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Australia’s first national agtech innovation hub SproutX launches to transform agricultural industry

Australia’s first national agtech innovation hub SproutX has launched today to transform the country’s $60 billion agriculture industry. The innovation hub follows on from a recent StartupAUS report outlining how Australia’s agriculture sector, supported by agtech can develop into a $100 billion industry by 2030.

SproutX will become Australia’s first ever pre-accelerator, full accelerator and national co-working space for agtech startups. The initiative was formed by joint collaboration between Findex and the National Farmer’s Federation and has received the support of corporates, academia and government. The agtech initiative has been backed by $1 million in initial funding from the Victorian Government along with investment from other industry giants like Findex and Ruralco.

SproutX will look to spur the growth of Australia’s innovation agtech boom. Along with the innovation hub, a $10 million accelerator fund will kick start investment into new technology driven solutions to give agriculture a much needed boost. The fund is being supported by Artesian Venture Partners, which is taking the leap to invest the future of Australia’s agtech startups.

General Manager of SproutX, Sam Trethewey believes that the innovation boom has had a strong focus on fintech, which is not where the country’s competitive advantage lies. “Australia’s biggest natural advantage lies in agriculture, not fintech, and we need to invest to ensure that we lead the way in developing and commercialising innovations in agtech.”

Agribusiness is one of Australia’s fastest growing sectors and is expected to grow more than 10 percent faster than global gross domestic product. Agriculture is the largest employer in rural and regional communities, making up four percent of Australia’s total employment. Farms produce 93 percent of the nation’s domestic food supply and contribute nearly $42 billion of Australia’s export revenue.

The SproutX national program comprises of two key initiatives: a pre-accelerator and a full accelerator program. The programs looks to encourage entrepreneurs, particularly those with backgrounds in science and engineering to apply whether they have a startup idea or not.

The pre-accelerator will help entrepreneurs with startup ideas to commercialise any product or service in food, fibre or agribusiness. The accelerator will accept 100 applicants from across the country to join its eight-week intensive program. Entrepreneurs will receive business skills and learn lean startup principles, as well as gain access to mentors and a strong support network. Graduates of the program will receive a cash grant to help them pursue their venture, and those who show promise will enter the full accelerator in 2017.

“We’re still in our infancy, but it’s important to get behind the agtech industry now and stimulate its growth,” said Trethewey. “We need to connect innovators, investors and the agri-community to help bring ideas to fruition, and this pre-accelerator lays the groundwork for that.”

The Sprout X full accelerator is set to launch in 2017 and will be backed by the $10 million venture capital fund. The fund will look to invest in agtech areas of interest including IoT, remote sensors, farm management, robotics, biological control, biomaterials and agricultural marketplaces.

The fund is currently accepting investors and will be eligible to become recognised as an Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership (ESVCLP) by the federal government.

Minister of Agriculture and Regional Development, Jaala Pulford announced the $1 million in funding at the launch of the pre-accelerator at Marcus Oldham College in Geelong today. She said the decision to partner with SproutX and launch its Victorian chapter simply makes sense.

“Victoria is well and truly at the heart and soul of agriculture in Australia and we punch well above our weight due to the ingenuity and adaptability of our primary producers. Our state accounts for more than 27 percent of the nation’s total food and fibre exports and we employ more than 190,000 people across the supply chain.”

“The Andrews Labor Government is passionate to support young agricultural entrepreneurs turn an idea – into a reality. Agriculture has a proud history in Victoria and is set for a bright future,” she added.

Image: Sam Trethewey. Source: Supplied.