Last night, I had the opportunity to keynote at the 2016 University of Waikato Management School Alumni event. The theme of my presentation was ‘The Future of New Zealand AgTech’. You can view the full presentation on SlideShare below.

I spoke about some of the key messages I have been advocating for the past 12 months. These can be broadly summed up as:

  • The real need to increase global food production by 70% to meet the world’s growing population of 10 billion people by 2050
  • To transform farming practice through technology, to deliver greater value, sustainably
  • To recognise the significant opportunity New Zealand has to take a global lead on AgTech
  • To address the key reasons why New Zealand’s core messages are not resonating offshore

My biggest concern at present is the last of these points. Why are New Zealand AgTech businesses failing to win their share of global investment in the sector? In their Investing Review of AgTech for 2015, AgFunder did not register any significant venture investment into New Zealand’s AgTech sector. Compare that with 303 deals in the USA and 62 in India. Even Australia secured 6.

As part of my mission to help address some of these issues, I am flying to San Francisco next week to help prepare for the imminent arrival of 29 Kiwi AgTech businesses for the 3-day Silicon Valley AgTech Immersion Program and 2016 SVForum AgTech Conference. On Sunday, I received the latest briefing on exactly who had registered for the 3-day Immersion Program. The great news is that at least 4 venture funds have signed up, providing them with a bird’s eye view of some of the key movers and shakers of the New Zealand AgTech sector. This offers an almost unprecedented opportunity for those Kiwi businesses to pitch their products and services to a highly motivated group of global investors.

I have said from day one that I view the upcoming Silicon Valley AgTech Program and Conference as a platform, not just an event. Callaghan Innovation’s sponsorship and significant financial commitment to support a number of the early stage Kiwi AgTech companies attend the week is a testament to the New Zealand Government’s very real support for the sector. Last year, Cabinet announced the creation of a task force to help attract multinational R&D investment and know-how into New Zealand. AgTech was one of the key focus sectors for this initiative.

The challenge we will face on our return is how to best leverage the opportunities that the week in Silicon Valley will create. I suspect that there will be many; both for individual businesses and the wider Kiwi AgTech sector. How we manage those will be the ultimate test of the success of the Program.