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Australia’s agrifood tech leaders join forces to drive on-farm adoption

AgriStart and evokeAG. have teamed up to create The Startup Network, an educational program to elevate the strength of Australia’s agrifood startups and deepen the connections with growers to support the adoption of new technologies.

4 min read

Coupling potential agrifood tech solutions with industry knowledge is the aim of the evokeAG.  Startup Network, which will be open for applications from 28 April until 17 May 2021.

AgriStart Managing Director Dr Natasha Teakle, who will deliver the program, said up to ten businesses, selected through a competitive process, would be accepted into the program.

“People who are looking for opportunities to run adoption trials with farmers will be well suited to the program,” said Natasha.

“Too often startups are afraid to go to farmers until their product is perfect. They are scared to put farmers off. But my personal opinion is that they need to go to farmers to get that early feedback on prototypes.”

Natasha said agtech was about solving problems for farmers, be it through new technologies or new approaches using software or robotics, but also encompasses innovations in food, such as a new techniques that enable raw commodities to be processed.

“We want to hear from people who are ready to begin on-farm trials with farmers and ready to pitch to investors,” she said. “The Startup Network will build their capability to pitch to farmers and to pitch to investors. It will help them to communicate their value proposition to farmers.

“The program will provide a national network – a lot of startups want to sell across Australia and potentially globally as well.”

Leading agrifood tech mentors offer valuable knowledge for startups

Natasha said participants in the program would learn from and be mentored by leaders in agtech.

“We have a great line up of speakers and mentors from across agriculture and technology,” she said.

RELATED: Tips for building an agritech startup that solves real problems

Innovative broadacre farmer and early adopter, from Tammin, WA, Brad Jones, who is also a pilot, agtech developer and cornerstone investor, will fulfil a teaching and mentoring role in the program. Brad is well positioned for the role, with extensive experience in all phases and positions of agtech, or as he put it: “I’m at the pointy end, the blunt end and the roll-over-and-can’t-sleep end of agtech.”

Brad believes that if an idea is good, it will eventually find traction.

“You have to have confidence to back yourself,” he said. “When you’ve got investors coming on board, that will give you confidence.

“The best thing about agtech is that it’s bringing a whole heap of youth back into ag. Not necessarily through the old pathway of where you grew up on a farm, your parents were farming and you followed suit. Now there’s a lot of really smart new people coming into ag and that’s great.

“There’s plenty of young entrepreneurs, and some who are not necessarily young, with good ideas. They’re not really at the beta testing stage, but are at the due diligence stage. They can ask questions of farmers.”

Deeper connections, the key ingredient for agrifood startups and farmers’ success

Pip Grant, AgriFutures Senior Manager Agrifood Engagement & Events, said the evokeAG.  Startup Network will build the networks and capability of Australian agrifood startups to support adoption of new technologies on-farm.

“Due to COVID-19, we weren’t able to hold the evokeAG. event this year,” she said. “Startup Alley has been an important component of evokeAG.  in previous years; identifying innovators that are going to make a difference to farmers and across the food supply-chain. The Startup Network is a way of filling that gap and providing mentors and connections to agritech developers.

RELATED: growAG: The gateway connecting the world to Australia’s agrifood innovation

“There will be a lot of information exchanged between tech developers, advisors and farmers, creating valuable conversations between the key players.

“Some of the brightest people are out there solving problems for agriculture but they don’t necessarily know how to pitch their ideas to farmers. Yet, if you pitch well to farmers, you don’t necessarily need to pitch to venture capitalists; if your customer can see your value, investors will too.”

RELATED: How to create strong startup-investor relationships

Participants in the evokeAG.  Startup Network program will attend a series of online webinars and participate in mentoring sessions. They will receive a bursary of up to $1,000 for flights and accommodation to attend events in Wagga Wagga in July. They will also be featured in the evokeAG. Startup Directory and the evokeAG. Startup Network, including an article and podcast.

The top three grower’s choice recipients will receive a professionally produced pitch video, filmed on-farm, showcasing their product and how they can offer return on investment for their customers.

Natasha said startups with an agrifood innovation that is providing a solution to on-farm challenges and with a product ready for a farmer to trial on-farm are encouraged to apply. Businesses must be registered in Australia and founded less than five years ago.

Learn more about the program and apply here.

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