Food and AgTech companies from the US and abroad, seize the opportunity to build their businesses in Australia
ORANGE, AUSTRALIA - Globally 2017 was a mammoth year for food and agtech. Later stage deals pushed up overall funding totals, as a broader range of investors got more comfortable with the space. As the first wave of agtech start-ups mature, capital is increasingly being deployed to later stages. Rounds valued at over $25 million accounted for 61% of all 2017 Venture Capital invested through August 25. However, seed stage funds and specialist accelerators also supported a strong pipeline of new early-stage ag-tech businesses. Over the last four years, the number of seed/angel agtech financings has continued to grow. The seed/angel financings recorded in 2016 were a 31% jump from 2015 and that continued to grow in 2017.
SparkLabs, a global venture and accelerator group, recently launched Sparklabs Cultiv8, a new $10m food and ag-tech accelerator based in Australia. This has been a catalyst for agtech companies from the US, and other parts of the world, to come to Australia to enhance their businesses benefitting from Australia’s farming expertise, research institutions and access to Asian markets.
Australia has always been a world leader in agriculture. Agriculture and related activities comprise around 12% of Australia’s GDP — more than double the US. Agtech in Australia is booming. Companies both large and small are beginning to recognise the benefits of Australia as a platform to build the next evolution of farm and food technology.
For example, SparkLabs Cultiv8 ag-tech accelerator, had an unanticipated influx of interest from offshore companies in their first cohort. Guy Hudson, the program’s Managing Director said “We specifically designed our program to benefit from our brilliant research credentials, availability of land and strong path into Asian markets and it clearly resonated with a global pool of leading start-ups.” Australia already exports billions of dollars in products to Asia. The total amount is expected to double by 2050, giving ag-tech startups the opportunity to ride on this wave of growth by using Australia as a bridge head into Asian markets. Start-ups see Sparklabs, a global accelerator network with programs in Korea, China, Taiwan and Australia as the perfect partner to access this market.
But, it’s not just the route to Asia that is attracting agtech firms to Australia. The available land to experiment and grow technology is of great benefit to entrepreneurs building businesses in agtech.
As part of their program SparkLabs Cultiv8 companies are able to access over 13,000 hectares of experimental farm land, spread across 4 climatic zones via the partnership with the Department of Primary Industries and their new Global Ag Tech Ecosystem (GATE).
One unintended benefit of the programs location is the ability to test equipment in both Northern and Southern hemisphere’s summer seasons, dramatically increasing the pace of growth.
NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair, said NSW was setting the pace for agriculture research and development, drawing international investment in the GATE at Orange that will result in big gains for the State’s farmers.
“When it comes to adoption and utilisation of technology our farmers are the best. The GATE will fast track innovation into their hands – the result will see even greater strides in improving the productivity and sustainability of our primary industries,” Minister Blair said.
“This first co-hort of entrepreneurs will be joined by a local crop in Department of Primary Industries innovators that will be announced next month. This group is working on State specific projects such as drought, use of food by product, farm safety and smart grazing management that will revolutionise livestock systems as we know them.”
The initial cohort of 9 companies, includes some of the world’s most impactful early stage food and ag-tech companies. For example, Ripe.io “the blockchain of food” a New York based company who are a designing a radically transparent digital food supply chain, ripe.io harnesses quality food data to create the blockchain of food - an unprecedented food quality network that maps the food journey to answer what’s in our food, where it comes from, and what has happened to it. They were recognized by Forbes as one of the most innovative ag-tech companies in the world in 2017. Biocarbon, an Oxford, UK based team, provides regeneration services with the capacity to plant 100,000 trees a day at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods by launching biodegradable seed pods from drones.
Other international teams include Norway based Aquabyte, who recently raised a $3.5m seed round, from investors like Costanoa Ventures and New Enterprise Associates (NEA), to apply machine learning and computer vision to dramatically optimize fish farming efficiency and Evaptainers, a team based out of Boston who have developed an electricity free mobile refrigeration technology to keep food fresher longer in the first mile of the food supply chain for developing markets, using only sun and water. Smart Ag, a company started in California is working to combat the catastrophic annual loss of bees with containerised smart hives and an organic compound to combat varroa mite.
Closer to home, Singapore based Hydroleap has developed a non-chemical water treatment technology to make waste water treatment cheap, fast and easy in industries like agriculture, food and beverage production, construction and mining.
But it’s not just offshore companies, the strength of Australia’s homegrown businesses in the sector is also reaching new heights. Partner at Sparklabs Jonathon Quigley said “ We see this cohort as being a driver of the continued growth of the already strong agtech sector in Australia, and supporting our role as a global leader in this space” SparkLab’s Cultiv8 cohort includes companies like James Tyler, a direct-to-consumer business who have cracked the notoriously difficult path for the export of Australian agricultural produce to China, and Farmbot, a company providing sensors which can be self-installed by farmers in just 10 minutes and used anywhere in Australasia no matter how remote with no additional infrastructure. Secure Impact, from one of the co-founders of Brick X, is a business that is using etherium block chain technology to solve the succession problem in Australian farms.
Research suggests that tech startups could add up to $109 billion to the Australian GDP along with creating 540,000 jobs by 2033. As such, we will see some brilliant innovations coming from Australia as more companies recognise the opportunity to use Australia as a platform to grow their businesses.
For full details of the Sparklabs Cultiv8 2018 cohort please visit www.sparklabscultiv8.com/2018
About SparkLabs Cultiv8 SparkLabs Cultiv8 is a startup accelerator founded by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, and launched in partnership with the Department of Primary Industries. The core focus of the program is to assist entrepreneurs to go global and target later stage startup companies from the Ag, Food, Sustainability and Technology sectors.
The program is based in NSW, at the Orange Agricultural Institute in the Global AgTech Ecosystem or GATE and will commence in Q2 2018. Program participants will access industry leading mentors, the NSW Department of Primary Industries Innovation and Technology Research platforms, linkages with relevant corporates such as KPMG Australia and MinterEllison plus exposure to the SparkLabs Accelerator network and GAN.
The mentorship-driven program is seven months in length and provides funding, office space, a tailored program and access to a top-tier network of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors and executives. As a part of the program, SparkLabs Cultiv8 Accelerator participants will be able to access up to A$100,000 in direct investment for an agreed stake.
For further information, please contact:
Executive Director, SparkLabs Cultiv8
+61 418 987 440