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.

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