Four key takeaways from EvokeAG

The stunning Royal Exhibition Hall in Melbourne made a fantastic venue for EvokeAG

After over a year of building excitement throughout the Australian agrifood ecosystem, the date of the inaugural EvokeAG event finally arrived. Positioning itself as the one-stop-shop for all things ‘Ag’ in Australia, New Zealand and Asia, it did not disappoint.

EvokeAG brought together well over 1000 delegates across 5 continents and startups in all areas of agrifood tech, to see a star-studded line-up of expert speakers. It certainly delivered on its promise to bring together “leaders, farmers, startups, innovators, accelerators, researchers, universities, businesses, corporates, government and investors” to give a sense of what is currently happening in hot space of agrifoodtech in our corner of the globe.

There was a hefty amount to absorb in just 2 days, but here’s brief overview on the key highlights we at GrowLab took away from the conference:

1. Mining boom to dining boom: Value added foods are the future of Australian agrifood. Anthony Pratt, Executive Chairman of Visy opened day two of the conference with this exciting and intimidating proposition: Australia can only grow food for 100 million people so let’s focus on where we can add value by creating food products rather than focusing on growing more on the same amount of land. To put this into perspective, Adam Melonas of Chew Innovation noted that “one tonne of wheat is worth $100, one tonne of flour is worth $800, one tonne of bread is worth $10,000”. New food and fibre tech is needed in Australia to realise the ‘dining boom’ that is transforming our excellent agriculture commodities into world-class foods.

2. Agrifood tech is becoming a legitimate investment for Venture Capital around the world: Michael Dean of Agfunder highlighted the maturing venture capital market for agrifood tech, signalled by an increase in total investment as well as deal numbers. There is more venture funding flooding into the agrifood space than ever before, from both specialist agrifood investors as well as sector agnostic venture capitalists. Startups just need to know where to look, how to navigate the world of VC’s and find the right people to guide their journey.

3. The Australian ag innovation model is shifting: Conventional Research and Development organisations like GRDC are moving into venture capital, with a $50m fund called GrainInnovate, announced in partnership with Artesian. This is alongside a grass roots partnership between Wine Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia and other RDCs to launch Farmers2Founders: a program to teach producers the skills to be a great founder. So the pathway from being a producer to a startup founder is becoming smoother than ever before.

4. Getting everyone under one roof is critical: EvokeAG attracted over 1100 delegates, including dozens of startups, international and local venture capitalists, agribusiness investors, growers groups, agronomists and plenty more. Having this critical mass in each group made it easy to connect across the value chain. The sheer numbers, depth and range of expertise in attendance at EvokeAG really highlighted the willingness of the growing agrifood ecosystem to support Australia to become a global exporter of superb agrifood and a base for world-class agrifood tech companies.

So that’s a wrap — at least until EvokeAG 2020!

Cicada Innovation’s GrowLab was a member of the Pitch Tent Steering Committee and a proud supporter of EvokeAG.