One of the benefits of partnering with some of Silicon Valley’s key agritech ecosystem players is the access it provides to some ‘big’ strategic thinking.

Right now, one active topic of conversation revolves around the opportunity for a Dual Hemisphere R&D Agritech initiative. Essentially, the ‘Dual Hemisphere Strategy’ would see US-based agritech companies conduct R&D in New Zealand during the southern hemisphere growing season. Conversely, the opportunity will exist for New Zealand agritech companies to conduct R&D in the US during the northern hemisphere growing season. The initiative provides an opportunity for our agritech companies to significantly accelerate their R&D programs.

Salinas Valley – The Salad Bowl of the US

I am having this conversation with the Western Growers Innovation & Technology Center, based in Salinas, CA. The folks driving the concept in the US include members of the Valley’s VC community who are investing heavily into this space. The two key issues that have emerged as the catalyst for this conversation are labour & automation. Access to farm labour is reducing whilst its cost is going up. Farming and grower groups view automation as being a key enabler to help address this.

For New Zealand agritech companies, the ‘Dual Hemisphere Strategy’ provides more than just an accelerated R&D opportunity. It provides these companies with the potential for greater visibility ‘in-market’ with potential partners, customers and investors. That ‘in-market’ validation is a critical step to growing your agritech business offshore.

In conversations with Dennis Donohue, Head of the Western Growers Innovation & Technology Centre, the opportunity to build a Dual Hemisphere Strategy is real. Two early stage New Zealand companies already have desks at the Center; Biolumic & TracMap. This provides them with access to Western Grower members and the opportunity to trial tech on-farm. In the build up to next year’s Techweek 18 headline AgriTech event, we plan to invite some of the US folks advocating this strategy to New Zealand to discuss how best to leverage this initiative.

From our perspective, it ticks a lot of boxes. It provides New Zealand agritech companies with accelerated access to a key offshore market as well as increased R&D scope. Conversely, it encourages in-bound R&D investment into New Zealand at a time when farming and agricultural practice faces unprecedented disruption. That’s a significant win-win for everyone.

Building these types of bridges is an essential step to assist scale our early stage agritech sector. We’re grateful for the support that Dennis and his team are providing to help make this happen with this initiative.