If Australia’s AgTech sector gets a single mention in next week’s budget, it can only signal good news, according SproutX co-founder Andrew Lai.
“AgTech doesn’t feature very much at all from a federal perspective, so anything to actually help the AgTech ecosystem or any mention of a particular focus within AgTech will be welcomed,” he said.
Andrew Grant, co-founder of Adelaide-based AgTech startup Availer is more optimistic. He predicts that discussions about food security, food safety, and food quality, will spark further conversations about AgTech, whether that’s about new technology, supply chain technology, food wastage, or an increase in transparency.
“We’re hopeful there will be direct programs and resources around AgTech commercialisation and development, such as proof of concept, and later stage alpha and beta testing to enable these technologies to move from R&D organisations into the hands of entrepreneurs and then to the Australian agriculture industry,” told InnovationAus.com.
Mr Lai added that while the appetite to consume new technology in the sector is growing, a gap from the R&D stage to commercialisation still remains unaddressed.
“A lot of the farmers, which are effectively small businesses, they’re always looking for an edge, so it’s just a matter of access to new innovations and having tech products that are well-tested in market and robust,” he said.
“From a business perspective there isn’t a lack of appetite from farmers, but from an industry perspective there’s still some way to go in the realisation that technology and the focus on commercialising technology can bring about productivity gain.”
Mr Grant believes the only way to address the widening gap is for government to introduce policies that will drive greater incentives for startups to commercialise their product, such as shifting funding for entities such as the Australian Research Council and the Rural R&D Corporations to focus less on R&D and more on commercialisation.
Cicada Innovations’ agrifood accelerator GrowLab general manager Tristonne Forbes agreed that more commitment from the federal government is needed to support the local agricultural industry.
“We’re looking for sustained commitment to invest in innovation initiatives in the agriculture sector. We’ve got a global booming population to feed, farmers need to do more with less, and agetech is a huge part of making that possible,” she said.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest in AgTech startups increasing globally, so our rate of AgTech innovation needs to be up there with the best in the world for the local sector to remain globally competitive.
“We’re pretty well-positioned and we could be a leader, so a budget for a sustained investment in innovation activities for agricultural sector will help ensure we achieve that.”