SIGNIFICANT UPDATE: Building on the Agritech NZ relationship with Western Growers

SIGNIFICANT UPDATE: Building on the Agritech NZ relationship with Western Growers

On Friday, I was delighted to meet up with Nicholas (Nick) Snyder from the United States Embassy in New Zealand. Nick has the US trade portfolio responsibility between both countries. The meeting provided a great opportunity to talk about accelerating potential bilateral collaboration in the agritech space.

We spoke at some length about Agritech New Zealand’s Partnership Agreement with Western Growers  In recent weeks, I’ve been speaking regularly to Dennis Donohue, Director of the Western Growers Technology and Innovation Center, and more recently Western Growers’s new Director of Innovation, Walt Duflock. There has been a lot to talk about.

For many Western Growers members, labor remains an ongoing challenge; both in terms of supply and cost. Additionally, COVID-19 has created massive disruption to the food service sector. With US citizens spending more on dining out than groceries, closed restaurants, cafes & bars have decimated many growers long standing supply chains. I know of several ‘family owned’ enterprises who are counting the cost in terms of hundreds of million of dollars.

With last week’s news that Walmart were emptying shelves across the States with a particular brand of romaine produced in Salinas Valley – because of concerns around E.coli, it just doesn’t get better. For many growers, 2020 has basically sucked.

Enter New Zealand. I spoke about some of the significant research and development taking place in New Zealand’s agritech robotics and automation space. Our meeting took place at the University of Waikato campus in Tauranga. The Bay of Plenty is home to such luminaries as Robotics Plus, BlueLab, GPS-it, Cucumber, Eurofins, PlantTech, Trimax, Radfords, Zespri and Plant & Food Research. How can the product and IP generated by such companies and research organisations support grower organisations and their members across the Pacific?

I also spoke about New Zealand’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) – particularly its High Impact Project – the Robotics & Automation Academy. It now has a new placeholder name: The Horticulture Robotics Catalyst. By chance, Jacqui and I are meeting up with the team from Callaghan Innovation who are leading the initiative, this afternoon.

A large number of folk collaborating within the Catalyst visited the Salinas region during last year’s Forbes Live conference. The challenges being faced by Western Growers members are therefore well understood. I personally believe that New Zealand has the capacity to deliver some of the solutions these growers need. That’s incredibly important. Western Grower members produce over 50% of all US fresh produce. That’s vegetables, fruit, nuts and organics. As a commercial pathway for New Zealand agritech, it doesn’t get much bigger.

Friday’s meeting created an important opportunity to accelerate the conversation. As the global pandemic creates new focus on nations’ food supply and food security, New Zealand’s agritech sector is well placed to take a global leadership role.

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NZ’s #1 Current Job Vacancy – Chief Executive Officer, Agritech New Zealand

NZ’s #1 Current Job Vacancy – Chief Executive Officer, Agritech New Zealand

I might be a tad biased, but this really is the most amazing opportunity for a suitably qualified candidate to take Agritech New Zealand to the next level.

Over the past 2.5 years, the organisation has grown to be the voice of Agritech in New Zealand. It has brought together stakeholders from across the spectrum – industry, research & government and helped build a significant long-term strategy for the sector via the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan.

Wharf42 will continue to play an important role – being responsible for Global Alliances. We look forward to working with and supporting the organisation’s newly appointed CEO.

The Formal Job Description on Seek

The Agritech sector globally is enjoying steep growth, and New Zealand is well-positioned to benefit from and contribute to this growth – so long as the sector acts strategically, cohesively and intelligently in both the domestic and global markets.

To help individual members and the sector collectively, AgritechNZ invites applications from suitably qualified individuals for the full-time position of Chief Executive Officer.

