Deep Planet

Deep Planet selects the Barossa for initial investment

Deep Planet continues to evolve the international grape and wine industry through remote sensing and AI technology, but you won’t find its Australian head office in a city high rise. Instead, this global start-up has selected the Barossa in regional South Australia for its initial investment in Australia, this month appointing four positions with plans to expand further.  Read more

Bosch boosts investment in AgTech company

The Bosch Group has increased its investment in The Yield Technology Solutions, an Australian Internet of Things AgTech business. As the major shareholder, the increase takes the Bosch Group investment to a total of $13.3 million.

The Yield is transforming farming practices for irrigation intensive crops with scalable digital technology solutions. The company is developing its proprietary digital application to support critical production decisions for large commercial growers in the specialty crops industry.

In addition to its investment, Bosch is the technology partner responsible for the development and manufacture of the connectivity hardware for The Yield’s proprietary solution, Sensing+.

The Yield announced this week that it had finalised investment of $11 million, led by venture capital group, Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley and with further investment by Bosch.

“Bosch’s further investment in The Yield reflects our confidence that they have something quite unique, and are now gaining serious traction with corporate customers,” said Gavin Smith, President of Bosch Oceania.

“We are very pleased that Yamaha Motor Ventures recognise this too, and have joined us on the share register of The Yield,” said Smith.

Ros Harvey, founder and managing director of The Yield said she was “delighted with the investment and the tremendous support from these well-known, global technology organisations”.

“This is recognition of our efforts in delivering a world-class solution in weather and yield predictions for our customers,” said  Harvey.

The Yield’s Sensing+ combines sensors and analytics to provide information and predictions in easy-to-use apps that help large commercial growers make important on-farm decisions like when to irrigate, feed, plant, protect and harvest.

“There is no doubt, Agriculture 4.0 is coming of age, and Australia is poised to play a leading role thanks to companies like The Yield,” said Smith.

Food and AgTech start-ups to gather for Sydney Demoday

SparkLabs Cultiv8, the startup Food and AgTech Accelerator, has announced that the world’s leading food and agricultural technology start-ups will gather in Sydney on Tuesday 10 September at its annual Demoday.

SparkLabs Cultiv8 Demoday has become a must-see event which brings together the brightest entrepreneurs, most inspirational investors, corporate executives, media and government leaders all focused on changing the way we create, distribute and consume food with sustainability as a key driver.  Experts from various fields will also share insights and the latest global tech trends.

“Demoday is an event showcasing new products, services and business models developed by start-ups to attract investment and funding. It’s an opportunity for start-ups who have been through the SparkLabs Cultiv8 Accelerator Program to highlight their vision and the impact their businesses are creating,” says Guy Hudson, managing director, SparkLabs Cultiv8.

The companies receive an investment of up to $100,000 seed funding from the $10 million SparkLabs Cultiv8 fund, which brings the fund’s portfolio to 16 companies.   The companies benefit from the resources of Asia’s largest accelerator group, SparkLabs and the NSW Department of Primary Industries with cohort participants able to access the space and resources of the Global AgTech Ecosystem (GATE) located in Orange, New South Wales.

The companies in the 2019 SparkLabs Cultiv8 cohort hail from Australia, the US and Saudi Arabia and follow in the footsteps of the first cohort of SparkLabs Cultiv8 companies which graduated last year and have since enjoyed spectacular success raising a total of $33 million since their inception, and now signing strong international sales and partnerships with leading companies.

