Hunting Unicorns in a Burgeoning Australian Agtech Industry

June 15, 2021
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Blog

Hunting Unicorns in a Burgeoning Australian Agtech Industry

WATCH AGAIN: Find out what VC investors are looking for in Australia's agtech scale-ups

June 15, 2021
-

Hunting Unicorns in a Burgeoning Australian Agtech Industry

John Westgarth, Agile Coach at Food Agility:

For the Food Agility Summit 2021, we invited a series of heavy hitters in Australia’s agtech technology and investment field. We did this because as a CRC we strongly believe that Australia’s research sector is a hidden superpower that can be world dominating when given the right platform for impact. That platform is technology, and the people building those technology driven companies are moving at pace.

That is why it is essential to build a community of researchers, technologists, entrepreneurs and investors. It is the entrepreneurs and company builders that are creating the new innovations our agrifood sector needs to tackle the known challenges of food scarcity and availability, fragile global supply chains and the incredibly thin margins our farmers face. It is the researchers that will equip these company builders with unique insights and knowledge that give them a global point of difference. And it is the investors and financiers that will provide our company builders with the capital and the networks to take calculated risks with new products, partnerships or entering new markets.

Hosted by Ros Harvey, CEO and Founder of The Yield - an Australian agtech that provides artificial intelligence farm management technology for crop growers - the Hunting for Unicorns panel set out to dive into the heart of what it takes for Australia’s rapidly maturing agtech sector to take its place on the world stage. Alongside founders Emma Watson (AgriDigital), Justin Webb (AgriWebb) and Tim Neale (Data Farming), and together with investors Phi Morle (Main Sequence Ventures), Matt Pryor (Tenacious Ventures) and Robert Williams (Artesian) - Ros explored the likelihood that we’ll see a billion dollar Australian agtech company in the next decade, the availability of local capital as companies grow and what Australia needs to do to capitalise on this opportunity?


John's main takeaways:

  • Australia is an exceptional test-bed for agtech - our contribution to global trade is significant and well respected, and our climates are diverse enough to approximate most of the major markets.

  • Our startup ecosystem is rapidly maturing, but agtech is underserved - much of Australia’s startup success has been in fintech, online retail and SaaS tools. While Atlassian and Canva are now both rivalling Qantas in terms of value - the panel were confident that in the next ten years we will see a unicorn in the agtech space.

  • Access to networks - this was a contentious point - is Australia the right place to grow a later stage company? Atlassian and Canva have proven that you can be world leaders with local headquarters - but do agtech companies require a different set of partnerships and networks to become truly global?

  • Collaboration - a common theme running through all points was that collaboration and partnerships are the key to Australia’s future success in the agricultural services sector. Our domestic market is significant, but that’s not the true prize. The real prize is having Australian innovation playing a leading role across major markets in China, the US, Europe, South America and Africa - we have the ideas, access to skills, and domain expertise. The capital and appetite for risk is quickly maturing - now it’s about finding alignment between the best parts of our ecosystem in a way that makes us our products world leaders.

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