This is a varied, hands-on role including the following responsibilities:

Management
– 
Implement the strategic plan developed by the Executive Council to meet strategic objectives of AgritechNZ.
– Work for and report to the Executive Council with respect to AgritechNZ being built into a sustainable, fiscally responsible entity under the financial governance of the Executive Council.
– Manage the AgritechNZ budget and P&L according the budgets developed and approved by the Executive Council.
– Arrange project and event sponsorship, in line with direction from the Strategic Plan.
 Provide reporting on financial performance on a monthly basis to the Executive Council.

Membership Retention & Growth
– 
Develop and grow AgritechNZ membership.
– Be readily available and accessible, responding as required by members.
– Engage effectively with prospects, members and stakeholders.
– Provide reporting on membership matters on a monthly basis to the Executive Council.

Projects & Working Groups
– Instigate and manage projects and practitioner working groups as per the Strategic Plan.
– 
Provide reporting on project performance on a monthly basis to the Executive Council.

Marketing and Public Relations
– 
Help develop and maintain a strong public profile for AgritechNZ.
– Support the Chair making major announcements, or responding to media, on policy, direction and purpose, support Executive Councillors who may make announcements from time to time, and be the public spokesperson for AgritechNZ on operational, tactical event and other matters
– Produce monthly newsletters and other communications in line with the Strategic Plan and publish via approved channels.

 The closing date for applications is 22 November 2020. Applications will be treated in confidence, and no referees will be contacted until after initial interviews with shortlisted candidates. Applications can be submitted via SEEK.

Congratulations RiverWatch! Winners of the Bridge Hub 2020 Water Challenge New Zealand Startup Stream Category

Congratulations RiverWatch! Winners of the Bridge Hub 2020 Water Challenge New Zealand Startup Stream Category

As sponsors of the Bridge Hub 2020 Water Challenge New Zealand Startup Steam Category, Jacqui and I were delighted to join James Muir, co-founder of RiverWatch, at Zespri HQ on Friday as the winners of the Bridge Hub 2020 Water Challenge were announced.

If you missed the virtual Finale which featured Vic Crone, CEO of Callaghan Innovation and David Thodey, Chair of CSIRO, you can view the presentation on YouTube here.

RiverWatch is the next generation of water quality monitoring, providing an easier, smarter way to gather water data.  An innovative, compact device, using the latest in remote sensing technology and IoT networks, delivering real time data straight to your phone or desktop. And with knowledge comes power, to make targeted changes to improve New Zealand’s declining fresh water quality.

James and his team were well deserved winners of the New Zealand startup stream category. An alumni of the Sprout Accelerator programme, they are addressing one of the most important environmental issues facing New Zealand and the world right now.

The 2020 Bridge Hub Water Challenge was the first major trans-Tasman agritech initiative. Over 120 entries were submitted from Australia and New Zealand in both startup and research categories. A further 20+ entries were submitted by startups and researchers based in Israel, a key ecosystem partner of the Bridge Hub. This interest reflects the absolute importance of water; it’s availability, management & quality for our agrifood sector. It is our most significant natural resource.

Working with our co-sponsors and partners in New Zealand, Zespri and Callaghan Innovation, has been a blast. Together, we have not only highlighted a major challenge that New Zealand and the world’s agrifood industry collectively face, we have also created the opportunity for a collaborative road map to address this challenge with partners across the Tasman.

So what’s next? Wharf42 intends to work with the Bridge Hub to build a collaborative network of researchers and startups working in this space. Both organisations recognise that the Challenge was far more than simply a one-off event. It provided the opportunity to build a community of like-minded organisations and individuals seeking to address one of the world’s most significant existential issues.

My final word goes to Bridge Hub and the team there; Craig, Di, Ethy & Grant. In what were very trying times, where closed borders within Australia added a new dimension to the word ‘trying’, the team never lost faith or focus on the Challenge. It’s been great working with the Bridge Hub and wearing Wharf42’s trans-Tasman lens, it provides a great platform for joint future initiatives.

Going forward, for all of us, the real work and the real opportunity begins now.