This year’s companies participating in Demoday include:

InnerPlant – the world’s first biosensor sentinel plant platform, developed by a US based start up, that senses plant changes at a molecular level, alerting farmers to allow instant action.
Oaesis – based in Saudi Arabia, Oaesis is developing laser-based lighting systems for indoor farming that dramatically improve efficiency and reduce energy and watering costs.
MPT – an Australia-based business using sensors located in specially designed farm equipment to measure moisture in soil, collecting data that can be used to optimise planting and yields.
SIPP – an Australian company changing the way we think about coffee. They’ve developed a unique range of functional beverages packaged in sustainable home compostable packaging with $1 from every pouch sold donated to Wildark, an organisation dedicated to making our planet more sustainable.
The Training Paddock –an Australian-developed online skills management system providing farmers with insights about workers’ skills, and steers and validates workers’ professional development.
traive – initially being rolled out in Brazil, traive is an online lending platform using artificial intelligence and big data to support new risk-reduced lending opportunities in agriculture.
Zetifi – an Australian company that has developed affordable solar powered on-farm WiFi overcoming mobile blackspots and helping to simplify and streamline farm management.

“Our model is for seasoned entrepreneurs to work with new founders to grow their businesses, maximise their impact and provide access to international networks of investors, customers and partners,” says Hudson.

The highly successful graduates of the 2018 SparkLabs Cultiv8 program include Aquabyte who recently secured $10 Million Series A financing to continue leading the transformation of the fish farming industry with machine learning.  James Tyler, which has built  a multi-channel platform now selling leading  Australian produce  through some of China’s largest “new retail” customers including AliBaba’s Hema store. They are now the largest exportor of fresh Australian dairy to China and raised $1.4m from Australian private and institutional investors to fund their expansion.

Farmbot secured a national alliance with leading agriculture merchandise supplier Ruralco that will see Farmbot distributed nationally across some 600 stores; Hydroleap signed a multi-year, multimillion dollar deal with their largest client yet; and completed a $US2.4 million seed round with investors including Maersk Ventures.

The 2019 Cohort and Demoday is gaining strong interest, with a wide variety of people in many fields keen to again participate in the sellout event.  Attendees include Australian and global investors, specialist Agtech, venture and corporate venture capital, corporates and institutions.   Last year’s Demoday saw over 450+ people attend and proved through the convergence of such networks, relationships are formed and unexpected opportunities arise for our startups and the startup ecosystem.

Nominations sought for 2019 agribusiness leadership awards

Some of the biggest names in agribusiness in Australia and New Zealand have been recognised for their leadership in the sector – and this year two more will join their ranks, with nominations now open for the 2019 Rabobank Leadership Awards.

Last year, the two industry accolades, the Rabobank Leadership Award for an accomplished senior leader and the Rabobank Emerging Leader Award for an up-and-coming younger leader, went respectively to chief executive officer of Nuffield International, Jim Geltch, and AACo chief operating officer Anna Speer. Both winners were acknowledged for their outstanding achievement in – and contribution to – the food, beverage and agribusiness industries.

Announcing the opening of nominations for the 2019 awards, Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group managing director, Peter Knoblanche, said this year, for the first time in the trans-Tasman award’s history, the presentation ceremony would be held in New Zealand.
“In the 20 years we have been involved in the awards, leaders have been recognised on both sides of the Tasman in sectors including wine, dairy, beef, grains and horticulture and across many fields, such as scientists, economists, educators and researchers,” he said.

“The contribution these leaders have made to their own industries, the agricultural sector in general, and their communities is nothing short of inspirational. Their leadership, courage, passion and foresight has seen them carve a path, as they often take the road not travelled to get to where they are today.

“This was epitomised by last year’s winners, with Jim Geltch recognised for developing and engaging young people in agriculture via the Nuffield agricultural scholarships. While Anna Speer has, in her relatively short tenure in the industry, carved a successful career in the livestock sector as an advocate for innovation and change.”

As peer-nominated awards, Knoblanche encouraged industry participants to put forward those in their industry who make a positive contribution to the future growth and prosperity of the sector.

“There are many unsung heroes in the agricultural sector, and these awards not only bring their business successes to the forefront, but all the initiatives they are involved in at a community and industry level,” he said.

Award nominations close on August 9, 2019 with the winner to be announced at the annual Leadership Award dinner, to be held in Auckland on Thursday, November 28, 2019.
Nominations for both awards

Agtech and Foodtech – taking the Australian food industry to the next level

Australia has a good reputation in the agritech and foodtech sectors. The government body charged with showcasing that reputation – the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, Austrade, is looking to establish Australia as a global hub for agritech and foodtech, said its Austrade’s senior investment specialist, Karen Caston, at a recent roundtable event held in the country’s capital cities.

