Business

Sustainable businesses prove lucrative

Asia a key growth area for eco-friendly companies

More companies are jumping on the lucrative sustainability bandwagon amid booming demand and opportunities for businesses that are both profitable and eco-friendly.

The attraction is all the greater as Asia, which has seen economic transformation in recent decades, is poised for further growth.

One such player is home-grown start-up Smart Animal Husbandry Care (SmartAHC).

The agri-tech firm, set up in 2014 out of Nanyang Technological University, designs sensors and equipment that can collect and use data for "smart farming", or what it calls precision agriculture.

Co-founder Howard Tang told The Straits Times: "For the livestock farming industry, sustainability is also about maximising output while making sure the livestock are raised in a healthy ecosphere."

SmartAHC, which is currently focused on the pig farming industry in China, has come up with a health-monitoring system that uses a wireless ear tag to collect real-time data from farm pigs, such as the animals' temperatures, physical activities and mating cycles.

This allows farmers to better identify the best mating time for their pigs, instead of having to perform manual checks.

It also helps them detect early warning signs of disease, reducing the risks of outbreaks.

The company is working with three farms in China with about 120,000 pigs in total, and has received queries from Singapore chicken farms on its technology.

For the livestock farming industry, sustainability is also about maximising output while making sure the livestock are raised in a healthy ecosphere.” Smart Animal Husbandry Care co-founder Howard Tang

It has garnered 8.2 million yuan (S$1.7 million) in funding from two undisclosed investors in China, as well as $500,000 from Singapore-based GreenMeadows Accelerator and Spring Singapore with an option for another $500,000.

The firm expects to turn revenue-positive this year.

Mr Tang is optimistic about Asia's growth prospects.

In China, for example, 100 million people are in the middle class, which is expected to quadruple in the next 35 years to about 400 million, he noted.

"Our vision is to become the key technology supplier in the farming industry for most pig farmers in the region," Mr Tang said, pointing out that Asia is home to more than half of the world's farm pig population.

The business case for pursuing profit in a manner that is aligned with sustainable development has become increasingly compelling in recent years.

Businesses in Asia could unlock at least US$5 trillion (S$6.9 trillion) in market opportunities and create 230 million jobs by 2030 by implementing a few key development goals, said a report by the United Nations-linked Business and Sustainable Development Commission last week.

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