Over the past few years, I’ve been frequently asked, why Tauranga? Why not move to Auckland or Wellington and be closer to the action?
With the mercury set to hit 31c today and as New Zealand slowly gets back to work following the extended Xmas / New Year / Summer vacation break, its time to answer the question.
Whilst most folk think of Tauranga as being the Mount main beach and a holiday mecca, I want to focus on its position as one of New Zealand’s most significant agritech and entrepreneurial hotspots.
And look ahead to its prospects for 2021.
To provide the platform for the city’s agritech ecosystem, it’s fair to say that our horticultural heritage and production has a large role to play. Home to the country’s multi-billion dollar kiwifruit sector, Tauranga is also home to Zespri, PlantTech, Robotics Plus, Radford Software, BlueLab, GPS-it, Cucumber, Trimax and a host of other agritech businesses, including public sector players such as Plant & Food Research and the University of Waikato. Together, these research and business organisations are transforming the productivity and sustainability of our orchards and contributing significantly towards the development of new export markets.
In order to grow the city and region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, it’s important to have the investment and funding mechanisms in place to support its growth. Tauranga has this in spades.
At the pre-seed stage, we have WNT Ventures, one of New Zealand’s 4 technology incubators. (Disclosure; Wharf42 is the ‘W’ of WNT). Over the past 6 years, we have invested in a number of early stage businesses and are currently in the process of closing its biggest funding round to-date, Fund 3. In terms of portfolio, think of the likes of Mint Innovation, Avertana, Nyriad, Mastaplex, Foundry Lab, MaramaLabs and Argo Navis.
Enterprise Angels is one of New Zealand’s largest angel networks, providing support and investment into a number of the country’s leading early stage companies. Check out their portfolio here. Additionally, Enterprise Angels recently launched Purpose Capital. With $20M already committed, this promises to be New Zealand’s largest Impact fund.
Oriens Capital invest in new equity capital to enable existing businesses with good intellectual capital and a strong market position the opportunity to expand. BlueLab is a great example of a local agritech company who has benefited from this investment. As is Rockit Global.
Quayside Holdings and Craig Investment Partners look after the more established end of the market, although Quayside also plays an active role in WNT & Oriens.
Pulling a lot of these dots together is Priority One, the region’s Economic Development Agency. Wharf42 has been a member of ‘P1’ since our formation back in 2012. It plays a hugely influential role in helping develop the region’s long-term growth strategy. As we head into 2021, this combination of deep agritech talent, genuine sector collaboration and local investment capacity is going to accelerate the growth of the sector in the region and across New Zealand.
Add to this heady mix, local start-up and entrepreneur ecosystem builder, Venture Centre, expanding co-working spaces such as Basestation and a very proactive, Tauranga Chamber of Commerce and you have a connected, vibrant and expansive entrepreneur ecosystem. For the Bay, these are exciting times.
And if you are still wondering why Wharf42 is based in Tauranga and not Auckland or Wellington and still don’t quite get it, pop down the Mount’s main beach one day and I’ll explain.
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.
The E Tipu 2021 Boma NZ Agri Summit is slated to be the largest focused agritech event in New Zealand this year. E Tipu 2021 is designed to bring together people who work across New Zealand’s entire food and fibre sector, from the start of the supply chain to the finished products.
If you’re a farmer, producer, innovator, supplier, researcher, educator, student, government or finance worker looking at how to grow Aotearoa’s agriculture industry amidst exponential changes, you won’t want to miss it.
The programme is well advanced with a number of local and international speakers taking to the stage and of course, the family favourite, ZOOM. With funding support from major partners including Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, the Ministry of Primary Industries and ChristchurchNZ, E Tipu 2021 is going to absolutely rock!
I’ve been fortunate to have been invited to join a few other amazing people to engage in the event’s ‘Brains Trust’. We are working with the conference organisers to help develop the programme and identify leading experts to help deliver it. To provide a platform for maximum delegate engagement, as well as the main plenary conference, the event will host both interactive sessions and workshops.
Back though to the Super Early Bird Pricing. Buy your ticket before 31 January (i.e. this week) and pay $599, plus GST. Buy after 1 February and pay $699, plus GST. Buy after 20 March and pay $799, plus GST. Buy after 1 May and pay $999, plus GST.
You can book your Super Early Bird ticket here.
The team at Wharf42 will be attending and we very much hope to see you in Christchurch. In 2019, over 600 people attended the inaugural Boma NZ Agri Conference. This year, I’m expecting a larger number of attendees as progressive New Zealanders seek to support Aotearoa’s food and fibre ecosystem thrive in a changing world.
The Surprise Package?
And there is of course that possibility that those progressive New Zealanders could be joined by a bunch of progressive Australians. It’s interesting that the last formal offshore agritech mission undertaken by kiwis pre-lockdown was to the 2020 evokeAG conference in Melbourne. If our borders with Australia are re-opened before May (quarantine-free), I would expect a number of our friends across the Tasman to take the flight to Christchurch.
I discussed the opportunity at a recent Australian Agritech Association board meeting and the interest was obvious. With the evokeAG conference in Perth now postponed until February 2022, it would be a great opportunity to accelerate the trans-Tasman opportunity. And great for New Zealand to host!
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
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to and share information with Walt Duflock, Vice President of Innovation, Western Growers and Dennis Donohue, Director of the Western Growers Innovation and Technology Center in Salinas.
The focus of this discussion has been in preparation for a major announcement and initiative launch that Western Growers (WGA) will be hosting on 11 February.
Over the past five years, I’ve interacted with WGA on a regular basis. The challenges that their members face are well-known and a New Zealand agritech delegation had the opportunity to meet many of these growers during the Forbes Live conference back in June 2019. The image above shows some of the Kiwi delegation on a romaine property in the heart of Salinas Valley.
In advance of the 11 February announcements, Western Growers are asking startups (and scaleups) who are engaged in crop robotics and automation to complete a survey to help them identify early stage companies who are building products and working in the field. They are gathering this information to be able to share with WGA members.
Both Walt and Dennis understand the capability and expertise that exists ‘down-under’. By completing the survey below, early stage companies that work in this space will be able to share their information directly with WGA.
Being ‘down-under’ is NOT a disadvantage. WGA know that in order to address some of the major challenges members face, particularly around harvesting, they need to look at global solutions that can help address local problems. The main advantage that early stage companies in the southern hemisphere have is the counter seasonal opportunity. One can run a pilot programme in California, Arizona or Nevada during the northern hemisphere harvesting (picking) season and then refine the technology on southern hemisphere properties 6 months later.
Completing this survey will provide WGA with the information they need to know about your business and the technology you are either developing or have developed. With Western Growers members accounting for the production of more than 50% of all North American fresh produce; fruit, vegetables, nuts, organics, this is a major commercial pathway opportunity.
If you are developing robotics or automation technologies for the specialty crop market and are looking to expand your global footprint, this is one heck of a great way to start 2021!
You can access the survey here: Field Automation Startup Survey (research.net)