“We are seeking increasing interest from overseas enterprises in Australian agricultural and food innovation.” Caston said that about half of the investment enquiries it receives from overseas companies and investors relate directly to these arenas. However, there are certain issues that have arisen that need addressing if Australia is going to take advantage of this reputation. With that in mind, Caston lead the charge at the roundtable with Austrade’s Agriculture 4.0 initiative, which is designed to showcase Australian capability and create a pathway for investment and partnership opportunities.

The video-linked round table that included companies and government bodies from around Australia, talking about the issues and how some of the more contentious problems might be solved. One of the biggest roadblocks that confounds both local and overseas investment is how to identify opportunities.

“The sector is fragmented with many different innovation hubs and states having their own initiatives,” said Caston. “Austrade’s clients – investors and businesses seeking agtech or foodtech services and exports – are confused about where to go for information and help for opportunities in trade and investment. Austrade is also seeing other countries taking a stance in relation to foodtech and agtech capability, which is resulting in increased competition globally in relation to investment and trade opportunities.”

Australia already has a couple of advantages over a lot of its global competition. It has strict standards around the quality of its products, its traceability is of a high standard and only getting better, and its status around the world – especially in the lucrative Asian market – is fantastic.

“There is a broad spectrum of clients approaching Austrade that are investing in agtech and foodtech,” said Caston. “Private clients looking to get a commercial stake in technologies to improve investment returns.

“We have impact investors interested in long-term gains and to meet social license obligations. Institutional investors have created new funding matrixes focussed on technology. International food manufacturers are looking to expand into the Asian market; to meet those consumer characteristics and to capitalise on Australia’s free trade agreements. Multinationals are looking to source and develop specific expertise in order to create regional specialist business units or centres of excellence. ”

Yet, confusion still remains. This is what the Agriculture 4.0 initiative is hoping to address by focussing and streamlining opportunities for partnership and investment. And what does Austrade have in mind to help alleviate some of the concerns of companies navigating their way around the bureaucracy? Caston has already put the wheels in motion and it is a three-pronged strategy.

“First, we will showcase Australia’s capability worldwide through a new micro website that will have video case studies and marketing material,” she said. This site went live in February. “Second, we will establish a Team Australia portal and tool kit that will feature consistent messaging as to the reasons why Australian agtech and foodtech investment and trade are good. This will include new materials to be used by all stake holders including government, research institutes and industry.

“Third, we developed and supported the week-long, themed, inbound missions around the inaugural Evoke Ag conference that was held in Melbourne in February. Austrade’s mission is results based and client focussed. Our collaboration includes market testing through a task force of key stake holders established to provide advice and support for implementation of this initiative.”

A key ingredient is the aforementioned microsite, which is designed to bring the fragmented sector together. Getting all the different stakeholders to come on board will not be easy – each state and territory has its own agenda. However, a taskforce lead by Tenacious Ventures’ Matthew Pryor, is leading the way. Pryor himself is bullish about the task ahead.

“We want and need international investment in our agricultural innovation ecosystem in the way we produce, and in the way we conduct and commercialise research,” he said. “And we should seek to function as a testing ground for agricultural innovation regardless of where they are sourced.

“With the taskforce we are providing feedback on who the stakeholders are and there is a significant amount of stakeholder mapping – and we have to decide, who are the core people we are trying to reach, what are the core messages that we need to deliver?”
He is also adamant about how it needs to be implemented.

“In terms of the establishment of the taskforce and its objectives, it is to grow the innovation brand and Australia’s presence, but it also needs to make some concrete decisions,” he said. “We need to say, ‘if we’ve done this right – we’ve created this global brand and identified the people we want to talk to. We’ve also delivered the message, so how do we know we’ve done something material?”

