On Friday, I attended the launch of the Agrigate Data Platform. It is an exciting new joint venture between Fonterra and the Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC).

It was great to see New Zealand’s two largest dairy co-operatives working together to bring the Agrigate platform to farmers. The platform’s dashboard aggregates data from multiple sources allowing individual farmers to not only learn key metrics about their own farm / herd performance, but also benchmark that performance against other farms in the region and across the country. This provides valuable insights to the farmer and enables farmers to take actions that can increase productivity and improve on-farm performance.

Tim Cutfield, Agrigate CEO, at the data platform launch on Friday

It’s obviously early days, but Agrigate provides a platform that can help transform the on-farm data experience. Of benefit to farmers, it also offers great potential to the wider New Zealand AgTech ecosystem. Not surprisingly, that is the real focus of this blog.

The Agrigate platform will be made available to Fonterra and LIC farmers for a low cost monthly subscription. Going forward, additional apps could be offered as a premium add-on to the base subscription. Third party AgTech businesses which have built apps that address some of the key issues that dairy farmers face on-farm, should therefore view Agrigate as a potential new direct channel to market. I expect Tim and the team at Agrigate to talk more about this in the coming months.

The announcement of new platforms is not new to me. I remember the bad old days of the mid-late 1990’s when I went to a succession of major Microsoft ‘new platform’ launches. There were platforms for e-commerce, CRM, CMS (that was a disaster) and just about every other vertical one could think of at the time. Microsoft added their own touch. These were not just new platforms. These were establishing new ‘industry standards’ around which the historic players in those verticals could adopt.

Of course, following each major ‘new platform announcement’, nothing happened in market for at least 18 months. These were the days of vapour wear, when announcements from the global tech giants about future intentions, caused significant market disruption. Large corporations and governments would delay making procurement decisions until these platforms were released. In the meantime, those historic players that had built the market vertical in the first place, often fell by the wayside due to lack of orders. I knew some of the casualties. These were depressing times.

The good news about Agrigate is that the platform is here and now. And it’s mantra is collaboration, rather than domination. I expect it to be an ‘open platform’ meaning that third party apps can be integrated into the platform, going forward. That will add further significant value to its farmer user-base.

As Fonterra and LIC look for new partners to enhance and add to the Agrigate platform experience, it also demonstrates a new openness with the wider New Zealand AgTech ecosystem. One of Wharf42’s core learnings from time spent in Silicon Valley is that when corporates engage directly with the start-up and early stage tech communities in their own space, it is absolutely win-win. Start-up and early stage businesses offer a new approach (sometimes called ‘disruptive’) to tackling legacy problems which established corporates can leverage. In return, the corporates can offer market access and scale that the early stage community might otherwise find a challenge. That really is win-win.

Friday was a busy day. In the morning, the team at Fonterra’s Farm Source Activate 2.0 initiative announced the shortlist of eight participants selected to take part in the first, major Activate pitch event, taking place in Auckland on 1 March. You can find out more details about this initiative and the eight participants at www.fonterraactivate.com

One of the key criteria that the Activate 2.0 team applied in their shortlisting consideration was each applicants’ technology potential for the Agrigate platform. From where I sit, the dots are slowly connecting. This new openness to the wider New Zealand AgTech ecosystem is critically important for the country’s AgTech sector.

Whilst the focus of this post has been New Zealand-centric, Wharf42 is also heavily focused on building bridges and connectivity with the global market. April’s 2017 Silicon Valley AgTech Immersion Program & Conference is one example of that focus. I will be updating on this shortly but all the indications are that there will be another sizeable delegation of Kiwi AgTech folk landing in San Francisco for four days of AgTech goodness.

Friday was a day that offers huge long-term significance for the New Zealand AgTech sector.

All we can say at Wharf42 is, ‘bring it on’.