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'The accidental entrepreneur' and unlocking innovation in the Asia Pacific

Meet the adventurous venture capitalist, Isabelle Decitre heading up Singapore’s ID Capital, whose knack for nurturing agrifood tech startups led to the creation of the Future Food Asia conference – to showcase the regions’ ever-growing talent.

5 min read
ID Capital

You may not have heard of Isabelle Decitre, but you may be familiar with the corporate brands she has worked for. Over a 20-year career, this diminutive Francophile has worked in different roles for the likes of the Cognac brand Hennessy, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Dunhill and Boucheron.

In 2012, Isabelle said she wanted a change, and “like trying a new sauce” she left her beloved France, and the trappings of corporate life to start a wild new adventure with her family in Singapore.

“Just to be clear there has not been one single easy moment, but it has been really enjoyable,” she admitted.

This deliberate change snowballed into a startup investment company called ID Capital. “It’s like you’re good at running and then you discover you can also climb, and so you start to use different muscles.”

This leap of faith into the innovation underbelly of the Asia Pacific has been liberating for Isabelle who describes herself as “insanely curious” with an appetite for things, “I don’t yet know”.

“The energy of being an entrepreneur is infectious and the freedom to work 24-hours a day and to choose what hours you work has really driven me and my business.”

Describing herself as an accidental entrepreneur, Isabelle said, “Life can be really beautiful for accidental entrepreneurs.”

And for this innovator, success has been very sweet.

Asia Pacific became Isabelle’s hunting ground

Although mainstream now, seven years ago the sector didn’t even have a name, much less a funding model.

“I had to be where the high stakes were and where there were still things to build, and that’s why I wanted my hunting ground to be the Asia Pacific,” said Isabelle.

ID Capital is a startup investment company with a focus on agrifood and tech, based in Singapore. Along with ID Capital, Isabelle created the Future Food Asia (FFA) event. On the one hand, ID Capital reviewed and assessed the deal flow of Asia Pacific based agrifood tech startups while on the other, FFA showcased the best and brightest startups in the region.

“Originally I thought FFA might disappear, but after five years people are waiting for it, there is demand and it continues to grow.”

What to expect – Future Food Asia 2021

In 2020, FFA came up with the hashtag #foodisthenewcool and then COVID-19 hit.

“The world was dying, and we thought our hashtag #foodisthenewcool was ridiculous,” said Isabelle. “Then we realised food had never been so cool, because food was what the world turned to during COVID-19 and is the number one global trend.”

In 2021, the Future Food Asia Conference will be held in Singapore (June 7-11) and multiple satellite cities simultaneously including Australia and amplified virtually.

“We just don’t want to be purely virtual, in some cities people will be able to gather so we are marrying the best of both worlds,” said Isabelle.

“We have offered our partners, the possibilities of inviting investors, corporates and entrepreneurs the chance to be together and have a physical event locally.”

Isabelle is hoping Australia will host at least one if not two local events, in different cities.

Building the future of food

This year at FFA, there will be three awards that startups can apply for. Just like every other year, FFA’s Jury will select 10 startup finalists who will have the opportunity to showcase their innovations and compete for the US$ 100,000 grand prize. Applications are now open here.

Last year Australian startup, FluroSat took out top honours. FluroSat is a full crop cycle analytics provider that delivers proactive reports and alerts on all aspects of crop performance and health. Its analytics engine, FluroSense monitors over 7 million acres of arable land supporting leading agribusinesses in delivering precision agriculture programs and decision support to their growers.

regrow startup

FluroSat recently acquired soil health startup, Dagan to create Regrow – a portfolio company of ID Capital – combining FluroSat’s data-driven agriculture management services with Dagan’s soil biogeochemical modeling technology.

RELATED: How Australian agritech startup FluroSat cracked the US market

Australian startups consistently make-up around 25% of all FFA applications and while they are great competitors, that does not automatically guarantee them a spot.

“FFA has awarded three exceptional Australian entrepreneurs who all had a lot of common sense and clarity of mind and we wanted to reward them,” said Isabelle.

“Australian tech is good and the point of difference is that they are addressing a pain point. It is not just tech for the sake of tech.”

In 2021, FFA also introduced two new awards. The Cargill Health through Nutrition Award will award one startup engaged in developing a solution to help advance the health of humans or animals through nutrition, with the chance of a paid pilot. The focus is on food as the first line of defence.

The next award is the Thai Wah Prize for a Circular Bio-Economy. Thai Wah is one of the world’s largest starch manufacturers and will reward startups specialising in plant protein, bioplastics, biomass processing, and farmer advisory solutions, along with a pilot funded by Thai Wah.

The voice of Asia Pacific

Isabelle admitted FFA began, “As a startup challenge to showcase the talent in the region; to promote local success stories and create role models that could be a point of reference for corporates to jump in.”

What began as a simple idea to showcase the startup success stories of the Asia Pacific has evolved into an iconic global event, which includes some of the world’s largest corporates, investors and entrepreneurs all in the one place, with a core focus on entrepreneurs as the drivers of change.

“Entrepreneurs remain the raison d’etre [reason] for Future Food Asia. Their energy is infectious, and this is a way we can reward them,” said Isabelle.

With more than 650 decision-makers involved last year, FFA has become one of the leading voices for agrifood innovation in the Asia Pacific.

If you’re an investor, corporate, or entrepreneur interested in being part of the 2021 FFA, find more information here.

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