There is a lot of good work being done in establishing Australia’s status as a global player in the production of food and fibre. Most recently – and the best qualification of this – is the Talking 2030 report where the target of $100 million in farmgate output was established.
“Importantly for us, thinking about what part of that could be influenced, was the $20 billion bounty values that are available to drive the performance of the efficiencies of that system. These are going to be largely underpinned by the adoption of digital technology in Australia’s agricultural branching system,” said Pryor.

“We mention this because we can say, ‘as a country and an initiative, we can directly contribute to helping Australia. As a country and as an initiative, we can contribute to helping Australian farmers adopt new technology’. Some of that will come from our own ag innovation ecosystem, but we also need to promote ourselves as the best place in the world to prove the commercial application of internationally sourced agricultural innovation.”

We want the agritech/foodtech sectors are working towards Australia being a world-class producer of food and fibre.

“We know we do it efficiently because we are one of the least subsidised agriculturally productive economies in the world,” said Pryor. “What we know less about is what we call a ‘knowledge economy’ for agricultural innovations. We know we have world-class researchers and we rank highly in international measures in terms of performance of innovation. What we don’t know is what’s the economic value that flows into the country through exports of technology-based products and services. So this is a major body of work that we intend to pursue.”

A major piece of work the taskforce intends to put forward is helping to deliver on that bounty. The next thing for it, is conducting the necessary research to quantify the country’s current state of how much Australia exports in terms of technology-based products and services and what the aspirational target for that will be.

“The taskforce has regular meetings about once a month,” said Pryor. “The first stage of that was the development of stakeholder mapping and messaging. The second part was how would we get that message to be embedded in the sector’s collective marketing efforts. So, we worked with Austrade to develop the microsite and supporting material. The next collective action was, how can we as taskforce members and those at the roundtables become actively involved to broadly promote this brand? Austrade has outlined the tools they are developing to do that.”

The microsite is a good starting point for anybody who wants to become involved in the initiative and see how Austrade and the taskforce are going in terms of reaching their objectives.

Technology in agriculture critical to success

Adoption of emerging technologies in Australian agriculture is expanding at a rate faster than the consumer’s capacity to understand the opportunities — creating an urgent need to explore community perception and regulatory challenges around the use of new technologies.

This is the focus of two new AgriFutures Australia-funded reports: Emerging technologies in agriculture: Consumer perceptions around emerging agtech undertaken by GHD and AgThentic and Emerging technologies in agriculture: Regulatory and other challenges by ACIL Allen Consulting.

The reports deliver critical insights for government, industry and Rural Research and Development Corporations in the areas of regulation and community perceptions. They consider changes needed to safeguard industry use of new technologies and point out the opportunity cost of getting it wrong.

Robotics, for example, can reduce producer operating costs. For a farm investing $100,000 per annum on insecticides, herbicides, and fertilisers, it is claimed that robots could reduce these costs by up to 40 per cent due to the bots’ ability to spread chemicals in precise locations and in optimum volumes.

The value-add is clear, however ACIL Allen’s research reveals farmers need guidance to help demystify common concerns accompanying the use of robotics, such as insurance, ethics, standards and data ownership and protection.

Meanwhile, research conducted by GHD and AgThentic revealed there is confusion and scepticism around blockchain amongst primary producers, as it is often associated with cryptocurrencies. These perceptions can lead to barriers to adoption which in turn effect consumers.

Understanding and, where possible, proactively identifying and mitigating perception issues is critical to ensure farmers continue to adopt beneficial technologies, while consumers have confidence and trust in the way their food and fibre goods are produced.

AgriFutures Australia managing director, John Harvey, insists Australian agriculture needs to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding the potential regulatory impact of technologies, and possible negative perceptions that might prevent technology use.

“With the sector likely to increase its reliance on new technologies over the short to medium term, it’s important not to become complacent by assuming we will always have free and easy access to new technologies,” said Harvey.

“These reports offer clear actions to help industry and government understand what needs to be done to support agtech adoption on our farms.

