From social platform to Platfarm: Oli Madgett brings tech to the vineyard and beyond - evokeAG.

Use of cookies

The evokeAG. website uses cookies to enhance your experience and optimise site functionality.

Please refer to our Cookie Policy for more information on which cookies we use and how we collect and use your personal information through cookies

Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

From social platform to Platfarm: Oli Madgett brings tech to the vineyard and beyond

Oli Madgett wears many hats – grape grower, tech founder, advisor, mentor, and father. His adaptable nature and in-depth understanding of the agrifood industry has made him a go-to figure in Australian agritech.

Photography by Solomon Scopazzi

The former Facebook game developer’s journey with agritech began when he moved from the UK with his wife, Tara, from a small London house to a 6.5-hectare vineyard in South Australia’s picturesque McLaren Vale region, in 2015.

Oli and Tara, while experienced in tech development, quickly realised they needed to deepen their understanding of farming challenges. So, they learnt by getting their hands dirty on ‘Madgett’s Block’.

“You don’t understand what is happening within agriculture, unless you fully immerse yourself.”

Adopting a vineyard

Understanding the variability of the land, was key for Oli and Tara’s on-farm decision making and ongoing development of Madgett’s Block. However, they found it challenging to convert the information available, such as high-res satellite imagery, into practical terms.

RELATED: Space technology, a powerful tool for Australian farmers

Streamlining communication was one area Oli sought to improve in the vineyard.

Contractors were working on a range of different jobs in the vineyard, from ripping rows to promote growth to mulching to regulate the temperatures – and Oli wasn’t always on-farm. To help identify those tasks Oli used different coloured flags on specific rows in the vineyard. It was apparent there was a disconnect, he explained, and more effective methods were needed.

RELATED: Adrossan Orchards and using the Phytec app

This is where Oli’s “old life” in London specialising in tech development became useful in McLaren Vale – combining his knowledge of apps with his passion for agritech and innovative farming.

This led to Oli’s first product, Platfarm.

Platfarm is a mobile activity tracker for farming, making it simple and cost effective for growers to manage their land with precision. Oli and Platfarm Co-founder, Lyndsey Jackson, work together to make the possible, practical via a farmer’s phone. The initial build of the app only took six weeks to develop by Oli and Co-Founder, Andrew McDonnell.

The beginning stages of the app were developed in about five to six weeks. The technology was picked up by their agronomist, DJ’s Growers, shared with neighbours, and eventually Oli and Lyndsey applied to be a part of the SproutX accelerator program in 2018.

RELATED: Soil carbon markets: The risks, rewards, costs and complications

This was the moment Platfarm’s application evolved from their own farm, to thinking about how this could be scaled across the wine industry and further afield. The support of the SproutX program was pivotal in preparing Platfarm for this next stage of growth.

So, what is Oli’s advice for other startups, seeking to expand their reach?

“Don’t feel like you need to know every single thing. If you knew everything in the outset, you often wouldn’t take the leap. Sometimes a little bit of naivety is a good thing.”

Benefits of collaboration in agritech

The McLaren Vale grape growing community has a strong focus on collaboration and sustainability, and Madgett’s Block is closely aligned to this ethos.

RELATED: $2 million budget for pre-farm gate waste investment

“I see a lot of collaboration within the agritech community, as the industry understands what works for one industry, may work for another and how can we implement that.”

New technology is often tested on Madgett’s Block, which involves working with startups and agritech businesses to understand what they can do better. “We are always making mistakes, but technology is helping us get better at this,” said Oli.

RELATED: Global collaboration needed to drive Australian agrifood innovation 

Startups and businesses collaborating with Madgett’s Block:

  • Sentek to use and test their soil moisture sensors down to 1.5 meters
  • TalGil to use their Dream2 app, Oli is able to use his phone to turn on and off irrigation
  • CSIRO to test and undertake scanning of their rows
  • DataFarming & Specterra to get imagery from the vineyard to understand conditions
  • BitWise Agronomy to undertake trials with computer vision down the vine rows
  • Grazing Naturally provided training to local growers for cell grazing sheep trials

“One of the benefits of testing products and other startup’s tech on our property is supporting others in the agritech and startup community who have potential to create real value for the entire industry and through that, continue to build the community.”

