Siam Organic farming project wins U.S. startup award

A organic farming project in Thailand that helps lift farmers out of poverty took home the top prize and $400,000 in funding from Chivas Regal’s Chivas Venture global search for startups that create a better future for society, during a ceremony attended by celebrities in Los Angeles last week, providing further evidence that Thai startups are starting to make their mark globally.

A total of 30 finalists from six continents competed in the third edition of the Chivas Venture fund’s global search. Chivas divides up $1 million in funding among the winners. A judging panel assessed each business based on its ability to create sustainable change through a viable business model and potential to scale. Chivas claims that the startups it awarded funds to in its first year of the competition have now expanded to 50 countries and impacted over 200,000 lives.

“I am so happy and grateful – this will have a massive impact,’’ said Peetachai “Neil” Dejkraisak, the founder of Siam Organic. “We have extremely limited resources, so to have funding like this from the Chivas Venture is just incredible. It will fast-track our project by three or four years – and save me a lot of grey hair and sleepless nights!”

Peetachai founded Siam Organics in 2011. He began by enlisting 20 farmers to follow his methods and grow his organic strains, and now works with 588 organic, small-scale farmers from Northeast Thailand. The firm claims to have taken 1,026 farmers out of poverty.

The most successful product Siam Organics has introduced and marketed is Jasberry rice. It was given that name“for its jasmine-rice-like qualities (“Jas”) and its powerful antioxidant benefits (like “berries”),” the company said. Siam Organics claims that Jasberrycontains the highest levels of anthocyanin, vitamin E and beta-carotene of all varieties of rice.

The purple-colored grain contains 10 times more antioxidants than green tea and 2.8 times more antioxidants than blueberries, making it the best value-for-money antioxidant compared to other superfoods, according to the company.

Organic farming is more challenging than farming that relies on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and yields for organic farmers in the first few years are often lower than for non-organic farmers. Some farmers give up in the early days. But those that stick with it eventually earn more because they don’t have to spend on chemical inputs, which are expensive, and can charge premium prices for their goods because they are organic.

For some, their health also improves because they don’t come in contact with chemical pesticides. By not using chemical pesticides and fertilizers, which seep into groundwater and contaminate the water supply, soil and other crops, they also contribute to cleaning up and protecting the environment.

Photo courtesy of Siamorganic