It was exactly 12 months ago this week that Wharf42 formally launched the Meteoroid Program in Tauranga. You can view some of the highlights of that launch here.

The intention then, as now, is to support early stage Kiwi tech companies connect and then engage with Silicon Valley’s vast innovation ecosystem. Since 2011, Wharf42 has established strong networks in the region and our core DNA is to leverage those networks on behalf of New Zealand’s own emerging tech startup community.

Jim Donegan, US Consul General, addressing the 2015 Meteoroid Program launch in Tauranga

Jim Donegan, US Consul General, addressing the 2015 Meteoroid Program launch in Tauranga

It was in May last year that Wharf42 brought Adiba Barney, CEO of SVForum and Bill Reichert, Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures over to New Zealand to introduce them to that community. I have enormous respect for both and when they commented during their visit (and after) that they were surprised that New Zealand was not taking more of a thought leadership position around the emerging AgTech space in the Valley, I took notice.

It was, of course, a tech space I was already addressing. As a co-founder of WNT Ventures, we have and will continue to invest into New Zealand’s emerging AgTech sector. If you understand the impact of mastitis in diary farming, you can read about one of those investments here.

I continued to discuss how New Zealand could best connect and engage with the Valley’s rapidly growing interest in AgTech with Adiba and Bill when I relocated to Sunnyvale in July. The result of those discussion is that SVForum decided to host their first ever AgTech-focused conference in 2016. The focus of the Conference is on ‘How Digital Technologies are Transforming AgTech’. Wharf42 was delighted to be its co-organiser since it provided New Zealand with the platform that Adiba and Bill had encouraged.

Over the past couple of months, Wharf42 has been joined on this journey by Callaghan Innovation and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise. Over the next few weeks we will be more formally joined by a number of New Zealand AgTech and Ag-businesses, from startup through to multinational, as we prepare to connect, engage and build long-term relationships with some of the Valley and wider West Coast US Ag ecosystem. It’s going to be some journey.

Where however does the Meteoroid Program fit into this mix?

The ‘pivot’ referred to in the title of this post has implications well beyond the tech domain. In my New Year preview post, ‘What will Wharf42 be doing in 2016?’ I identified four key areas of focus. These included WNT Ventures, AgTech, Asia and corporate venture. Each one of these will play a major role in the 2016 Meteoroid Program.

The preview post also talked about the critical part that Silicon Valley had to play to make this happen. The SVForum AgTech Conference is central to all this.

On Thursday 21 April, we will reveal what the 2016 Meteoroid Program will look like. Surrounded by both Kiwi AgTech players and the wider Valley AgTech ecosystem, the SVForum AgTech conference provides an outstanding platform to reveal just how the Program will leverage different global networks to build on the journey that started last July. It will consolidate the words and advise of both Adiba and Bill back in New Zealand, almost 12 months previously.

As an International Partner for the Plug and Play Tech Center, how will this new focus on AgTech play out in Sunnyvale? To understand that, you need to understand what AgTech is all about. It’s not about gum boots and 4.00am wake-up calls. It’s about robotics, drones, sensors, the Internet of Things and Big Data. These are the things that Silicon Valley understand and love. They are the very technologies that Plug and Play promote through their different accelerator programs. It’s all about disrupting old industries with new technologies, creating new opportunities that generate new wealth.

The Meteoroid Program pivot reflects Wharf42’s own view that in order to establish a really impactful presence in a global market, it is necessary to focus.

For the 2016 Meteoroid Program, that focus is now AgTech.