So said Arama Kukutai, co-founder and managing director of Finistere Ventures, in his keynote address at the ’10 billion mouths’ agritech conference in Tauranga last week. And Arama should know.

He has just led the largest ever delegation of Silicon Valley venture capital investors to New Zealand. During their four days in the country, the delegation had the opportunity to meet a number of kiwi agritech scale-ups looking for investment to grow. At ’10 billion mouths’, six entrepreneurs pitched to the group in a closed session. A day later, five more early stage agritech companies had the chance to pitch their business to the delegation at the Sprout corporate event in Palmerston North.

Plant & Food Research

The international delegation visiting Plant & Food Research in Te Puke

In this post, I want to focus on Arama’s comment, ‘the Agritech moment has arrived’.

In a US$ venture investment context, 2013 saw approximately $450M invested into the agritech sector. By 2017, this had risen to $1.5 billion. All the evidence suggests that 2018 will see a further incremental growth of venture funding into the sector. The current trend is towards later rounds and larger investments. So far, so good.

A closer look at the numbers however suggest that New Zealand is not taking full advantage of this uplift in investment. The last four year’s of AgFunder’s AgTech Investment Reviews, suggest that very little of this money is being invested into kiwi agritech businesses.

Two recent venture investments into Palmerston North-based Biolumic and Tauranga-based Robotics Plus might suggest that this is about to change. In his podcast with Techweek TV last week, George Kellerman, Chief Operations Officer & General Partner, Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley, stated that he had visited New Zealand nine times in the past 14 months. I sense that with last week’s visit by some of the world’s leading agritech venture investors, New Zealand’s agritech sector might be about to experience a latter-day gold rush. Global capital has finally become aware of some of the cutting-edge innovation taking place in this country and wants to engage.

That’s incredibly important. With capital comes global connectivity, offshore market access and the ability to scale. Without that capital, global connectivity, offshore market access and the ability to scale becomes so much less likely.

So next month, wearing my new Agritech New Zealand hat, I will be attending two conferences in Silicon Valley; Rob Trice’s Mixing Bowl event in San Francisco and the Forbes AgTech conference in Salinas. I’ll take time out to catch up with the team at Silicon Valley Forum. Together, and working with the good folk at both Callaghan Innovation & NZTE, we are looking at how best to develop the program for this year’s Silicon Valley AgTech Immersion Program & Conference. More about that in future blog posts.

New Zealand’s agritech sector is now in the position to build much more permanent bridges with this global capital market. I plan to work with others to help build a connected New Zealand. Working collaboratively with industry, government & the wider agritech ecosystem, we will, together, make it happen.