having over 80 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide, it said.

Across Asia, it said the livelihoods of 400 million people on 144 million smallholder farms depend on rice, with the average farm size ranging from 0.5 to 2 hectares.

It noted that there are also significant yield gaps, and in Southeast Asia, rice production per hectare lags behind high-producing countries by approximately 40 percent.

Wavemaker Impact is a venture capital-backed climate tech venture builder in Southeast Asia.

Its team co-founds sustainability startups with proven entrepreneurs, with the goal of reducing 10 percent of the global carbon budget by 2035.

The founding team has previously built over 15 companies (including unicorns and an initial public offering) from scratch and invested over $300 million in Asian tech companies, including 35 greentech startups.

Founded by Bill Gates and backed by many of the world’s top business leaders, BEV has raised more than $2 billion in committed capital to support cutting-edge companies that are leading the world to net-zero emissions.

The firm is a purpose-built investment firm that is seeking to invest, launch and scale global companies that will eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions throughout the economy as soon as possible.

It is a part of Breakthrough Energy, a network of investment vehicles, philanthropic programs, policy advocacy
and other activities committed to scaling the technologies they need to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

GenZero is an investment platform company focused on accelerating decarbonization globally.

Founded by Temasek, the firm seeks to deliver positive climate impact alongside long-term sustainable financial returns by investing in opportunities with the potential to be nurtured into impactful and scalable solutions. 
Temasek is an investment company with a net portfolio value of $297 billion as at March 31, 2022.

Headquartered in Singapore, it has 12 offices in 8 countries around the world.

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