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Sharing the load: How Trans-Tasman collaboration can drive agritech innovation

Island nations that punch over their weight, with export focused agriculture, shared challenges and thriving technology sectors – Australia and New Zealand – are well placed to work together to drive agrifood innovation. To help build and nurture the Trans-Tasman connections, the AgriFutures growAG. team will be at the E Tipu: Boma Agri Summit from 18-19 June 2024. 

Contributor Emily Malone sat down with growAG. Senior Manager for Customer and Growth, Arianna Sippel, and Engagement Manager David Lord to explore why growAG. is passionate about listening, learning and exploring the challenges and opportunities facing New Zealand (NZ) agritechs, researchers and innovators engaging with the Australian and global innovation system. 

Why should New Zealand and Australia both look across the ditch to drive innovation in agriculture?

David: Australian and New Zealand share so many challenges in terms of climate adaption, access to labour, and biosecurity threats. We have a history of working together but there is an opportunity to do more. If we collaborate in a pre-commercial space, it lowers the cost and increases the potential to truly solve some of these fundamental problems. Culturally we naturally gravitate to one another and that makes it easy to do business when we have similar structures and systems. 

RELATED: AgriFutures growᴬᴳ⋅ hits AU$150 million in three years.

Arianna: Australia and NZ have the least subsidised agricultural industries in the world and we both export a large percentage of what we produce. It's important for our producers to have access to great tools and innovation to be as productive, sustainable and competitive as possible in the global marketplace. Collaboration is in everyone’s best interest because it addresses the challenge of scale. If you've gone through the research and development (R&D) cycle and you might be trying to license that, or you’re a startup trying to find investors, whether you're in New Zealand or in Australia, you need to be able to have enough scale so that you can be viable and can keep innovating. That’s where the opportunity to leverage networks and broader opportunities through growAG. can be a game changer. 

growᴬᴳ⋅ engagement and senior managers from left to right: Rebecca Bradford, Arianna Sippel and David Lord.

E Tipu brings together change-makers from across the food and fibre sector. What are you looking forward to most?

Arianna: growAG. helps to pull the threads of all the different parts of the agrifood ecosystem together and in New Zealand. We assist: 
- Research organisations to find research collaborators and licensing partners; 
- Startups to gain strategic partners, investors and acceleration pathways; 
- Scaleups connect with corporates, and help source innovation, and; 
- Investors to find co-investors and pathways for investees 

We look forward to getting the opportunity to connect in person with Crown Research Institute (CRI) agencies including Plant and Food NZ, and AgResearch, with universities who are also undertaking unique and exciting innovation, and with startups, scaleups and corporates who are looking for solutions with their investor community. 

RELATED: Onside’s Series A set to launch at evokeAG. 2022 Investor Dinner.

There are great opportunities to connect Kiwi investors with the investor community in Australia, and it really is about broadening those networks and helping to support those pathways. I’m also looking forward to meeting with government agencies to understand what their priorities are for taking the sector forward. 

RELATED: Global connections help drive Australian agrifood tech innovation.

David: A core element of what we do through growAG. is leveraging our ecosystem partners and builders, like Callaghan Innovation, KiwiNet, Agritech New Zealand, and some of the key facilitators of change, like Peter Wren Hilton – I’m looking forward to furthering those connections.  

Peter Wren-Hilton on panel at evokeᴬᴳ⋅ 2024, discussing how global connections help drive Australian agritech

What are some Kiwi success stories from the opportunities for collaboration through growᴬᴳ⋅?

David: We have several startups and CRI R&D projects that are looking to spin out or find collaborators listed on the platform. Map & Zap is a laser weeding technology  we connected with at evokeAG. in 2023. Since then, we've showcased their opportunity, connected them with some different ecosystem groups, potential investors, and people that can trial what they're doing. They’ll be demonstrating their first product in New Zealand in the paddock in June.  

Another is early-stage startup, ProTag, which is looking at using ear tag technology for tracking and determining heat detection in dairy and beef cattle, to enable effective artificial insemination. growAG. has facilitated introductions to the dairy industry in Australia, including the funding body, a network of leading farmers in southwest Victoria and looping them into industry groups within the beef cattle sector. That’s the type of support we can provide early-stage startups, connecting with potential trial partners and early customers. 

Pictured: protag device in a dairy cow

Current Australian opportunities of interest to those in the New Zealand agtech ecosystem?

David: What we’re hearing is that access to non-dilutive R&D funding and investors in startups is something people are seeking. There's not only funds investing heavily in agtech, like Tenacious Ventures, SparkLabs Cultiv8, Artesian and Grain Innovate, but also R&D partnership and commercialisation opportunities with Australia’s 15 Research and Development Corporations (RDC) and other Commonwealth funding initiatives. 

RELATED: Australian venture for Onside proves fruitful after wine industry win.

Dairy Australia currently has an Innovation Challenge looking for solutions to reduce methane emissions and the opportunity to tackle this challenge collaboratively is huge. There's a range of technologies and fundamental R&D happening in New Zealand that we would love to be trialed and tested in Australian livestock industries. Likewise for New Zealand, Australia is the large market sitting next door to them. It’s about discovering what opportunities there are within the Australian sector to commercialise those methane emission technologies, or to collaborate on R&D initiatives. 

RELATED: Dairy Australia’s new approach seeks global solutions to shared challenges.

Arianna: The other way people can use the platform is if they do see an opportunity from an RDC or another funding opportunity that they'd like to put in a bid for but need some partners, they can put a call out through the growAG. to do that. It’s a unique offer for people with expertise looking for groups to work with to advance what they do. 

New Zealand innovators, researchers, companies and agrifood innovation ecosystem participants interested in further developing their network in Australia and globally, can connect with the team at E-Tipu this month.

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