In an Australian first, a venture capital fund was set up in 2016 to propel people to solve agricultural problems with technological innovation.
It is an an incubator/accelerator program called SproutX. The applicant brings their idea and the program provides legal advice, business mentoring, test markets, farmers and distribution suggestions along with an intensive 8 week program and $40,000 for an 8% equity stake in the business.
Industry and production problems can be submitted to SproutX by farmers and agribusiness people for those who apply to the program with the skills and enthusiasm, but do not have a business/tech idea. Applicants can take these problems and use them to go through the accelerator program.
SproutX was initially supported by the National Farmers Federation and Findex but now garners national support from corporates and institutions. Australia ranks very low in investment startup funding compared to Israel, the USA and Canada. The hope is that the investment in innovation will benefit the Australian agriculture industry, and allow Australian start ups to succeed with their product globally.
In an article written in the Financial Review Sarah Last said "the agtech industry had a "chicken and egg problem" wherein farmers didn't talk to innovators without a product, but product development required the insight of farmers. Early stage funding and the connections to farms to actually test and commercialize our ideas are crucial to agtech,"
The additional benefit to the industry of this investment in ag tech is not just the possible product gains, but that "agriculture is the new sexy" as mentioned by many presenters at the Hort Connections Conference in May, 2017.
An agricultural insights survey from the Commonwealth Bank, reported in The Australian states:
"The resurgence of optimism in the agricultural sector, as well as the arrival of drones, robots, farming apps and mobile-phone controlled GPS-machinery, is also fueling a dramatic influx of young people to the agricultural sector.
More farmers are preparing to increase spending on technology, hire more workers and use more outside advisers and consultants than ever before, in a bid to become more productive and profitable.
After years of national lamenting that the average age of farmers was in the mid-50s and that few rural-reared children wanted to remain on the land, the survey this year revealed a big 10 per cent of all Australian farms expect to welcome back returning adult offspring this year."
Investing in innovation and embracing local tech companies should only help to strengthen the industry.
Information sourced from:
SproutX, http://sproutx.com.au/, 23, May 2017.
Redrup, Y. Financial Reveiw, "SproutX launches $10m agriculture tech fund and start0up accelerator. 15 September 2016. http://www.afr.com/technology/sproutx-launches-10m-agriculture-tech-fund-and-startup-accelerator-20160915-grgp4k#ixzz4hsWvGAgc
Neales, S. The Australian, "Survey shows farmers optimistic about the future", 16 May 2017. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/survey-shows-farmers-optimistic-about-the-future/news-story/9081c7bd04da5b5b3ea0053ede68f46d
Photo sourced from:
http://www.thesleuthjournal.com/seeds-commons/ 23 May 2017.