As we get ready to close down for the Christmas & New Year holidays, Jacqui and I want to wish everyone a happy and safe festive season from the awesome Bay of Plenty.
2020 has been a challenging year for many, but the opportunities that we can see building in 2021 provide real purpose to our mantra. As we pivot towards developing a global platform;
- We have a Vision
- We intend to Execute on it
- It will create Impact
We close down tomorrow, Wednesday 23 December, and will be back at our desks on Monday 11 January.
Enjoy the break, take time to share with family and friends and above all, stay safe.
I’m delighted to have been asked to join the Establishment Working Group of the nascent Agrifood Tech Singapore Association.
The Agritech New Zealand playbook, developed over the past 3 – 4 years, is now being leveraged by agritech ecosystems across the globe. For countries such as New Zealand and Australia where agricultural production means that a significant amount of produce is exported, tech investment is often focused on increasing production in more sustainable ways.
In Singapore, the inverse is true. Today, Singapore produces only 10% of its domestic food needs. The other 90% is imported. Last year, the Singapore government announced the 30:30 initiative; a strategy designed to increase domestic food production to 30% by 2030. Then COVID hit. When you have such a reliance on food imports, particularly when pandemics close borders, that makes you very vulnerable. This has generated a new sense of urgency across the country’s agrifood sector.
The main purpose of the Association is to accelerate Singapore’s agrifood tech ecosystem to build a coherent community to support the advance of agritech in the country. Both New Zealand and Australian agritech companies have a vital role to play.
The focus is on developing agrifood tech that maps Singapore’s specific needs. Given the lack of land, that means focusing on sectors such as vertical farming, urban farming and more intensive aquaculture farming. In a New Zealand context, I’m thinking of the likes of Biolumic, BlueLab, Autogrow, Robotics Plus. That’s just for starters. On the other side of the Tasman and wearing my Australian Agritech Association advisory hat, I can think of several Australian agritech companies that also fit the bill.
The Agrifood Tech Singapore Association envisages a tripartite approach. This involves Australia, New Zealand and Singapore working together to support Singapore’s ability to accelerate nutritious food production.
On the ground, the Singapore investment community is accelerating its focus on the need and the opportunity. On 20 November, Temasek International, the Singapore government’s main investment arm, announced that it was setting up a new vehicle to help accelerate and manage agricultural and food investments as part of a multi-billion dollar push into the market. The platform will have two main missions — to help agri-food portfolio companies build the operational capabilities needed to get products off the drawing board and into the market, and to help them build the manufacturing and production scale “to the next level.”
I have been speaking to other players in this space over the past few weeks. The need and the urgency is real. The development of the Agrifood Tech Singapore Association cannot come soon enough. It’s great to be part of the opportunity.
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.