Why Australian Agri-food Tech Is Ripe For The Picking Exploring agri-food tech investment opportunities in Australia and New Zealand

By John Harvey, Managing Director, AgriFutures Australia

With highly productive agriculture sectors, sophisticated farming practices and great science and innovation infrastructure, Australia and New Zealand are on the cusp of something special. All the ingredients are right and the future is bright for the export of agri-food tech. Our innovation ecosystem may be relatively new compared to the US and Israel, but the opportunities for investors are ones where a small amount of capital can have a really big impact.

As the Managing Director of AgriFutures, Australia, I am in a unique position to see the opportunities and challenges facing our country’s agriculture industries, and agri-food tech innovation is one of the brightest spots on the horizon. I can see the energy, enthusiasm, expertise and passion, particularly in young people, and a new culture of collaboration is fuelling our innovations. With Australian and New Zealand startups, incubators, accelerators and the like are forging connections across the country and around the world. We are discovering new ways to look at traditional agriculture and new ways to boost productivity and profits.

However, it’s not just about improving agricultural production at home. Australia and New Zealand know how to think globally. Both countries are net exporters of food, with Australia selling around 65 per cent of its farm production overseas, feeding almost two and a half times our own population each year. This global mindset is critical if we want to maximize our agricultural expertise and start exporting AgTech as well.

In New Zealand especially, agri-food tech is fast becoming an important export built around the country’s value proposition of quality. Yamaha Motor Co. signed a deal in 2018 with New Zealand’s Robotics Plus for its robotic apple pickers and this local technology is now set to take on the world.

"We are discovering new ways to look at traditional agriculture and new ways to boost productivity and profits"

In Australia too, our agri-food tech innovations are taking on an export focus and looking for ways to improve agricultural productivity not only at home but around the world. One Australian busin¬¬¬ess that is changing the future of food is Goterra, a startup which secured seed funding in 2018. Run by AgriFutures Australia 2018 Rural Women’s Award finalist, Olympia Yarger, Goterra is a food waste management company that uses modular robotic systems to manage food waste using insects, turning it into protein-dense livestock food.

In addition, Australia and New Zealand are a perfect test market for international innovations. Our smart farmers, advanced researchers, diverse production systems and proximity to Asia, a huge market for both technology and food, mean Australia and New Zealand are great foundation markets. From here you can commercialize effectively and ramp up fast in order to take on the rest of the world. Plus, our farmers would be pretty excited to get a first look at new international agri-food technologies.

This burgeoning of Australian and New Zealand’s agri-food tech industries and a need for international investors to have a single place to see the best of what we have to offer all in one place led AgriFutures Australia to launch evokeAG, Asia Pacific’s largest agri-food tech event And we’re doing it all again on 18 and 19 February 2020, bringing Australia, New Zealand and Asia’s brightest agriculture and technology minds together at one event to meet the world.

We know how geographically large Australia is; combine us with New Zealand and you’ve got an ecosystem that’s too spread out and hard for visitors to get to know quickly. So that’s what evokeAG is all about. Spend two days in Melbourne and you can see the best of the best in Australian and New Zealand agri-food tech, have a great time at our food festival, listen to startups in the Startup Showcase or Startup Alley, and connect with local and international delegates via the bespoke event app. You can then hit the beach for a day or two knowing you’ve seen all the innovation that we’ve got going on and get home in time for the weekend.

It’s a great opportunity for investors to make connections with researchers and help our local startups take the leap onto the global stage. It’s the place for US, Israeli, European and UK-based startups to come and see how our market could work as a ‘test market’ and where collaboration with Australian and New Zealand-based organizations would help boost their business.

In 2020, evokeAG will allow delegates to explore what’s next in the agri-food tech space, covering three main themes; food, farm and future. evokeAG is a unique experience delivering diverse topics from across the region and around the world. It is the only event of its type where people come together to connect, collaborate and evolve all things agriculture.

This year we attracted 1,191 delegates representing all facets of the ecosystem from 30 different countries, featured 115 speakers over 37 sessions and hosted seven international delegations. Come and see just how ripe for the picking the agri-food tech sector in the Asia Pacific is. We’re open for business and our startups are gearing up to take on the world.

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