The AgTech sector is rapidly growing in Australia, with enhanced on farm connectivity enabling the adoption of new technologies. However, in WA there has been a lack of support for start-up companies in the AgTech space who are looking to partner with farmers to trial their technology and/or attract investment.
WA’s first AgTech Accelerator program, HARVEST, ran for the second time in August 2018. Two programs were delivered as part of this round:
Regional Innovation Intensive: Held over one week at Muresk Institute with 7 participants.
Agtech Accelerator (Perth): One-day per week for 3 months with 9 participants.
In addition, two meat related ventures supported by MLA (Livestock Pricing and Latitude28) received an additional 3 months incubation and mentoring.
Both programs focused on filling the skills and networks gap needed for innovative companies in the Agri sector to grow, raise capital and to export. More than 100 leaders in the agriculture and innovation sectors attended the launch and Regional Innovation Networking event at Liberty Conference Facilities, featuring a keynote address from Mussaret Nagaree (Innovation Lead at WesCEF), and an interactive panel discussion with Frank D’Emden (Decipher), Gary Rogers (Hemp Homes), Amanda Walker (Wheatbelt Business Network) and Susan Hall (DPIRD).
The Perth based program ran over 12 weeks and featured more than 30 guest speakers and expert mentors on topics such as strategic expansion planning, capital raising, export market pathways, agri corporate ‘speed dating’ session, technology partnerships, digital marketing and branding, testing and market expansion validation, investor readiness, pitch and media training). A highlight of the program included a 2-day agri-innovation field tour (hosted by Wheatbelt Development Commission and City of Wanneroo).
The intensive version at Muresk proved to be a highly effective model, and included similar topics to above, with more than 20 guest speakers attending over the week, including David Beatty from MLA. Feedback from the participating cohort and all involved was extremely positive, with all valuing the opportunity and new contacts made in the agri sector. All participants stated they would recommend HARVEST to other businesses at a similar growth stage.
The HARVEST 2.0 program concluded with an investor pitch session, plus a high profile showcase event with more than 150 industry leaders attending to watch the final pitches and visit the business displays. Keynote speaker for the event was Sarah Nolet, from Agthentic and Tenacious Ventures. Prizes were announced by Liam O’Connell (DPIRD) and were:Agtech Investor Ready Prize, sponsored by DPIRD: Livestock Pricing (Rob Kelly)Business Growth Award, sponsored by AgWorld and Hopgood Ganim: Stratus Imagery (Jonathon Smith)Export Award, sponsored by Triangle Equity Partner: Latitude 28 (James Williamson)Regional Innovation Prize, sponsored by Liberty: WA Pure Honey (Matt Colvin)
The program delivered valuable exposure to the participants, including media coverage, invites to agrisector events (including discounted exhibition space with DPIRD at field days) and industry awards nights, guest speaker invites, and direct meetings with potential investors, partners and customers.
The HARVEST 2.0 programs received extensive positive coverage in print, radio and social media. Articles were featured in WA Business News, ABC Radio, The Countryman, Farm Weekly, Northern Valley News and Start-up News. The accelerator also featured on the global website Start-up Nation Central.
The HARVEST 2.0 programs accelerated all participants in their investor readiness, and those that were open to new capital injection have been given direct introductions to investment groups from Perth Angels plus Venture Capital firms from WA, interstate and Asia. Access to the HARVEST Alumni network has also been of value to participants.
The two MLA supported ventures, Livestock Pricing and Latitude 28, also benefited from an additional 3 months of incubation and mentoring, with both receiving new capital and winning awards.
In summary, the key outcomes from HARVEST 2.0 have been:
Collaborations developed within the sector and between businesses, including for program sponsorsCapacity, Capability and Confidence building for participantsCreated investment and export opportunities for participants and affiliated businessesConnected WA innovators to the Australian and global agtech scene
Future programs are looking to support agtech start-ups into their growth phase via investment attraction and securing long-term suppliers/customers. Educating potential investors about the opportunities in the agtech space is also critical. Finally, ensuring producers/processors are involved in accelerator programs is critical for validation of new ideas for the meat industry and opportunities for strategic investment.