Agritech Launched to Decarbonise Rice Cultivation in Southeast Asia

Wavemaker Impact, Bill Gates founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures, GenZero, and Singapore’s Temasek have announced the launch of Rize, their new agritech startup to decarbonise 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.

Following the announcement of the venture in October 2022, the startup is building a platform that it says 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.

Rize CEO 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 the 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. Using carbon credits and other economic incentives, I’m 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,” said Dhruv.

Rice is the greatest climate and food security challenge in the Southeast Asian region. Already a staple crop for more than half of the world’s population, rice will see global demand increase by 50% by 2050.

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% of the region’s methane emissions, with methane having over 80 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

Across Asia, 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. There are also significant yield gaps. In Southeast Asia, rice production per hectare lags behind high-producing countries by approximately 40%.5