All-star mentoring line-up to deliver foundations to early stage innovators - evokeAG.

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All-star mentoring line-up to deliver foundations to early stage innovators

Cicada Growlab and evokeAG. have joined forces to create, the Grassroots Series, an online mentoring program to help nurture the next wave of Australia’s agrifood tech entrepreneurs.


Australia’s agrifood tech industry continues to demonstrate its ability to produce high-quality startups and solutions for agriculture and the food supply-chain. But, ideas alone do not create a successful startup.

Cicada Growlab and evokeAG. have partnered to deliver, the Grassroots Series, a virtual mentoring program designed to arm early stage agtech startups with the knowledge and entrepreneurial skills to grow, and shape our future agrifood system, launching Monday, 15 February 2021.

Melissa Verdino, Program Manager of Cicada Growlab, run by Australia’s leading deep tech incubator Cicada Innovations, said it promises to deliver value for participants regardless of where they are along their startup journey.

“Anyone with a big idea can participate,” said Melissa Verdino. “Maybe you’re a researcher looking to commercialise valuable IP or a school student with a bright idea. If you can see a problem that needs solving and have an idea, we want you to participate, whoever you are.”

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The Grassroots Series comprises of six educational webinars released each week between 15 February – 22 March 2021 on the evokeAG. website, with no fees or registration necessary to join the conversation.

Each webinar will feature a specific theme, covering the foundational building blocks of agrifood entrepreneurship.

Tactical skills for modern entrepreneurs

While there’s no silver bullet to success, there is a wealth of knowledge early stage founders can tap into during the program, through exposure to industry experts with tactical skills, unique perspectives and tips to avoid common pitfalls.

“You’ll find out what you need to launch a successful venture, gain exposure to industry experts and hear from like-minded founders who share your vision of changing the world,” said Melissa.

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Along with the webinars, the Grassroots Series will offer participants a rare opportunity to receive one-on-one mentoring from a highly-experienced industry expert, from global companies like Rabobank, KPMG, Microsoft, Amazon and more, including local agrifood tech leaders.

“People need to register for the mentor hours, so we can match them with appropriate mentors,” Melissa explained.

“Our mentors are our brains trust and bring a wide range of expertise. Participants will book in for one free 45-minute session, but spots are limited.”

The Grassroots Series’ Mentor Network:

  • Gordon Black, East West Capital
  • Dr Dharmica Mistry, Cicada Innovations
  • Patrick Sieb, InfraTech Partners
  • Brooke Sauer, IntellectAg
  • Tash Ayers, AgriStart
  • Colette Grgic, Amazon
  • Mike Nicholls, Main Sequence Ventures
  • Tristan Shannon, KPMG
  • Nat Gibson, Rabobank
  • Matthew Lipscombe, Cochlear
  • Kieren Parker, Addisons Lawyers
  • Scott Bremner, DLL
  • Topaz Conway, UNSW

Intellect Ag’s Brooke Sauer is part of the ‘brains trust’ and will offer her expertise as a digital agriculture specialist and die-hard problem-solver, throughout the webinars and as a program mentor.

“I see it as part of my work to give back to the community,” said Brooke. “But to be honest, I get as much out of these sorts of interactions as the mentees do.”

Brooke is most excited about, ‘Session 3: Getting tight with farmers’, which offers advice on how to best engage with farmers and receive feedback, how to best create credibility and build your idea into a product that farmers will want to adopt.

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While the Grassroots Series is specific to agrifood tech startups and explores ag-specific themes, such as Brooke’s session, it also draws upon other tech industries because the foundational knowledge is the same for any tech startup.

“Agtech differs only in context; agriculture by nature is such a dynamic industry,” said Brooke.

“The same level of agility and responsiveness to dynamic challenges is required to be a successful entrepreneur in agtech.”

“We’re really excited to see who participates in the program,” Melissa added. “We’re hoping to connect these aspiring problem solvers with the support they need to get their ideas off the ground.”

Brooke concluded, “If each participant learns just one piece of information that might direct them into addressing something they hadn’t thought about before, then that’s a highly worthwhile investment of their time.”

Learn more about the Grassroots Series program, starting 15 February 2020, and register for your online mentorship session here.

Session 1: Are you solving a real problem?

Session 2: Don’t skip the legal stuff

Session 3: Getting tight with farmers

Session 4: The art of empathy

Session 5: Distribution & sales

Session 6: The fundamentals of funding

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