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evokeAG. 2022 Investor Dinner brings global agrifood capital together

It was billed as the ‘had to have’ ticket for investment-ready startups at evokeAG. 2020, and now interest in the evokeAG. 2022 Investor Dinner has stepped up a notch, with investors equally excited to secure their own seat at the table.

The evokeAG. 2022 Investor Dinner will offer investment-ready startups who have previously raised capital in funding rounds – or just plain bootstrapped their own company to date – to pitch to a room full of domestic and international investors over an intimate dinner, and networking drinks.

The exclusive event on the eve of evokeAG. offers the chance to facilitate conversations and connections between international and local investors and agrifood tech founders.

The inaugural event in 2020 invited five agrifood tech startups to pitch to a room of 70 investors and now planning is underway for the second Investor Dinner on the eve of evokeAG. 2022, in both Sydney and Perth.

Three investors who attended the 2020 Investor Dinner have eagerly accepted invitations to return to the 2022 occasion – and they’ve each got their own agendas, expectations, and tips for making it beyond startup stage.

Andy Ziolkowski – the man with 40 years in the game

2021 marks four decades in the venture capital game for UK-born, US-raised Andy Ziolkowski.

“My parents were displaced from their own countries, and ended up choosing the United States to raise their family because an uncle of mine was farming potatoes outside of New York,” said Andy.

It’s a full circle moment – a family decision made on an agricultural venture – that’s come good for Andy Ziolkowski, now known as one of the most high-profile investors in food and agritech.

As the Managing Director of Cultivian Sandbox and Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Cultivian Ventures, Andy and the team are now investing out of their third fund, off the back of an opportunity to invest in food and agritech back in 2006.

“Initially I invested in healthcare but then made one investment in the ag biotech sector and pivoted towards human health. It was early days and it was exciting,” he added.

“For a time, we tabled ag but what caught our eye was the growing population and the need to increase food supply – so there were certain challenges and a lot of it had to be dealt with through technology, whether it’s new seed varieties or new production techniques.

“No-one was on the train yet, and we were also early into robotics. The challenge with labour is growing in North America where I am, so I think robotics is now firmly entrenched in broadacre and speciality crops.

“You can see that trend being established with Blue River being acquired a few years back by John Deere – and I think you’re going to seem more acquisitions there

“Crop protection, biologics and a move away from ag chem is something we saw, and that trend is taking off – we’re always happy to be investing early.”

Phil Morle – producer, maker, venture builder

In his position as partner at Main Sequence Ventures – CSIRO’s Innovation Fund – Phil Morle was invited to share his experiences and insights as a keynote speaker at the evokeAG. 2020 Investor Dinner.

“It was such a positive experience and one of a really small number of moments where the investor community truly come together to look at the specific ag revolution space,” said Phil.

“It was an excellent mix of people from the very experienced investor to people trying to figure out next steps to get involved and that’s why I love this event. I go to learn from people and play my part in being a member of the community that’s building this new opportunity for Australia.”

What Phil Morle hadn’t anticipated from attending the Investor Dinner, was investing in one of the Australian startups that pitched at the 2020 event.

RapidAIM was instantly attractive because it’s deeply part of the global revolution steering away from toxic chemical pesticides and towards systems that saves farmer’s money and protects ecosystems,” he said.

“What’s most exciting about RapidAIM is that they’re addressing real problems for real customers. Australian agritech hasn’t always done the best job in doing this insofar as offering up the ‘flashing lights’ options that haven’t actually fixed the original problem.”

“And that’s what is important for the startups who attend evokeAG. 2022, and those lucky enough to be invited to the Investor Dinner. You’ve got to make sure your pitch addresses the change that’s happening in the world that requires the startups to exist in the first place.

“You’ve got to make sure you answer the question – ‘Why does this solution set it apart from everything else that already exists?’”

Jon Sandbrook – Positivity, key in harnessing opportunity

In a pandemic world, New Zealand-based WNT Ventures Investment Manager Jon Sandbrook, is focused on the positives.

“I take every opportunity to say we need more entrepreneurs and highlight the fact that it’s a spectacular time to be a founder right now,” said Jon.

“There’s a tonne of capital looking for a home and it’s more globally fluid than ever before. Building a remote team is real now because the infrastructure to make that happen has moved forward significantly – and there’s some big problems out there to be solved.”

For Jon, the biggest problems waiting for new solutions exist around climate and environment, food systems resilience, and the logistics opportunities exposed by COVID-19.

“These are issues that Australia and New Zealand startups are working on now, and thanks to platforms like evokeAG. the relationship between the two countries and the agritech industry is being nurtured, so there’s a harmonising around the conversation of challenges and opportunities,” he said.

“Australian investors are looking at New Zealand options and vice versa regularly these days and leveraging the support systems available, and that’s something they wouldn’t have entertained 5 to 10 years ago.

“The evokeAG. Investor Dinner plays a part in that too and while the 2020 event feels like a long time ago now, it was a really valuable event because I was able to make connections that have proved valuable since, and I’m excited to be invited back to attend in 2022.”

evokeAG. 2022 – the final pitch from investors

Andy Ziolkowski

“There are a lot of great opportunities in food and agriculture coming out of Australia, and you have to be there to understand them, see them and be ready hopefully to make investments. It was a difficult year for a lot of us, but I’m stoked about evokeAG. 2022 so bring it on – perseverance is the name of the game!”

Phil Morle

“You get a sense of what’s sparking interest, what’s getting traction and what’s new. It’s a shot in the arm, which is a highly effective use of time because you get to physically meet people, look at their product, understand how and why it works and experience that visceral sense of potential. Take every meeting that is offered – you never know what jewel of an opportunity is waiting to emerge.”

Jon Sandbrook

“Food and agriculture are some of the key pillars of human existence and there’s not a better industry to be involved in. No matter what angle you’re approaching evokeAG. 2022, there’s an optimistic and constructive tone to the conversations the meet facilitates, and that’s a space and opportunity that just hasn’t existed before – and that’s what makes this event special.”

Applications are now open for investment-ready startups to pitch at the evokeAG. Investor Dinner in Perth on Tuesday, 22 February, and Sydney on Monday, 14 March. Apply here. If you are an investor and would like to attend either Investor Dinners in Perth or Sydney, please express your interest to Dallas Pearce, evokeAG. Startup Program Manager via email here.

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