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The seven women with the potential to revolutionise the agriculture industry

Seven female food and agtech innovators showcased the future of agriculture by presenting their research and startup opportunities at the AgriFutures Australia and growAG. Catalyst Pitch event in June.

While the pitches ranged from AI that can accurately predict crop yields to plastic-free biodegradable berry punnets that extend produce shelf life, and a new meat-based protein powder, the event united all with one goal – to support women in a traditionally male-dominated field. 

Staggeringly, only four percent of Australian startup funding in 2023 went to female led companies. 

The equality couldn’t be clearer – or more alarming – and AgriFutures Australia’s Global Innovation Networks General Manager, Harriet Mellish, said the AgriFutures and AgriFutures growᴬᴳ⋅ Catalyst program aimed to support women in agrifood tech and innovation in Australia and New Zealand to strengthen their networks and capability within the ecosystem.

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Harriet Mellish on stage at the Catalyst Pitch Event 2024.

“I’m hopeful that connections forged between innovators, strategic partners and investors at our pitch evening and throughout the program will be the catalyst for continued growth and advancement in the agricultural industry,” Harriet said.

“Every woman selected by the Catalyst Program is an innovator with exceptional research or technology advances that are ready for commercialisation.  

“This event provides a platform for them to connect directly with investors and industry leaders, accelerating the development and adoption of their groundbreaking solutions.”

RELATED: Meet the seven women selected for AgriFutures and AgriFutures growᴬᴳ⋅ Catalyst program

The Catalyst Program was open to Australian and New Zealand female researchers through to series A founders and co-founders with research, innovation and/or technology in agritech, agrifood tech, climate tech, supply chain and logistics or a similar sector related to agriculture. 

“The aim was to empower not just founders, but early-stage founders and innovators to navigate the challenges of early development with confidence,” Harriet said. 

“The ecosystem can be difficult to navigate if you are not already accustomed to it, so by providing training, mentorship and a platform to access potential stakeholders we hope to accelerate their development.” 

Introducing the future of ag and food tech:

The Catalyst program gathered talented individuals with innovative ideas, concepts, and products that have the power to change the agriculture industry. Meet them and watch their full pitches below:

Dr Tanushree B Gupta, Senior Scientist, AgResearch

Dr Tanushree B Gupta is developing an environmentally friendly treatment to prevent fungus that can result in animal facial eczema, a deadly disease that has plagued agriculture for decades.  

Currently, the only way to treat facial eczema in animals is with anti-fungal sprays on pastures to reduce the fungus or feed zinc which are harmful for the environment and toxic to animals and humans, Dr Gupta said.

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“This means Australia and New Zealand are losing hundreds of millions of dollars to the disease annually as they are forced to kill and discard livestock struck with the disease,” she explained. 

With rising temperatures expected to increase the prevalence of facial eczema, Dr Gupta said it’s never been more crucial to act now to prevent an epidemic.  

“In response, my team and I have developed an antifungal spray with biomolecules that are safe and non-toxic and can eliminate this issue by reducing the germination of the fungal spores in pasture.”

Dr Tanushree B Gupta full pitch below:

Dr Nasim Amiralian, Group Research Leader, Bio-Inspired Materials, University of Queensland

Dr Nasim Amiralian’s team is developing bio inspired packaging to replace items such as berry punnets that are traditionally used in supermarkets.   

Australia is the second highest generator of single-used plastic packaging waste per capita in the world –so we need to be innovating new solutions. 

“We have created a packaging material from sugarcane trash that has the ability to replace plastic packaging and help extend the shelf life of products thanks to its anti-microbial properties,” Nasim said.

Dr Nasim Amiralian full pitch below:

Nikki Davey, CEO and Co-Founder, Grown not Flown

Did you know 50% of flowers sold in Australia are imported and treated with chemicals due to Australia's strict biosecurity measures?

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Grown not Flown is a digital marketplace that empowers micro and small-scale flower growers to connect with diverse markets, manage online sales and communicate with consumers.  

“While I’ve built the platform around flowers, I’m hopeful it can be adapted to assist other sectors facing similar challenges,” Founder and CEO Nikki Davey said.

Nikki Davey's full pitch below:

Sam Sneddon, CEO, WollemAI

WollemAI is a Sydney based technology company using AI to generate accurate climate risk profiles for large organisations with agricultural portfolios with minimal data. 

CEO, Sam Sneddon, underscored the growing importance of easy access to climate risk measurement for regulatory compliance, market access and loan security, and compliance with new regulations and frameworks. 

“We have simplified climate risk reporting at scale so whether you’re reporting emissions, informing decision-makers, or working with teams to mitigate risk, it’s all at your fingertips,” Sam said. 

“Our platform can act as the bridge between agriculture and finance industries, delivering audit-grade emissions and physical risk metrics in real time.”

Sam Sneddon's full pitch below:

Fiona Turner, Co-Founder and CEO, BitWise Agronomy

Bitwise Agronomy’s Greenview product was in the spotlight at the Catalyst event. Based out of Launceston, this product uses AI to analyse GoPro footage, forecasting berry crop yields with 90% accuracy to improve management decisions.

BitWise Agronomy’s Co-founder and CEO, Fiona Turner, said traditional methods of yield forecasting are only 50% accurate and often lead to produce rejection and volatile pricing in our grocery stores.

“Farmers have been playing a guessing game with their crop production for generations. Our business takes the guesswork out of it using as little as 10 minutes of go pro footage to accurately predict crop production,” Fiona said.

“Our technology sees like humans but more accurately, more consistently, and at superhuman speed. By improving forecast accuracy Greenview ensures our farmers are better equipped to make decisions around packaging, staffing, and selling their fruit.”

Fiona Turner's full pitch below:

Dr Aarti Tobin, Founder and Science Lead, Just Meat Co

Dr Aarti Tobin and her team have developed a high protein meat powder made from lower-value meat cuts.

Dr Tobin said that too often, the value of protein rich meat is not fully realised wasted due to consumer preferences which is both uneconomical and unsustainable.

“We have taken the meat that would often be used to make burgers and mince and made it into a high value protein powder product that fits consumer eating habits and needs,” Aarti said.

“With these changing habits the food industry needs to adapt to ensure the population can get the nutrients they need without compromising their lifestyle choices. 

Dr Aarti Tobin's full pitch below:

Dr Kerstin Petroll, Chief Technology Officer, HydGene Renewables

Dr Kerstin Petroll has developed a way to use agricultural waste to create green hydrogen.

“Nearly all of the world's current supply of hydrogen is created from fossil fuels,” Kerstin said. 

“Making green hydrogen from farm waste kills two birds with one stone creating a circular economy for farm waste and eliminating the need for harmful fossil fuels.

“HydGene Renewables solution also prevents the need for costly transportation and storage by using on site and on demand manufacturing of hydrogen.”

Dr Kerstin Petroll's full pitch below:

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