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Japanese Entrepreneur turned Investor Taizo Son, Founder & Chairman, Mistletoe, has launched ‘Gastrotope’, an accelerator platform in association with India’s leading tech accelerator, GSF India and Indo-Japan business consultancy firm, Infobridge. For Mistletoe, the initiative aims to step up from its investment-only-model to help integrate the entire AgriFood startup ecosystem, enabling startups to face challenges at multiple layers.

Although, the official announcement of the launch was made today, Taizo had already announced his plans regarding the launch of the accelerator, during ‘Farm To Fork’ event in Bengaluru on September 13, 2017. The event was organised by digital media firm Inc42, in association with Japanese investment firm Mistletoe, in order to addressing the challenges AgriFood sector startups are facing.

Speaking on how India could become the centre of global Farm to Fork chain, Taizo, younger son of Masayoshi Son, Chairman, Softbank stated, “While India has immense talent pool of engineers and rich food culture, Japan is also a country with deep agriculture technologies and food culture as well. Our aim is to work as a catalyst for this new movement of ‘Farm To Fork’ permaculture.

Gastrotope: “A Community-driven Approach” By GSF And Mistletoe

While GSF India has already invested in some 45 startups, Mistletoe is also present in India with investments made in multiple agritech and foodtech startups including Innerchef, Ninjacart and Kisan Network.

However, with the launch of Gastrotope, the approach is more towards strengthening the ecosystem by helping startups in every way. Speaking to Inc42, Taizo said, “We need to develop a supportive ecosystem to build a new age farm to fork economy. We will sow the seeds, trees will come out naturally.”

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Talking about the complexity and challenges, the sector poses for investors and startups, Rajesh Sawhney, Founder & CEO, GSF India and Innerchef said, ‘Instead of designing the entire investment plan on paper, Gastrotope team would rather go, meet people, invest on their ideas, and mentor them to ensure their viability and success. So, it will take lots of time, patience and communities’ co-operation.”

The accelerator aims to invest in startups that can add value to  various parts of the value chain, starting with farmers and moving to food transportation, processing and delivery to and consumption by customers.

As further added by Rajesh, the accelerator is open to PPP-based model. Currently, they are in talks with various government entities including government of Andhra Pradesh, and are hopeful of creating meaningful partnership to strengthen India’s farm economy in a few months from now. Atsushi Taira, CGO, Mistletoe stated,“In the beginning, we may invest in some 100 startups; but, at the end of the day, it depends on the merits and innovations  that we are looking to nurture. And, we got no limits, as far as funding is concerned.”

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Also, Naho Shigeta, CEO, Infobridge Holdings  said, “We recognise that India’s amazing food and cuisine diversity must be respected and nurtured for sustainable growth of India’s farm economy. At Gastrotope, our focus will be to completely reverse the western world’s pursuit of food standardisation and instead create locally relevant and sustainable businesses that truly benefit the two most important stakeholders: farmers and consumers.”

Farm To Fork: A Community Initiative By Inc42

Hosted by Inc42, Farm to Fork event aims to bring the best of fraternity — agro startups and Investors — together. The purpose was to highlight that how  lack of awareness about the use of tech especially among farmers, is a major obstacle hindering the agritech industry’s growth.

This is not a first attempt by Inc42 to highlight the challenges faced by the Indian Agritech sector. Prior to organising the Farm to Fork event, Inc42 hosted an AgriTech Investors Roundtable on May 25, 2017, in Delhi. The panel discussions – which were held by Ritu Verma, co-founder and MD at Ankur Capital; Hemendra Mathur, Venture Partner at Bharat Innovations Fund; and Vikram Gupta of IvyCap Ventures – focussed on the challenges, emerging technologies and opportunities in the country’s agricultural sector.

The recently concluded Farm to Fork event was an extension of the same. The event witnessed a heartening response from not only the agro startup community from across the country, but also from Investors. During the Farm to Fork event,  top seven selected startups were also given an opportunity to pitch their farm to fork solutions. The complete details about the Farm to Fork event and the shortlisted startups in detail, will be published in a separate article.

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