A new entrepreneurship program that helps turn farmers into startup founders is currently underway across Australia and now accepting applications for the 2020 program.
Farmers2Founders (F2F), was co-founded by Sarah Nolet (AgThentic) and Dr Christine Pitt (Food Futures Company) is an 8-week incubator program that helps producers answer two questions: is their idea worth pursuing; and what does it take to get started?
The Farmers2Founders Ideas Program is designed to test the potential of those concepts and progress them from the paddock to the public domain both nationally and ultimately on the global stage.
The duo came up with F2F seeing a gap between the agriculture and tech communities, with Dr Pitt saying they wanted to see more producers higher up in the ag and foodtech space.
To run the program they enlisted the support of AgriFutures, Wine Australia, Australian Wool Innovation, Grains Research & Development Corporation and Meat & Livestock Australia, with the federal government tipping in funding via its Incubator Support initiative.
The inaugural program chose 12 ventures from 24 applications, including Victorian producer Jodie Lawless, who’s developing a new sales platform for farmers.
“I know what it’s like to experience the frustration with different challenges in the industry. The opportunity to iron out some of the issues with the help of F2F’s tech-experts is the chance I’ve been waiting for,” she said.
“It can be pretty isolating when you have a great idea but don’t know where to go or who to ask in order to progress. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and learn what’s needed to take my concept to the next step. The fact that this exists in Australia is so good for local farmers who are ready to give the entrepreneurial world a shot.”
The program kicked off last month and applications for the 2020 F2F program have just opened and close on February 1 next year.
In the meantime, here’s a look at those involved in this year’s program and their ideas.
Scott & Rachael Messenger, Penola, South Australia
The husband and wife team plan to develop a new zero drift recycle vineyard sprayer. Their device would allow the safe use of chemicals in delicate environments such as high density urban areas or sensitive neighbouring crops. The market currently offers semi-recycling sprayers, but these still produce a percentage of spray drift.
Gaethan Cutri, Cutri Fruit, Swan Hill, Victoria
Cutri Fruit is Australia’s largest stone fruit farming business. The former lawyer turned fruit grower wants to build an app he hopes will improve the efficiency, productivity and accuracy of his fruit pickers. While the technology will initially be uses in Cutri’s own business, Gaethan hopes to eventually commercialise and sell it to local and international growers.
Margaret Wilson, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland
North Queensland tea grower Margaret Wilson plans to produce Australia’s first green tea seed oil.
Clint & Trevor Ledgard, McLaren Vale, SA
Clint’s vineyard management and daily contracting skills, supported by Trevor’s engineering background and extensive vineyard experience have given them intimate understand of the wine industry’s daily problems. They are building a device with machine vision abilities to allow pruning equipment to recognise posts and cordons and believe it would be a welcome solution providing speed, accuracy and addressing serious OH&S issues currently felt by contractors and vineyard owners.
Jodie Lawless, South Burnett, Qld
With customers increasingly demanding transparency and a closer connection to their food, Jodie, a beef producer, and her team are hoping to develop a sales platform for farmers in the South Burnett region to offer farmers direct sales, and promote the region as a foodie hub.
Marian McGann, My Pocket Mate, NSW
McGann almost lost her livelihood a decade ago when local thieves took off with a significantly large number of sheep. When police asked her to her to substantiate and verify stock numbers, the only recourse was to go back through pocket notebooks which were ad-hoc at best. McGann has since developed a stock record keeping app, My Pocket Mate – Stock Keeper that she hopes will remove the old-fashioned and often unreliable mode of documenting numbers by pen and paper.
Chris Delahunty, Victoria
Grain grower Chris Delahunty’s believes his crop yield forecasting tool could provide a significantly positive impact for grain growers. He hopes the technology will help the industry with key on-farm decisions such as applicable fertiliser rates, grain marketing, set yields for insurance coverage and ultimately improve business outcomes.
Will Hooke, Green Graze
Green Graze is a cost-effective “techno grazing” management system, designed by Will Hooke, to increase stock performance without infringing on animal welfare or having a negative impact on the environment. The idea is to produce moveable large scale mechanised units that can contain up to 1000 sheep to graze pasture at an optimum level while managing the pasture to maximise growth and minimise soil disturbance.
Sara Bailey & Cheryl Jakobi, Gippsland Pearls, Lakes Entrance, Victoria
Gippsland Pearls grows gourmet mushrooms and produces escargot caviar from its snail farm at Lakes Entrance. The entrepreneurial duo grow a variety of gourmet mushrooms and recently developed “mushroom dust” which adds more flavour to dishes when sprinkled over meals. It’s made from aged harvested mushrooms, or those that haven’t grown correctly and are not up to quality standards, and completes the cycle of using everything they grow. The duo are also currently undertaking promising trials to develop compostable oyster mushroom growing methods.