By Peter Rossdeutcher
The application of AgTech will create significant competitive advantages for nations as exporters and producers. In Australia, there is huge momentum building in technology-centric innovation activity in food and agriculture.
Australia has the primary production, research and expertise to provide agrifood and business tech on a serious scale. In particular, Western Australia has a significant opportunity as a scale producer and exporter of value-added agriculture and premium to Asia, and new initiatives are focused on making resources and support available to entrepreneurs to help capitalize on this potential.
The next few years will be critical in developing more mature growth pathways that blend sector domain expertise with innovative technology and entrepreneurs. Hon Alannah MacTiernan, Western Australian Minister for Regional Development, and Agriculture and Food said that investing in AgTech development and applying new technologies is critical for the Western Australia’s competitiveness and productivity within this industry.
“We are really excited about this project and the ability for us to provide people in this post start-up stage a real boost to their business which is fundamentally allowing farmers to take advantage of modern technology to farm better and to farm smarter,” Minister MacTiernan said.
AgriStart’s HARVEST program is at the forefront of local initiatives supporting AgTech companies to develop and scale, and part of a wider ecosystem supporting the growth of the AgTech industry in Australia.
From edible insects, livestock tracking and big data analytics to soil improvement, aerial surveying and wind turbine technology, Western Australia’s most innovative small businesses form the first cohort of the HARVEST program. These companies are at a point where they are ready to have a broader impact, so HARVEST is providing them export readiness guidance, access to networks and investment opportunities to support their next stage of expansion.
Convergio - Convergio are applying the latest technologies in computer vision, machine learning and data analytics to develop next-generation solutions for virtual simulation and economic modelling to enable farmers to improve yields, extend capacity, diversify products, enter new markets.
GeoMoby - GeoMoby technology provides cost-effective solutions to several problems in agriculture by coupling of real-time data with accurate position information, leading to efficient analysis of large amounts of geospatial. It supports applications including livestock tracking, fencing automation, lone worker tracking and farm mapping.
Grubs Up - Grubs Up is WA's first edible insect farm, providing an alternative to beef and lamb as a protein source for human food and animal feed. Grubs Up aims to scale up insect farming that is sustainable with a zero-waste system, with minimal environmental impact.
MALDIID - Identification of rhizobia, the critical soil bacteria needed for legumes to provide nitrogen to the soil, can be expensive and time-consuming. The MALDIID technology provides rapid and efficient rhizobia identification without the need to culture the bacteria, allowing farmers to manage their legume crops and pastures more effectively.
Mapizy - Mapizy's machine learning platform can rapidly process satellite, drone and terrestrial imagery data and create an accurate inventory of crops, trees, weeds, pests and diseases. Equipped with this new type of information, agriculture businesses can make better decisions and improve performance.
P&A Pan - P&A Pan is a second generation, family run business that has traditionally grown fruit and vegetables. Their new venture involves soilless micro herbs grown in a sea container within a controlled environment, with the goal to be chemical free and use less water.
Precision Agronomics Australia - Precision Agronomics is focused on improving agricultural practises by developing customised soil mapping, data processing and machinery control solutions that help solve the practical problems for the world's farmers, such as reducing input and labour costs, optimising crop yield and quality, while minimising adverse environmental effects.
Scientific Aerospace - Scientific Aerospace is focused on designing and producing world-leading high precision aerial surveying solutions. Aerial surveying of soil & crop health will help farmers to identify plant vigour, pests, diseases and soil water content.
Windturbine - Windturbine is looking to solve issues with remote water pumping requirements for agriculture using renewable energy sources. The Windturbine solution combines wind and solar along with battery storage to provide a 24-hour pump on-demand solution to remote irrigation.
The first workshop of HARVEST program on Friday focused on a strategic business planning session and featured a line-up of expert speakers including Nicole Keating (CSBP), Peter May (DPIRD), Julian Coyne (AIIA), Greg Riebe from Triangle Capital Partners, Dr Natasha Ayers (AgriStart) and Adjunct Professor Peter Rossdeutscher (Atomic Sky).
The mentor-intensive program will feature 40 experts from around the world such as Trendlines AgTech, BayWa, CISCO, Wesfarmers, AgWorld, Austrade, GRDC, RuralCo and Plumb Grove.
Minister MacTiernan stated at the HARVEST launch; "We want to create an environment to support businesses to develop their ideas, technologies, business models and commercialise their products in global markets. Our local AgTech companies have the opportunity to come up with innovative technology-based solutions to make our agriculture and food industry more efficient, and capitalise on opportunities in growing export markets.”
WA Chief Scientist Peter Klinken highlighted the opportunity when opening the HARVEST launch event said it was essential for the WA agricultural industry to stay one step ahead of international competitors by taking seriously the investment into the development and innovation within the industry. “Let’s make sure we don’t sit on our hands and watch everyone else go past us. We don’t want future generations to wonder what we did when we had the opportunity. We want them to think ‘They did a good job”.