THE State’s lead farm group says regional centres such as Wagga Wagga, Orange, Dubbo, Lismore and Moree should have a front-row seat for ag’s digital transformation with conditions ideal for agritech incubators and accelerators to work with startups.
In a piece written for the latest Australian Venture Capital Association report, NSW Farmers chief executive Matt Brand said regional entrepreneurs and city-based agritech incubators would increasingly connect in an ‘innovation ecosystem’ that is thriving on investment. But the true untapped opportunity, he said, lay in setting up accelerators and incubators in large regional towns, perfect in-situ testing grounds for farm-specific startups.
The Venture Capital Effect, released Tuesday, said Australia’s venture capital sector had seen a record $568 million raised in 2016 – but “still remained a fraction of what was needed to... create the next wave of start-up firms”. The report said venture capital spending was 0.023 per cent of the Australian GDP, less than half the average for the world’s leading nations, as measured by the OECD.
Yasser El-Ansary, Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association chief executive, said the report highlighted agriculture, and particularly agritech, was an area for future innovation. “With time and scale, we believe the venture capital ecosystem will extend to regional areas and we encourage venture capital fund managers to continue to look beyond the city limits,” he said.
Mr Brand’s contribution to the report touched on increased global ag investment, “coming from not only the public and private sector but also self-funded startups, large corporates and angel investors”.
He said while tech startups, generally, were predicted to add up to $109b GDP and 540,000 jobs by 2033 the key to investments in agritech, “will be the ability to create on-farm value not only to assist in driving efficiency, but to help with Australia’s competitive advantages such as high quality food and fibre.”