futurelab

Can we please build some New Zealand agritech platforms?

Over the past few weeks, I have been speaking to many players in New Zealand’s emerging agritech sector. As Executive Director of Agritech New Zealand, it’s an important part of my job description.

At the same time, I’ve also been speaking to a large number of New Zealand’s primary sector end users – farmers, orchardists and some of their trusted advisors. A common theme is emerging.

Whilst the agritech sector is addressing a number of end user issues, the delivery is coming in the form of a broad array of different solutions and apps. Each one addresses a specific problem, but each one has a different GTM model and each one requires a different set of purchasing behaviours. And this is the rub.

Typical farmers or orchardists (at least those who I have met) do not want to have to deal with multiple tech solutions from multiple providers. They have, in their view, a set of common issues which they want to be addressed by a single platform; two at most.

There will always of course to be the specific challenge which only a bespoke solution can manage. In the main however, issues around soil, nitrogen, effluent, irrigation, pasture growth and supplementary feed (as examples) apply across most properties.

This poses a challenge and one that was highlighted by the recent visit of international delegates to the ’10 billion mouths’ conference in Tauranga during Techweek. In a relatively small market such as New Zealand, how many ‘soil sensor’ companies do we need? If the rest of the country’s agribusiness sector has taught us anything, only 2 – 3 such vertically-focused companies will survive and flourish. Duopoly in New Zealand’s primary sector is often the name of the game.

And yet, there are no shortage of new entrants. Each one competing for investment, market share and cut through. How many are fit and ready enough to address the much more significant global market opportunity is questionable. That requires scale, and this poses a much bigger question for the country’s agritech sector.

When I see emerging agritech businesses coming out of the likes of Israel, Holland and Ireland, they have scale. And often and not, this is because these businesses are the result of some early stage M&A activity in those countries. In other words, start-ups in complimentary fields have chosen to work together as a JV or full-on merger in order to provide a platform solution to manage a range of addressable issues. Think of in-field sensors, drones & data analytics all wrapped up in a single solution. Or platform. Or whatever you want to call it.

As the 30+ kiwi agritech companies I am joining next month head off to the 2018 Silicon Valley AgTech Immersion Program & Conference, I expect to witness a number of new examples of these kinds of integrated agritech platform examples in the US. It’s likely to create some interesting and I trust enlightening conversations about the value of more NZ collaboration whilst we are ‘on the bus’.

I certainly hope so.

You can follow our progress whilst in Silicon Valley at the Agritech New Zealand Twitter handle: agritech_nz

futurelab