What makes South Australia the state of innovation? - evokeAG.

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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.

Adelaide Convention Centre evokeAG Down to Earth 2023 will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre, South Australia on 21-22 February 2023. Photo by Solomon Scopazzi.

Oli Madgett, CEO and Co-Founder of Platfarm, and McLaren Vale grape grower

Oli Madgett at The Madgetts Block. Photography by Solomon Scopazzi.

Q: What are you most passionate about in agrifood innovation?

The connection between agrifood innovation and sustainability. We’re also working in a ‘moment’ where we can make a significant positive impact to farmers and the environment.

I’m also excited and passionate about building a collaborative, and increasingly vibrant, agritech community in South Australia.

Q: If you were to show international or interstate visitors (interested in agrifood innovation) one or two things in South Australia what would they be?

It’s hard to go past the McLaren Vale wine region, just a 45 min drive south of Adelaide.

Visiting the eclectic ‘cathedral’ that is the d’Arenberg Cube is a must! As is the contrasting picturesque Coriole Vineyards cellar door – you can’t just go to one winery in South Australia!

The South Australian wine industry has this incredible ability to share its stories and to create lifelong fans of its brands. The region has also done a wonderful job championing sustainability and biodiversity and there are lessons in this for Australian agriculture more broadly.

Grapevines in McLaren Vale and the d’Arenberg Wine Cube. Photography by Solomon Scopazzi.

Q: Top reasons why Adelaide and South Australia are such a hotspot for innovation?

Over the past few years, we’ve really felt the momentum building around the South Australian innovation ecosystem.

In terms of what makes SA such a hotspot for innovation:

  • the excellent _SOUTHSTART conference
  • the ongoing development of the Lot Fourteen precinct
  • the achievements of the space community in South Australia
  • and the benefits that space is increasingly delivering to industries like agriculture.

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Michael Macolino, Associate Director AgTech at BDO

Michael Macolino and John Harvey, AgriFutures Managing Director at _SOUTHSTART 2021. Photography by Solomon Scopazzi.

Q: What are you most passionate about in agrifood innovation?

We live in a time where we are seeing multiple breakthrough technologies reach commercial maturity (cloud, robotics, IoT, synthetic biology, etc.) and all of these have a direct application to agriculture and food. They provide a toolkit to significantly transform our food system, and to be more efficient and effective at providing nutrition around the world.

Q: If you were to show international or interstate visitors (interested in agrifood innovation) one or two things in South Australia what would they be?

First off, the University of Adelaide’s Waite research precinct. It is the largest agriculture and food research precinct in the Southern Hemisphere, located just 20 minutes outside of Adelaide.

Secondly, the Northern Adelaide Plains region houses 5,500 hectares of intensive horticulture, in both indoor and outdoor agricultural systems. The area has an extensive (and underutilised) recycled water system, which provides the perfect opportunity for new forms of intensive agriculture such as vertical farming.

Q: Top reasons why Adelaide and South Australia are such a hotspot for innovation?

Here are my top seven reasons:

  1. South Australia has a long history of research and innovation, and globally recognised institutions like the University of Adelaide.
  2. The low cost of housing and office space, enables businesses to cost effectively attract talent and scale.
  3. Ease of movement across the city and into the regions enabling connectivity between people and organisations.
  4. Strong investment from the South Australian Government in initiatives such as Lot Fourteen, the SA Venture Capital Fund, Department of Primary Industries and Regions’ AgTech demonstration sites, _SOUTHSTART (plus more).
  5. We now have a second and third wave of successful entrepreneurs in the state. These entrepreneurs are supporting the growth of the startup innovation ecosystem and investing in early-stage innovation.
  6. Recognition from investors and VCs as an innovative state.
  7. Wine, so much amazing wine.

Penny Schulz, agricultural consultant, farmer and teacher

Penny Schulz. Photography by Solomon Scopazzi.

Q: What are you most passionate about in agrifood innovation?

The potential for technology to solve some of food production’s greatest challenges.

I am a red meat and wool producer who also works off-farm as a consultant, university lecturer, and in industry advisory roles. The technology changes I have seen in the past decade have been fantastic. But I feel we’re actually on the cusp of some more revolutionary tech and tech collaborations. This is particularly in relation to data management, measuring and improving our environmental credentials, as well as a more connected and transparent value chain.

RELATED: Global exports and the green ‘basket fillers’ 

Some of the ways in which we do business in farming are a bit archaic and many other sectors wouldn’t put up with some of our terms of trade, so I am hopeful for a more innovative and agile way to do business in the not too distant future too!

Q: If you were to show international or interstate visitors (interested in agrifood innovation) one or two things in South Australia what would they be?

So, so, so many things! This is not an exhaustive list by any means but a few to add to the list

Lot Fourteen, Adelaide. Photography by Solomon Scopazzi.

  • Lot 100 – Just north of Nairne, in the Adelaide Hills, Lot 100 is a collective and home of five of South Australia’s best, forward-thinking, food and craft beverage producers. Lot 100 celebrates craft, sustainability and local produce.

Q: Top reasons why Adelaide and South Australia are such a hotspot for innovation?

Being a smaller state in population, we’ve learned to be collaborative and cooperative to get stuff done. Southern Aussies are very supportive of South Australian-based companies and people who want to do business in South Australia.

We’re also the driest state on the driest continent on Earth, with a huge variation in climate and landscapes and farming systems to adapt to. As a result, we are accustomed to being resilient, and innovative through necessity!

Plus, in the last few years the government has been very supportive of innovation and entrepreneurship, which has been a great enabler.


Discover for yourself why South Australia is such a hotspot for innovation. Tickets for evokeAG 2023 Down to Earth are now on sale here.

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