Peter Wren-Hilton

Post evokeAG. What next for NZ-Australia agritech collaboration?

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The applause is over, the bunting and the red carpets have been put in store, and the over 1,200 delegates who attended last week’s evokeAG conference in Melbourne have returned to their day jobs.

Only 358 days then to go until the next evokeAG meetup. Same city. Same venue. 18-19 February 2020. Except that Agritech New Zealand does not plan to wait that long to build a more collaborative bridge with our Tasman neighbours.

What we learnt last week was that both New Zealand and Australia’s agritech sectors share some of the same challenges. Whilst we may occasionally display a competitive spirit, far more unites than divides. We both suffer from the impact of distance to market (Perth is a long way from Sydney) and attracting global capital to our respective sectors has been a challenge. During the NZ delegation’s field trips to several farms last week, we witnessed at first hand the effect of climate change and the impact of extreme weather events. Lack of rain (drought for an extended period) has hit Australian dairy farmers hard, meaning that Australia’s dairy output this year will be 7% down on last year. They are doing it tough out there.

What delegates from both countries agreed on was that technology and innovation has a key role to help farmers and growers address these, and other major global challenges. Issues such as sustainable farming, environmental impact, animal welfare and a license to operate are not restricted to New Zealand. They are commonly shared across borders and across continents.

One of Agritech New Zealand’s immediate challenges is identifying just who actually represents Australia’s agritech ecosystem. Unlike New Zealand, Australia has a federal & state system of government and collaboration does not always appear to be a core part of the DNA. I’m just putting this out there.

There are however some organisations who appear to be working towards building an ‘all-of-Australia’ agritech community and it’s these organisations we are currently reaching out to. The aim is to develop a genuine platform for significant trans-Tasman collaboration. These include the organisers of last week’s evokeAG conference, AgriFutures Australia, as well as two prominent agritech ecosystem builders; Agthentic and the Bridge Hub. Check out Agthentic’s Sarah Nolet post-evokeAG blog post here.

In short, we don’t plan to wait until February next year to continue the conversation. This process will start next month. My hope and genuine expectation is that by the time the next evokeAG conference takes place, so will the first major trans-Tasman collaborative agritech initiative.

It’s a significant challenge. Together, we can deliver.

Peter Wren-Hilton Peter is Executive Director of Agritech New Zealand and founder of Wharf42 in Tauranga. Peter helps organise major agritech conferences in New Zealand and offshore and connects early stage New Zealand agritech companies with international markets.