“If we don’t address these actions, the sector may be locked out of emerging technologies or be unable to capitalise on opportunities that our international competitors have access to. The reports are instrumental in identifying what the challenges and impediments are and provide practical solutions in areas that will have the greatest impact.”

AgriFutures Australia senior manager, business development, Jennifer Medway said the reports promote the need for industry, government and agribusiness to proactively engage with consumers to identify possible concerns early to overcome adoption bottlenecks.

“We take the role of helping to prepare industry for what is coming seriously, and keeping our finger on the pulse to proactively address issues as they arise is key to this,” said Medway


Kiwi agtech company secures funding for UV crop enhancement

BioLumic, creator of the world’s first crop-yield enhancement system using UV light, has announced the close of $6.34m in Series A funding.

This significant round of financial backing comes from leading global AgTech investors Finistere Ventures and Radicle Growth acceleration fund, along with Rabobank’s recently-launched Food & Agri Innovation Fund and existing investors from across New Zealand.

Addressing the global need for increased agricultural crop yields, BioLumic treats seedlings and seeds with its proprietary ultraviolet light systems. Its patented technology precisely applies UV light treatments to deliver long-term crop benefits — including improved crop consistency, increased yield and disease resistance.

Already in commercial trials with large-scale produce growers around the globe, BioLumic has worked with large-scale produce growers and processors in United Kingdom, California and Mexico achieving yield gains of up to 22 percent. Further commercial trials are underway in Spain and the United Kingdom.

“Light is an extremely powerful biological tool that can safely manipulate plants without the concerns associated with genetic modification or chemical usage” BioLumic CEO Warren Bebb said.

“BioLumic is the only company using light as an ag treatment at the beginning of a plant’s life. Exposure to a short-duration treatment of UV-enriched light at a critical stage in a plant’s development turns on characteristics to help the seed or seedling more effectively defend itself against disease or pest attacks, and more efficiently use water and nutrients from the soil for its entire lifespan.”

BioLumic was founded by Dr. Jason Wargent, a world-renowned photobiologist specialising in UV/plant interactions, and spun out of leading AgTech research from Massey University in Palmerston North with support from local incubator BCC and seed funding from MIGAngels. The technology is the result of more than a decade of Dr. Wargent’s research into UV photomorphogenesis, a process whereby a
precise UV treatment induces plant root and leaf development and activates secondary metabolism.


Bosch invests $2.5 million in Tasmanian AgTech business

The Bosch Group has invested an additional $2.5 million in Tasmanian AgTech business, The Yield.

The partnership brings together the global sensor manufacturer with one of Australia’s newest and most innovative Internet of Things technology companies.

The Yield uses sensors, data management and user-friendly apps to create novel tools for the agriculture and aquaculture industries.

The technology enables solutions such as improving on-farm productivity, reducing the cost of compliance with food safety standards, increasing shelf life in the food supply chain, and better risk management for financial services in the food industry.

The investment was announced yesterday by Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman.

“This deal reflects the great potential of not just The Yield, but the potential of Tasmania to generate new technology, highly-skilled jobs and investment,” said Hodgman.

“Tasmanian farmers will be the first to access The Yield’s products, giving them an enormous edge in a very competitive market.”

Gavin Smith, Bosch Regional President with responsibility for Oceania is in Hobart for the announcement and last week led a delegation of Bosch executives that toured Tasmania’s agriculture industry.

“The Yield’s is a leader in developing customer focused solutions that bring together the power of the Internet of Things in agriculture. We will work with The Yield to scale their technology globally,” he said.

The Yield founder and CEO, Ros Harvey, said the investment would support growth of the company, including more skilled jobs.

“We are experiencing a strong demand for our technology. This investment allows us to bring forward our agriculture solutions including the development of our microclimate sensing system giving growers unprecedented insight into their local growing conditions,” said Harvey.

“Investment from a globally recognised brand like Bosch will be a big help to accelerate development and get our products into the hands of growers around the world.”