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Peter Wren-Hilton

The Australia New Zealand agritech ecosystem just got a MASSIVE post-evokeAG boost

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The key theme at last week’s evokeAG conference in Melbourne was the power of collaboration.

In New Zealand, this has been a key driver for the past two years. Agritech New Zealand has succeeded in bringing together different key stakeholders from across the agritech ecosystem to create a sector-wide community; a community made up of industry, research, investment and government partners. Over the past 12 months, we have worked together to develop a long-term Agritech Industry Transformation Plan. You can view and download the final draft of this work from the MBIE website here.

This power of sector collaboration is now well understood in Australia and it was great to see the formal launch of the Australian Agritech Association (AAA) earlier this month. Its co-founders are Andrew Coppin, Sarah Nolet, Craig Shapiro, Matthew Pryor and Mike Briers. I’ve worked closely with these folk for a long time and it’s a hugely positive step for New Zealand’s own agritech sector, that the AAA has been established. A strong Aussie agritech sector is helping generate a viable and powerful regional ecosystem. To create global impact, that’s absolutely critical for New Zealand.

For the past nine months, I have been working with the same awesome Aussies to develop a dynamic framework for sector collaboration between Australia and New Zealand. The formal establishment of the Australia New Zealand Agritech Council last September was an important step in this journey. It brought together key ecosystem builders on both sides of the ditch.

This collaborative framework was formally recognised at a meeting organised by the Council on Thursday morning immediately following the evokeAG conference. (Thanks to Austrade for hosting). It has provided a MASSIVE long-term boost to the Council’s vision for the region’s agritech ecosystem.

On the New Zealand side, we were joined by Dame Annette King, the NZ High Commissioner to Australia; Vanessa O’Neill, the NZ Consul General & Trade Commissioner to Victoria; David Downs, the NZ Government agritech taskforce lead; Grant Bryden, Director for Primary Sector Futures at MPI, together with Angela Traill & Mitali Purohit, key representatives from NZTE & Callaghan Innovation. Dame Annette made it clear that she and the NZ Inc. team based in Australia would provide enthusiastic ongoing support for the vision.

On the Australian side, we were joined by Chantal Jackson, Director, Agricultural Innovation and Productivity, Ministry of Agriculture; Tim Lester, Executive Officer of the Council of Rural R&D Corps; Michiel Van Lookeren Campagne, Director of Agriculture and Food at CSIRO; Charlie Thomas, General Manager, Digital & Industry Partnerships, National Farmer’s Federation; John Harvey, Managing Director of AgriFutures Australia, together with leading representatives from a number of Australian states.

The meeting discussed the Council’s vision for identifying opportunities for trans-Tasman collaboration. One of our first key missions is to promote the region to the global investment community. Attracting international capital into the region will help support and scale some of our most promising early stage companies. Both the New Zealand and the Australian government representatives recognised the value of this collaborative approach and it will be tested for the first time next month during the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in San Francisco. This event provides a platform for several Australia New Zealand Agritech Council members to share that vision with leading global investors and agribusinesses. I look forward to joining my Aussie colleagues in the Bay area as we make that pitch.

In his closing remarks on Wednesday at the evokeAG conference, John Harvey, Managing Director of AgriFutures Australia talked about how the first evokeAG conference in 2019 had created a splash, the 2020 version a ripple, and how he wanted the 2021 event to create a wave. Thursday’s Agritech Council meeting was designed to help generate that first wave. It’s scheduled to hit the shores of San Francisco Bay on 17-18 March.

I look forward to updating on the impact it causes.

Peter Wren-Hilton Peter is Executive Director of Agritech New Zealand and founder of Wharf42 in Tauranga. Peter helps organise major agritech conferences in New Zealand and offshore and connects early stage New Zealand agritech companies with international markets.