Wagga Wagga is set to boost its agtech chops further, with impact investment services firm Blue River Group launching Bridge Hub, an innovation hub to test and commercialise new ideas in the agrifood sector.
To be headquartered in Wagga Wagga, Bridge Hub will also have operations in Sydney and Israel, with the goal of bringing together industry, researchers, and government to develop startups to benefit producers and consumers.
Craig Shapiro and Grant Fuzi, co-CEOs of Blue River Group, said the launch of Bridge Hub continues the firm’s focus on innovation and investment opportunities in the agrifood sector.
“Bridge Hub is an exciting opportunity for Blue River Group to continue its commitment to a more sustainable agrifood sector by creating a collaborative ecosystem that is industry led and outcome focused,” Fuzi said.
Bridge Hub will offer a range of services, from industry problem statement development to tailored startup support, investment opportunities, and access to a network of trial farms and food manufacturing facilities for proof of concept, market testing, and validation services.
The launch of the hub is being supported by foundation sponsors including Charles Sturt University, AgriFutures Australia, King & Wood Mallesons, and KPMG.
“Collaboration is a primary focus of Bridge Hub and will increase the likelihood of agrifood tech startups succeeding on a global scale,” Shapiro said.
Blue River Group first announced its intentions to open a hub in Wagga Wagga early last year, following its acquisition of Wagga Wagga dairy brand Riverina Fresh.
The focus on building links with Israel through the hub had come, Shapiro told Startup Daily at the time, following a trip to Israel, where they saw its work in agricultural innovation.
“We noticed that Israel has an amazing agricultural sector and farming spaces despite working in the desert, so we thought what they were doing could be directly applicable to Australia’s agricultural dryland,” he said.
Ethy Levy, former Israel Trade Commissioner in Australia and cofounder of Bridge Hub, said, “The Bridge Hub is a game changer in the Australian agrifood tech ecosystem thanks to its global connectivity and unique business model.”
Levy will serve as Bridge Hub’s Israel CEO.
The launch of the hub follows Charles Sturt University (CSU), coworking community Working Spaces HQ, and Wagga Wagga City Council last week receiving a $300,000 grant from the NSW Government to boost innovation in the Riverina.
The funding is part of the NSW Government’s Local Innovation Network Program, a $2.1 million initiative looking to leverage the existing startup communities and infrastructure of seven regions across the state to further grow their startup and small business activity.
Dianna Somerville, cofounder of Working Spaces HQ’s Hubb Hubb, has joined Bridge Hub as community manager.