Wharf42 Sponsors the $5,000 Prize for the Winning NZ Trans-Tasman Water Challenge Startup Entry

Wharf42 Sponsors the $5,000 Prize for the Winning NZ Trans-Tasman Water Challenge Startup Entry

Wharf42 officially relaunches its website today. It’s great to be back!

Today we are also announcing our sponsorship of the $5,000 prize for the best New Zealand Bridge Hub Trans-Tasman Water Challenge Startup Entry. We are teaming up with our great friends at Zespri, who are sponsoring the major $25,000 New Zealand Bridge Hub Water Challenge Research Prize.

Water is our most precious natural resource. Its availability, its management and its quality are of critical importance to the human race. For the global agrifood sector, extreme weather events brought on by climate change have had a devastating impact. Australia has suffered from years of drought whilst in New Zealand, we have been experiencing both extended dry periods and damaging floods.

The Trans-Tasman Water Challenge, initiated by the Bridge Hub, a NSW innovation hub, and supported by both the Australia New Zealand Agritech Council and the New Zealand government’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP), has been designed to bring together researchers and startups from both sides of the Tasman, focused on finding solutions to address these issues.

Across the ditch, many of Australia’s leading research organisations including CSIRO, AgriFutures Australia and the Universities of Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide are taking part. In New Zealand, applications have already been submitted from a large number of researchers and startups.

As well as the cash prizes, Wharf42 will work with ALL the startups who submit applications, post the Challenge’s completion. We are working with Callaghan Innovation to set up a series of online workshops which will cover off a number of key opportunities. Separately, we will activate the Wharf42 Insights Programme to provide relevant market intelligence data to assist the commercialisation of the submitted applications.

Finally, we are working with the Bridge Hub to identify opportunities to field trial and test solutions, on-farm, in both Australia and New Zealand. For New Zealand startups wanting to increase their offshore visibility, this Challenge offers an amazing opportunity.

We have extended the application close date for the Water Challenge to Friday 28 August. If you want to submit an application and help address this critical global issue, please go to www.waterchallenge.co

Wharf42 is delighted to be supporting this major Trans-Tasman initiative.

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.

New Zealand’s Technology Sector goes from Strength to Strength

New Zealand’s Technology Sector goes from Strength to Strength

At yesterday’s NZTech AGM, the Chair, Mitchell Pham, provided details of the continued growth of New Zealand’s technology sector. Against the backdrop of COVID-19, the numbers were impressive. The sector is going from strength to strength.

The event itself however reflected the times we live in. 36 hours before, we had been all set for an in-person event at the ANZ HQ in Auckland. The announcement by the government of a return to Level 3 lockdown changed all that. Hotels were cancelled and we reverted once again to ZOOM.

The same conditions applied to Agritech New Zealand’s own planned annual Strategy Day. It had been scheduled as an in-person event yesterday, prior to the start of the NZTech AGM. ZOOM once again joined the party.

Talking of parties, next Friday’s New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards Gala Dinner in Auckland has also been cancelled. It will now become a virtual event. Another hotel room cancelled and petrol saved as we settle into our domestic ‘bubble’ in Tauranga.

Whilst the digital economy is thriving in these uncertain times, the events of the past 48 hours have demonstrated the impact on other sectors of our economy. Hospitality, events and accommodation providers are clearly suffering. With borders closed for the foreseeable future, there will be no respite from inbound international tourists or business travelers. Tough times indeed.

(There is one action you can take to support businesses in these sectors. Go to https://sosbusiness.nz/ and sign up for pre-paid vouchers at your favourite cafes & restaurants. It will provide them with some vital cashflow as they navigate these challenging times).

For businesses operating in the agritech sector, things are looking much more positive. New Zealand’s primary sector is holding up with exports continuing to support the country’s broader economy. Lack of labour is driving the demand for more automation and this in turn is seeing a growth in both researchers and start-ups engaging in this space.

For Wharf42, this ongoing activity is central to our plans for the next few months. As we reach out to our offshore networks, New Zealand’s agritech sector has a great story to tell. The challenge for us and the wider sector is to how we communicate our story through further potential lockdowns and the ongoing disruption it causes.

For Wharf42, New Zealand’s agritech sector is still very much ‘open for business’. That will be the message that we will continue to promote in our new role at Agritech New Zealand and elsewhere .

It’s a message that needs to be heard.

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.

Agritech New Zealand – The Changing of the Guard

Agritech New Zealand – The Changing of the Guard

As recorded elsewhere on this website, Wharf42’s agritech journey began in Silicon Valley in the summer of 2015. Jacqui and I recognised that venture investment into the agritech space was increasing exponentially, but very little of this capital was finding its way to New Zealand.