Register for the Bridge Hub 2020 Water Challenge Finale and the Announcement of Winners – Friday 30 October

Register for the Bridge Hub 2020 Water Challenge Finale and the Announcement of Winners – Friday 30 October

Wharf42 is delighted to be an official sponsor of the Bridge Hub 2020 trans-Tasman Water Challenge. At 2.00pm this Friday (30 October), you can join us online as we announce the winner of the New Zealand start-up category.

We will be joined in person by the other New Zealand official sponsor, Zespri, who will be announcing the winner of the New Zealand research category.

The Water Challenge has attracted an amazing array of start-ups and research projects from around both Australia and New Zealand. Water is one of our most critical natural resources and with climate change creating more extreme weather events, including extended periods of drought, it is one of agriculture’s #1 issues. The 2020 Water Challenge has produced a wide range of exciting solutions designed to tackle the key issues of water availability, management and quality.

On Friday, we will not only be announcing the winners of the two key New Zealand categories, we’ll be announcing the Australian category winners. You will have the opportunity to hear their pitch and also hear from Vic Crone & David Thodey, co-leaders of the Innovation Sector Group within the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum. It promises to be a an inspiring virtual event.The 2020 Water Challenge Finale and the Announcement of Winners runs from 2.00pm – 2.30pm (NZT).

To join us on Friday, simply register your (free) spot at https://waterchallengefinale.eventbrite.com.au. We look forward to seeing you (virtually of course) then.

If you want to learn more about the ongoing development of the Wharf42 Insights Programme and other initiatives currently being kept under wraps, please sign up for our free Monthly Newsletter.

Introducing growAG and the commercialisation of publicly-funded agri-focused research

Introducing growAG and the commercialisation of publicly-funded agri-focused research

For the past three years, I’ve sat on the evokeAG steering committee. A product of AgriFutures Australia, the team successfully hosted two significant events in 2019 and 2020 in Melbourne. Over 200 kiwis attended evokeAG and but for COVID, we’d be heading to Perth in 2021.

The pandemic and closed borders have meant a delay. Perth and sadly, the Little Creatures brewery in Fremantle, will now have to wait until February 2022. The evokeAG brand and network meanwhile continues to grow.

At evokeAG 2019, Australian Agriculture Minister David Littleproud made reference to a nascent initiative called growAG. During COVID lockdown, growAG grew (pardon the pun). Once again, AgriFutures Australia asked me if I would join its steering committee to be part of the conversation.

As context, growAG is a powerful online innovation marketplace for Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) and other research organisations and inventors to ‘list’ technologies and attract investment and commercialisation partners from around the world. growAG provides a one-stop-shop for the private sector in Australia, and from around the world, to connect to the RDCs and other researcher organisations in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia Pacific region.

The timing is significant. In New Zealand, the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) has ‘Commercialisation’ as one of its key workstreams. The Plan says, and I quote, ‘New Zealand’s significant investments into agritech R&D are not resulting in a significant flow of companies and product spin-outs. More work is needed to increase our understanding of commercialisation of research, and ensure our world-class research is well utilised and exploited’. The Plan goes onto say; ‘There is currently IP in research institutes that has the potential for commercial value. This IP may not have been commercialised due to a number of reasons including undervaluing or overvaluing the IP; lack of effective mechanisms for researchers to transition into and/or back out of a new business; lack of effective commercialisation partners and/or business models’.

The similarity between some of the outcomes sought in the Plan and growAG are striking. Both Australia and New Zealand have world-leading science and research capability. Our ability however to commercialise the valuable outcomes and IP generated has, in my view, fallen well short of the opportunity that could have been generated. It’s a challenge both countries are addressing. By talking to each other, it’s one more metric that could assist both the region and each country develop an effective and long-term solution designed to take great science and light up the agrifood sector. I’m delighted to be able to contribute to the growAG discussion.

If you want to learn more about the ongoing development of the Wharf42 Insights Programme and other initiatives currently being kept under wraps, please sign up for our free Monthly Newsletter.