The Australian agritech community is maturing quickly

“It is amazing to see the development of the ecosystem in the five years I have been in Australia. There has been a lot of great momentum for some great businesses, like AgriWebb. They are getting critical mass through word of mouth and virality.”

RELATED: AgriWebb’s investor journey to the UK 

Oli admits there is the challenge in Australia, “that we need to win as Australia, and not state by state”.

“What you see New Zealand doing really well is that they work as one united front in the agritech industry.”

So how can Australia’s agritech industry work more cohesively on a national scale?

“The fact that we have the Australian Agritech Association for agritech startups to have a voice as its own industry and not get buried under each industry is an important step.”

South Australia’s activity is helping to create much-needed buzz around the innovation and agritech sphere, coming off the back of Southstart, Australia’s leading impact and innovation festival.

RELATED: Vow’s path to success and the rise of cultured proteins 

Other events, which Oli is involved with, like AdvanceAg held in July and regular AgTech Meetups, are helping to foster collaboration across agritech.

AgTech Meetups were developed from the idea that, through collaboration, the agritech industry will be enabled to dig deep into different topics to understand where one area may benefit another.

Supporting Australia’s agritech community

AgriFutures Australia has played an important part of Oli’s journey in agritech and grape growing. He has been involved in the AgriFutures Ignite Panel, attended and contributed to both evokeAG. events, consulted on the development of growAG. and is a valuable contributor for the evokeag.com platform.

Oli Madgett speaking at the Future Young Leaders Evening, evokeAG. 2020.

“The evokeAG. event is quite aspirational. The ability to bring more than 1,000 diverse people together each year to discuss the future of agriculture is unbelievable.  The benefits of evokeAG. is the focus on the future of agriculture, the talent that is on stage and the feeling of being inspired.”

RELATED: evokeAG. 2020 day 1 wrap up

Oli believes the growAG. platform will help to break down the silos, often experienced across each of the agricultural industries.

“There is a lot of talk about the challenges of commercialising research and the discussion can be quite circular and go on for years, but growAG. really takes it further from discussion and puts wheels in motion.”


Enjoyed this story? Want to learn more about the Asia Pacific region’s innovative agrifood tech ecosystem? Sign up for our newsletter here and receive fresh stories about global leaders, farmers, startups and innovators driving collaborative change.

Read more news
Read more news

Read

Venus Citrus

Supply chain innovation, ChillSafe tackles food waste challenge

After 10 years of working with commercial businesses, Coolsan Australia will roll out its innovative ChillSafe technology to domestic consumers in July 2022. The patented, simple-to-use sachet is designed to reduce bacteria, mould and viruses in cool storages and keep food fresher for longer, resulting in less food wastage.

Tech
31 May 2022
5 min read

Why farmers need an agritech strategy, not just an agritech purchase

Understanding the holistic role of agritech is vital for increasing adoption and ensuring a healthy return on investment for farmers. Australian agritech leader and Founder of Farmbot, Andrew Coppin shares his tips on what producers should be asking before adopting technology.

Farm
31 May 2022
4 min read

What makes South Australia the state of innovation?

evokeAG. is set to return in 2023 and is heading to Adelaide, South Australia – the state of innovation. In the lead up to the global event we hear from South Australian agritech leaders Oli Madgett, Michael Macolino, and Penny Schulz about the homegrown innovations and why South Australia is the perfect place for evokeAG. 2023 Down to Earth.

Future
16 May 2022
5 min read

Listen

Trailblazing vertical farming with David Farquhar

Meet David Farquhar, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Scottish agritech company, Intelligent Growth Solutions – a trailblazer of vertical farming. Here Andy Lowe learns about this ground-breaking solution and the opportunities for farmers.

Farm
24 Jun 2022

Co-designing a vibrant legacy for the Goulburn Valley

Davi La Ferla of Sensand Technologies, a key partner in the NorVicFoods project, speaks about the possible innovations set to rejuvenate Victoria’s Hume region and why human-centered and tech-enabled solutions will help maximise business outcomes. 

Future
15 Jun 2022
30 min listen

The rules of farm data: how it’s used, shared and secured

Want to know how the National Farmers Federation Data Code is helping farmers and tech companies better navigate data governance? Oli Madgett speaks with Andrea Koch, the chair of the NFF Data Code working group, and Hamish Munro, CEO of PairTree Intelligence about this important issue.

Farm
1 Jun 2022
45 min listen