Look Who's Funding - MNC Collaboration Analysis

Look Who's Funding, Part 1: How PepsiCo is collaborating creatively in the agtech space

By CM Tay

- Last updated on GMT

In March this year, PepsiCo introduced its Greenhouse Accelerator Programme in Asia.
In March this year, PepsiCo introduced its Greenhouse Accelerator Programme in Asia.

Related tags agtech collaboration agtech investment Funding Startups

In the first of our features looking at how major MNCs are making waves in the global ag-tech start-up space, which shine the spotlight on PepsiCo and its Greenhouse Accelerator Programme with initiatives spanning IoT, pest control, eco-fertilizers and sustainable supply chains.

The global F&B firm launched the initiative in 2017 to support and nurture emerging, innovative agtech and F&B start-ups. The programme is designed to identify and collaborate with promising start-ups to help them grow, scale and bring their products or technologies to market, as well as enhance PepsiCo’s agricultural practices, supply chain efficiency and sustainability initiatives.

Like many technology MNCs, PepsiCo has been actively investing in the agtech sector through its venture fund arms, grants and mentorship programmes, spurred by the potential to address pressing global challenges related to food security, sustainability, and resource efficiency.

These challenges include climate change adaptation, water scarcity, pest and disease management, supply chain inefficiencies and post-harvest losses. At the same time, agtech presents a promising market opportunity as the demand for advanced agricultural solutions continues to grow.

Putting some pep in that start-up step

Through the Greenhouse Accelerator Programme, PepsiCo says it aims to foster a culture of innovation within its organisation and establish meaningful partnerships with its selected start-ups. By collaborating with young and agile companies, the company can potentially benefit from cutting-edge solutions while providing start-ups with valuable industry expertise, resources, and networks.

PepsiCo’s Greenhouse Accelerator involves a rigorous selection process, whereby start-ups with innovative products or ideas relevant to the F&B industry are chosen to participate. The selected companies then receive mentorship and guidance from PepsiCo’s experienced professionals; this provides support to help these start-ups refine their products, business strategies and go-to-market plans.

PepsiCo may also offer funding or investment opportunities to selected start-ups to help them scale their operations and bring their products to a wider audience through access to the MNC’s vast distribution network and retail relationships. This increased brand exposure, achieved through collaboration with a global brand like PepsiCo, provides start-ups with greater brand exposure and credibility, which can be invaluable for their growth.

Accelerating around the world

The programme started in 2017 with its Europe Sub-Saharan Africa (ESSA) Edition, moving onto North America from 2018 to 2020. Since 2022, it has focused on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region; in June this year, PepsiCo announced the six start-ups it had selected to participate in the second MENA Sustainability Edition of its Greenhouse Accelerator, which focuses on novel sustainable agricultural practices.

Organised in partnership with the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and Food Tech Valley, the programme aims to unlock innovative agricultural solutions in the MENA region that align with PepsiCo's sustainability strategy.

Six start-ups have been selected for their breakthrough potential and relevance to the region, including Dooda Solutions (an earthworm farm for organic fertilisers), RoboCare (plant disease prevention using technology) and SmartWTI (IoT-based water management solutions).

At the same time, the Greenhouse Accelerator is seeking to empower Hispanic-owned start-ups and entrepreneurs based in the US with its first-ever Juntos Crecemos Edition. The six-month mentor-guided programme is organised in partnership with PepsiCo Juntos Crecemos, a part of PepsiCo’s Racial Equality Journey, which is designed to provide both short- and long-term support to small Hispanic businesses over five years.

Through this edition, PepsiCo has identified 10 small, emerging Hispanic-owned F&B small businesses, including consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and products, and other businesses with the potential to introduce transformative solutions to improve productivity, operations, customer experience, profitability, automation, personalisation and eco-friendliness across the F&B industry.

These businesses include Hyfé (a Latina-founded company that repurposes food supply chain wastewater), Dathic (an AI-powered platform offering CPG brands Hispanic market insights and analytics) and FoodWare (whose mission is to eliminate single-use food packaging via a tech-enabled reusables tracking system and impact accounting platform).

For all the aforementioned editions of PepsiCo’s Greenhouse Accelerator, each selected start-up has received US$20,000 in initial grant and mentorship support and at the end of the programme, one winner will receive an additional US$100,000 for further expansion and collaboration with PepsiCo.

Agtech in Asia

In March this year, PepsiCo introduced its Greenhouse Accelerator Programme in Asia with the APAC Sustainability Edition, designed to help start-ups in the APAC region markets develop and bring their ideas to market.

PepsiCo has a clear objective for this initiative — to identify and empower emerging innovators with ground-breaking solutions for sustainable packaging and climate reduction. Aiming to redefine industry norms, the programme aligns with PepsiCo's pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) vision, which aims to work towards a more resilient and environmentally conscious future.

This represents a major stride towards fostering innovation and sustainability in the APAC region, with 10 start-up finalists having been selected for the programme that underscores PepsiCo's commitment to responsible growth and environmental stewardship.

The 10 selected finalists hail from diverse countries across APAC, including China, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. These innovative companies showcase a range of sustainable solutions, from carbon-neutral panels made from recycled plastic waste to track-and-trace technology for reusable packaging.

PepsiCo APAC CEO Wern Yuen Tan emphasised the significance of this collaboration, stating, "PepsiCo's collaboration with the 10 start-up finalists in the APAC Greenhouse Accelerator Programme marks a pivotal moment in our journey toward responsible growth and environmental stewardship."

The selected start-ups also represented a variety of sectors, including technology, materials and energy. Some noteworthy participants include REMAKEHUB (which is producing a carbon-neutral panel from 100% recycled plastic waste, Muuse (which offers reusable packaging as a service) and Aspiring Materials (which is planning to shift industries to use carbon-free rocks for sustainable production).

Also worth mentioning are HRK Group (creator of the first 100% bio-degradable, compostable and recyclable waterproof paper food packaging) and MEDS Venture (whose DECAPLAN tool is world’s only digital platform that allows end-to-end industrial site optimisation and decarbonisation).

During the business optimisation programme, each start-up received substantial support, including USD$20,000 in grants. Additionally, they will benefit from personalised mentorship provided by experts from different functional areas within PepsiCo. The programme will conclude with one standout start-up receiving an additional USD$100,000 and the opportunity to continue partnering with PepsiCo on future projects.

The ultimate winner was Powered Carbon. The firm has technology that utilises CO2 to cultivate fungi for eco-friendly fertilisers, which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly as compared to traditional fertilisers. The eco-friendly fertiliser component has since been tested on potatoes in PepsiCo’s China Shandong Farm and pilot results are expected in Q4 of this year.

PepsiCo believes that these start-ups hold the key to advancing the circular economy and reducing environmental impact in the APAC region and beyond. Through its Greenhouse Accelerator Programme, PepsiCo aims not only to drive positive change in its operations but also to inspire the next generation of business leaders to embrace sustainability and innovation.

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