As investment in Australian agrifood tech innovation grows, so do the opportunities for startups. The latest is the AgriFutures AgXelerate Program, which is inviting a diverse slate of innovators to apply – and you might be one of them.
The AgriFutures AgXelerate Program has opened up applications for agrifood tech entrepreneurs and startups interested in tackling major industry challenges, from environmental sustainability to food production.
The program will give selected companies the chance to participate in a series of in-person farm field trips and workshops, as well as a capacity building program tailored to each particular company’s specific industry and needs.
As its name suggests, AgriFutures AgXelerate is all about accelerating tech-based solutions for key agricultural priority areas in Australia and globally.
“We wanted to see if we can raise the bar in our own [AgriFutures Levied & Emerging] industries,” says Dallas Pearce, manager of AgriFutures Australia’s evokeAG. slate of programs and events. “A lot of the time, these technologies are being developed in retrospect. Whereas this time, we’re identifying those problems, and now we’re looking for the solutions for those challenges.
“There’s a lot of technologies that have been built for other sectors, but that golden opportunity is how can we look at other industries and transfer these solutions into agriculture.”
What is the AgriFutures AgXelerate Program?
The program has evolved from the AgriFutures evokeAG Startup Network, which ran successfully for two years. Growing from that program, AgriFutures AgXelerate is designed to identify how cutting-edge technologies can be tailored for use across specific agricultural industries (more on that in the next section).
Applications are open to early-stage Australian and international agrifood tech entrepreneurs and innovators looking to boost their networks and capabilities, says Dallas. “This program offers the opportunity to really get on the ground with producers and immerse yourself in the agrifood tech sector,” Dallas adds.
There are three parts to the program:
• Part one starts in August 2023 with a workshop program curated to each startup, followed by the farm field trips to meet producers.
• Part two is an online capacity-building program that includes sessions with industry experts and mentors to guide agrifood startups in areas like funding, business models and adoption.
• Part three will take participants on more field trips and workshops, capped off with a “golden ticket” to the agritech event of the year, evokeAG 2024, in Perth on February 20 to 21, 2024, to showcase their innovation to potential customers and investors in the event’s Startup Alley. This year’s event attracted a record 1600 participants including researchers, founders, investors, government and corporates.
There will be two cohorts, targeting startups at different stages of technological readiness, with tailored support and guidance to each group. When the program is completed, participants will be given the chance to submit proposals for funding opportunities of up to $25,000. This will be used for on-farm trials to help startups validate and refine their innovations.
What issues will the AgriFutures AgXelerate program address?
As part of the eligibility for the program, AgriFutures invites startups with an interest in their priority areas, also known as ‘levied and emerging industries’, including:
• Chicken meat
• Export fodder
• Honey bee and pollination
• Pasture seeds
• Thoroughbred Horses
• Goat Fibre
• Tea Tree Oil
• Industrial Hemp
If you’re looking at that list thinking “I’m not a tea tree oil expert” or “My startup has nothing to do with seaweed”, think again.
“There is a wealth and depth of knowledge in other industries that with tailoring to producers needs can potentially provide solutions within these industries,” Dallas says.
Dallas cites an example from a previous program where a mining startup pivoted to solutions for water monitoring and farm liquids, from fertiliser tanks to fuel tanks to irrigation. That startup is Gasbot is in mining world, Agbot in the farming world.
“We are only looking for technology that will benefit our levied and emerging industries,” Dallas emphasises. “But in saying that I would love to see what we’ve seen from Gasbot and looking at in other sectors, whether it’s mining or whether it’s MedTech or FinTech and how that can be tailored to suit the agricultural sector.”
While there are unique challenges within each industry, there are universal issues most face around environmental sustainability, animal welfare, productivity, biosecurity and resource use efficiency. Solutions for these problems could be right under our noses, right now.
Dallas concludes: “We used to talk about that the what’s the future of technology look like or what’s the future of farming look like. But the future is now, and this is the ideal time to be an agrifood tech startup in Australia.
“It’s a great time to be looking at transferring your technology and innovation into other industries. We’ve got such a depth of support for agrifood tech startups here in Australia now and more so than we’ve ever had.”
Applications close at 5pm AEST on Monday, 24 July 2023. Apply now at agricutures.com.au/agxelerate.
This article is brought to you by Startup Daily in partnership with AgriFutures.