By Billy Teo
FreshTurf is a startup with an interesting origin story.
The team first came together in 2016 to build a Blockchain-powered software prototype in a bid to service one of IMDA’s logistics flagship projects, termed as federated lockers.
Flash forward to 2018: FreshTurf was not selected for the project. This did not spell an end, but a new beginning – the team built on that experience by implementing and adapting open standards for last-mile delivery in Singapore (TR46 and TR61) to its solution. It continued working on various projects with enterprises to bring about efficiencies into their ecosystems and supply chains, building a technology team along the way to help develop computer vision applications.
Next came a team-up with IBM and its Bluemix Garage developers and designers to create a network of storage lockers for shipping and parcel delivery throughout Singapore. Fuelled by and built on IBM Cloud, the goal was to build a distributed ledger platform prototype specifically designed to manage commercial transactions between merchants, logistic vendors, locker companies and consumers – in other words, along the lines of an Uber or Grab for next-gen lockers.
The current solution has been implemented by an enterprise customer in Singapore since early July this year.
FreshTurf has also made inroads into China, and will be part of the IMDA-led Singapore delegation – comprising over 40 companies – heading to the inaugural Smart China Expo. To be held in Chongqing, the event is touted to be one of the largest ICT events in the country.
CEO Kevin Lim shared more about the company's fresh prospects in a chat with IMpact.
FreshTurf's blockchain-distributed solution can manage the commercial transactions between entities in the ecosystem: Merchants, logistic vendors, locker companies and consumers. (Photo: Pixabay)
As a technology firm in Singapore, what are your thoughts on how the ecosystem of the new economy is shaping up?
The current ecosystem for startups in Singapore is rather saturated, especially in the fintech space, and we do feel the constraints of a small domestic marketplace. However, given Singapore’s global position as a thought leader and first-mover, we do feel that opportunities and initiatives undertaken in our local market will yield a blueprint for success and mass market adoption in the region.
With Government support and the wide availability of grants available to local start-ups to build lasting IP-protected developments, and the use of available launch pads through IE and Spring Singapore, we strongly believe that the Singapore brand of tech initiatives will create a robust ecosystem for growth.
Going into China via Chongqing: How did FreshTurf start on this path?
After our engagements with IMDA during the Federated Lockers Interoperable Platform Discussions, the team actually connected us to the ChongQing Initiative. Also, during a number of exhibitions we have taken part in, both as exhibitors and delegates, there was ample coverage of the initiative and we became interested in the business potential.
I actually went up with the IMDA-led trade delegation in March 2018 and was introduced to Rizon Technologies, and things moved on from there. We are looking to have an MOU signed at the Smart China Event and we hope to achieve some progress with our commercialisation strategy with the partners assembled.
(Editor: Rizon Technologies is a joint venture between Singapore’s Y3 Technologies and Chongqing Transport Group.)
How has the journey into China been so far, and what has resulted thus far?
I would say it has been one of the cross pollination of ideas between partners to better localise and customise solutions to play to each other’s strengths, to penetrate the Chinese market. Rizon and Y3 Technologies’ exposure to the market has provided us with keen insights into the ecosystem we’re attempting to break into.
What do you hope to achieve at Smart China Expo?
Aside from the proposed MOU signing, I think the Smart China Expo will serve as a platform to allow FreshTurf to gain key exposure into the Chinese market. In terms of networking, the delegates and exhibitors we meet will serve as a good foundation to build lasting partnerships and collaborative initiatives for us.
Mr Kevin Lim was featured in an IBM video. FreshTurf collaborated with IBM Bluemix Garage developers and designers to build a blockchain-distributed ledger platform prototype.
What advice do you have to share with other Singapore tech companies who want to enter the China market?
The early identification of strategic partners will make the journey to China a lot more efficient, as I feel that the two economies are in stark contrast. The ability to localise and adapt will definitely sow the seeds for future success. The Chinese market is highly competitive, and they have been extremely successful in emerging as a technology leader for the region.
Collaboration and clever adaptation of technologies from company headquarters in both countries, I think, are key to building resilient global products. I believe that the collaborative initiatives and cross-pollination of ideas from both countries would lead to new and more resilient ideas and products being developed, and brought to market.
So, what’s the next big thing for Fresh Turf?
Besides Singapore and China, we’re working to have partnerships set up in India, specifically in Mumbai, and also in Malaysia and Thailand. Also, we’re building new products leveraging computer vision and machine learning to help bring more efficiencies to our clients.
Our vision remains the same: To ‘liquify’ the physical world much like how the internet has democratized access to information. We leverage new technologies like blockchain and computer vision to democratize access to physical asssets with value, thus growing from the internet of information, to the internet of value powered by trusted decentralised networks.