Over the past few weeks, Wharf42 has been actively engaged in developing three potential global AgTech initiatives. One in the US. One in China. And one in New Zealand.

They all have one thing in common. Connecting New Zealand’s growing AgTech sector with the global market.

Leveraging New Zealand's vast AgriBusiness domain expertise

Leveraging New Zealand’s vast AgriBusiness domain expertise

Plans for next year’s Silicon Valley AgTech Immersion Program & Conference are already well underway. You can learn more about it here. Wharf42 has once again been working with Silicon Valley Forum and NZTE’s North American ‘AgriBusiness guru’, James Wilde, to make this happen. We really hope that New Zealand AgTech entrepreneurs and investors will take the opportunity to travel to San Francisco next April to meet and engage with some of the region’s vast and growing AgTech ecosystem. The fruits of this year’s visit are already showing through with the imminent arrival to New Zealand of a team from Driscolls, one on North America’s largest producers of berries.

The guys back in the Valley are certainly keen to once again meet and engage with the New Zealand delegation. Building deeper relationships is a core mission of the Program.

In China, Wharf42 has been approached to replicate a similar program to enable Chinese AgTech innovators and investors to meet and engage with our growing AgTech sector. This is a developing story, but includes not only the opportunity of generating new channels to market, but also providing access to high quality, low cost manufacturing expertise, as well as capital. With China planning to invest US $450 billion modernising agriculture by 2020, this is a major opportunity for Kiwi AgTech companies looking to establish a footprint in this market.

It’s this thesis that leads me to the title of this post. At a recent meeting of New Zealand investors, the talk was all about distance to market, size of market and the availability of capital. The subject being discussed was; ‘how does New Zealand attract global entrepreneurs and investors to set up shop in this country’? The view of those taking part was not particularly positive. Why would a FinTech entrepreneur choose Auckland or Wellington as a base over, for example, Singapore, London or New York? The same argument was applied to several other tech ‘domains’.

I expressed the view that AgTech was different. What New Zealand has in spades is vast amounts of AgriBusiness domain expertise. And it’s not just dairy. New Zealand leads the way across many primary industry sectors in terms of both production and means of production. I do not believe, by any stretch, that New Zealand has leveraged sufficiently the benefit that this domain expertise offers.

This strongly held view leads to the third ‘global’ AgTech initiative that Wharf42 is currently involved with. This one will be hosted in New Zealand. This is also a developing story, but one I will expand on before the end of the year. It is designed to enable a demonstration of different Kiwi AgTech digital platforms working together to create a single ‘connected farm’. It will showcase New Zealand robotic, drone and sensor technologies operating in a real-world farm environment. This initiative is designed to not only encourage our AgTech ecosystem to collaborate more closely together on home soil, but to sow the seeds of what’s possible by working together in larger offshore markets.

One of the big lessons that all 23 Kiwi AgTech businesses took on board during April’s visit to Silicon Valley was that whilst our technology competes with the best, our ability to scale is strongly diminished by those same metrics discussed by the investors in Auckland last week. My view is that by working together and by hunting as a pack, there is a much greater chance of breaking into some of these key global markets.

The planned visit to Silicon Valley in April and the proposed visit to China next year will provide access to some of those core components that New Zealand’s AgTech sector currently lack; new channels to market, access to global capital and the ability to generate scale.

Everything, in my view, is within our reach if we take full advantage of the domain expertise we enjoy. Leveraging that domain expertise will enable New Zealand to become a true global AgTech hub. The reason why global FinTech companies would choose Singapore, London or New York as a base over Auckland or Wellington is because of perceived domain expertise. The same arguament applies to New Zealand and AgTech. We just have to go out there and tell our story.