Fast forward three years and we launched Agritech New Zealand in May 2018. Over the past two years, we have grown the organisation to 140+ members, representing a wide cross-section of stakeholders engaged in the sector. The launch of the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) in our home city of Tauranga, was a fitting fulfillment of our five years of work.

Agritech New Zealand now has the opportunity to engage its members with the delivery and implementation of the Plan. It has also been an opportunity for Jacqui and I to reassess our own longer term goals and ambition for the sector.

The world we live in today is very different to the one we enjoyed only six months ago. COVID-19 means that closed borders are likely to remain closed for some time. The impact on our export sector is significant and reaching out to our offshore networks has become our #1 priority.

Yesterday, we formally advised Graeme Muller, CEO of NZTech, of our decision to stand down as Agritech New Zealand’s Executive Director and Projects Director respectively. We will continue to fulfill these roles over the coming weeks as we secure a successful transition of leadership. We do not intend however to leave the ship!

We are working with Graeme and our Executive Council to create a new part-time role. We’ve yet to come up with a name for it but essentially, we will focus exclusively on developing Agritech New Zealand’s global footprint. This reflects our own view that now is the time for New Zealand, despite our closed borders, to step up and say to the world, ‘we are open for business’.

We are hugely excited by the potential opportunities that this career pivot will bring.

You can follow us on this journey via the updated posts we publish to this site. It’s an impact we are once again determined to deliver.

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.

WNT Ventures is Raising Fund 3

WNT Ventures is Raising Fund 3

After serving on the WNT Ventures Investment Committee for six years, both Bill Murphy of Enterprise Angels and I officially stood down from that role yesterday .

It’s been a real honour to firstly co-found WNT to provide the Bay of Plenty with a very important cog in its emerging innovation ecosystem. Secondly, the Investment Committee has played a key role in building up the incubator’s portfolio of companies. The good news is that I am not saying goodbye to WNT.

I remain a member of the WNT Ventures GP Board helping look after the interests of Fund 1. And what an exciting group of companies we have supported and helped grow from their early beginnings; Avertana, Mint Innovation, Nyriad and Mastaplex. Not forgetting of course OneSixOne which was acquired by a major US interest in 2019.

Yesterday, Bill and I were joined by Carl and the WNT Executive team for lunch. I am posting the photograph above so that family and friends back in the UK can see how we lunch in Tauranga in mid-winter! It was also good to have my original co-founders join us; Steve Saunders, Ian Macrae, Beppie Holm and Scott Hamilton. It’s been a blast.

WNT Ventures itself goes from strength to strength. In December, Callaghan Innovation announced a license for a further 8 years of co-funding using the Technology Incubator model. WNT has publicly announced that it’s raising Fund 3. You can find out more details about this at our website. The Board is also looking for a couple of new independent directors who will also sit on the Investment Committee. As deals get bigger, we are keen to ensure that new blood can contribute to the ongoing growth of the organisation and the portfolio of companies that we invest in.

My departure from the IC is part of a more general clearing up of some of my current workload. As I’ve indicated elsewhere in these blog posts, closed borders are impacting on New Zealand’s agritech sector both now and I believe in the future. The offshore landscape will not revert to ‘normal’ any time soon.

Focusing on that challenge is where I intend to ‘invest’ more of my time now.

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.

Building Collaborative Research Opportunities with CSIRO

Building Collaborative Research Opportunities with CSIRO

In December, Jacqui and I caught up with Michiel Van Lookeren Campagne and Michael Robertson, Director and Deputy-Director of CSIRO’s Agriculture and Food Division respectively. We visited them at their offices in Canberra.

It was an insightful meeting. I had anticipated that there would have been some significant ongoing research collaboration taking place between CSIRO and New Zealand research organisations in the agritech space. I was wrong. The lack of any real active collaboration was, and is for me, troubling.

It is reflected in the current Trans-Tasman Water Challenge. Whilst there has been strong interest expressed by researchers on both sides of the Tasman, there has been little evidence of much joint trans-Tasman work. Given the importance of water as our most precious natural resource, this does not make much sense.

Wearing my Australia New Zealand Agritech Council hat, increasing research collaboration between both countries is a priority. As we emerge from lockdown, I expect the landscape for increased collaboration to become more urgent. COVID-19 has shown that when faced with a global pandemic, the world can work together to find a vaccine. As we face an uncertain future with climate change and changing demographics, our ability to manage water and produce more nutritious food will become one of the world’s most important tasks.

I’ll be talking a bit more about this subject over the coming weeks. I’m currently involved in an initiative which is looking at the commercialisation of research. Michiel is also involved in this initiative. Its work maps some of the thinking behind the New Zealand Agritech ITP’s commercialisation workstream.

It’s an issue on both sides of the Tasman. It’s one that collectively we can address.

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.