MinterEllison supports Agtech innovators

3 mins  28.03.2018

On 20 March 2018, MinterEllison presented at the opening of the Global Ag-Tech Ecosystem (GATE) Innovation Hub, an accelerator for Agtech research and innovation based in Orange, NSW.

The NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Niall Blair MP officially opened the GATE. The opening was also attended by the Federal Member for Calare, Andrew Gee MP and Orange City Council Mayor, Cr Reg Kidd.

MinterEllison Partner Matthew Cunningham moderated a discussion panel session at the opening which explored the opportunities and challenges for Australian agribusiness during a time of great technological disruption. Panel members included:

  • Scott Hansen, Director General, NSW Department of Primary Industries
  • Eugene Kim, General Partner, SparkLabs
  • Michael Ward, British Consul General & Director General of Trade & Investment for Australia & New Zealand

The GATE, in partnership with SparkLabs Cultiv8, offers mentoring, incubation, and acceleration programs, and access to investment services. It is an initiative of the NSW Department of Primary Industries designed to cultivate and develop Australian and global agtech ideas.

The GATE's three partners are SparkLabs Cultiv8, Hort Innovation and the Australian Government Cotton Research and Development Corporation. MinterEllison and KPMG are foundation corporate mentors for corporate partner, SparkLabs Cultiv8, and will also mentor the start-ups participating in the GATE.

"The Australian agri-food sector is riding a wave of opportunity and growth, whilst at the same time dealing with issues of succession, costs and international competition – which makes innovation all the more important," said Mr Cunningham. "We are proud to be a foundation mentor at the GATE Innovation Hub."

Mr Cunningham noted the critical importance of developing locally based agtech capabilities to maintain growth by enhancing productivity, efficiency and yields, and minimising risk, waste and costs.

"Security of supply is becoming increasingly more important for foreign investors, and we can play a key role in this space with the right agtech capability," said Mr Cunningham.

The initial cohort of eight start-ups participating in GATE have been selected from across the globe, including:

  • New York-based, which is using blockchain technology to deliver a more transparent digital food supply chain;
  • UK-based Biocarbon, which 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;
  • Norway’s Aquabyte, which is applying machine learning and computer vision to optimise fish farming efficiency;
  • Singapore-based Hydroleap, which has developed a non-chemical water treatment technology;
  • US Evaptainers which creates low-cost refrigerators that run on water; as well as
  • Local companies James Tyler, a direct-to-consumer business looking to get Australian produce straight to China, Farmbot, a company that provides plug-and-play sensors to farmers, and Secure Impact, which uses etherium blockchain technology to provide a platform to buy, sell, lease or sharefarm rural property.

MinterEllison will provide advice and assistance to the eight start-ups to better enable them to undertake local research in Australian conditions, produce proof-of-concept for new entrants, scale up prototypes ready for production, and assist the commercialisation of final products.

“It has been a real pleasure working with these innovators who are providing real world solutions that will have long-lasting benefits to Australian and global agribusiness," said Mr Cunningham.

Tech start-ups could add up to $109 billion to the Australian GDP and create 540,000 jobs by 2033. The agri-food sector provides employment for more than 1.6 million Australians.

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