Turning flies into food, and AI robots into farmers: Meet MAP’s 2019 cohort

Heath Evans
May 16, 2019 · 8 min read

An agricultural scientist turning flies into food, and a microelectronics engineer creating AI powered robots for farmers, are among the 10 new startups selected to take part in the year’s Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP).

The 10 startups, who were picked from over 240 applications, are set to present their companies at the MAP’s 2019 Launch, which this year is part of Melbourne Knowledge Week and will be held next Tuesday May 21.

Click here to secure your tickets to the 2019 MAP Launch.

Over the next five months these teams will receive mentoring from some of Australia’s most brilliant business minds, as well as access to a global network of advisors, channel partners and investors, and receive $20,000 in funding (with no equity taken) to help accelerate their startup growth.

Read the Herald Sun’s — Melbourne’s 10 hottest new startups.

The University of Melbourne backed initiative, now in its 8th year, has become renowned as one of the most outstanding accelerator programs in Australia, having supported over 100 companies who have generated over 127 million in revenue, raised over $88 million in funding, and created over 1400 jobs.

Accelerator Manager Laxmi Pun and Executive Director of the Melbourne Entrepreneurial Centre Professor Colin McLeod, with Beyond Ag’s Alex Arnold and Phoebe Gardner.

Executive Director of the Melbourne Entrepreneurial Centre — Professor Colin McLeod says it is the societal impact that these startups will have that is a driving force behind the University’s commitment to supporting emerging entrepreneurial talent.

“When you look at the quality of this group you’ve got founders tackling some of the most critical challenges facing our society,” said Professor McLeod.

“From services to support those suffering domestic violence, to new ways to train carers for people with a disability, and technology to help people with impaired vision to navigate our cities. These all have the potential to change the lives of those around us.

“We also have teams working on innovations that have the potential to have a huge impact on building and construction, agricultural production and the management of food waste.

“These are the type of founders who will change the world, and we will do everything we can to support them as they build out their solutions.”

These founders will also be supported by an extraordinary network of advisers and mentors who have been critical to the success of the MAP alumni teams, that include some of Australia’s most well-known startups including Nura, Brosa, Phoria, CNSDose, Relectrify, Acusensus and Carbar.

According to MAP Accelerator Manager Laxmi Pun, this year’s teams have the potential to become just as influential in the years to come.

“Every year we see the standard rise to another level, and the calibre of businesses this year is no exception,” said Pun.

“This year we had more applications than ever before, and again we saw that the startups applying have demonstrated stronger levels of traction than what we’ve typically seen in the past.

“I think this is a great reflection of the thriving startup ecosystem in Australia and the role of pre-accelerator programs, like our Velocity Program, in ensuring startups understand what is required from them when they finally make that leap and apply.”

Each team were put through a rigorous selection process which included a number of interviews, presentations and scrutiny from a selection panel which feature some of Australia’s most-respected entrepreneurs and investors, but Pun explains it has evolved over the program’s 8 years to really ensure that those who make the final selection are able to really thrive when they enter the program.

“We look for companies who have a clear vision, are scalable and could genuinely use our support, and then we connect them with experts in the areas they need to focus on and the results we’ve seen year-on-year speak for themselves.”

Among these experts are members of the program’s alumni, which Pun says is critical when helping teams realise that being selected to be part of the cohort is only the first step — the hard work is still to come.

“Many of our alumni remain heavily involved in the program, and they make really great mentors as they understand what it’s like to build a company from the ground up,” said Pun.

“Our alumni provide mentoring to the new teams as they continue to define their vision, grow their business, and prepare for investment. Their involvement has really helped us build a unique MAP ecosystem that gets stronger every year.”

In 2016, the program was ranked the 8th best university accelerator program in the world by Swedish research firm UBI Global and has become renowned as one of the strongest accelerator programs in Australia.

Meet the 2019 MAP cohort.

Beyond Ag co-founders Phoebe Gardner & Alex Arnold

Beyond Ag:

Feeding food waste to black soldier fly larvae to create a sustainable animal feed and organic fertiliser is the brainchild of agricultural scientist Alex Arnold and environmental sustainability designer Phoebe Gardner.

With almost 1/3 of all food is dumped in landfills, the startup is enabling waste logistics companies to deliver direct to their facility where Beyond Ag’s flies feast, before they are eventually converted into several tons of sustainable feed for farms across the country.

Compared to composting, the Beyond Ag system is 10x faster, produces 70% less pollution and produces 40x more valuable products.

Bindi Maps co-founder Mladen Jovanovic

Bindi Maps

Shopping Centres like Chadstone are among 91,000 indoor spaces that exist across Australia, many of which are notoriously difficult to navigate.

For the 575,000 people living with a vision impairment, finding your way around these spaces can often be a nightmare however one startup believes they’ve found a solution.

Founded by Dr Anna Wright, Tony Burrett, and Mladen Jovanovic, Bindi Maps is a smartphone information and navigation tool for indoor spaces — like Google Maps — for vision impaired individuals.

Since launching in 2017, the company has raised over $1m in seed investment.


Brunswick Aces co-founders Stephen Lawrence, Diana Abelardo, Douglas Cook, and Laura Youngson

Brunswick Aces

There’s a growing global trend towards a reduction in alcohol consumption amongst adults, and a team of neighbours turned founders from Brunswick have come up with a novel solution to capitalise.

Brunswick Aces have created a range of non-alcoholic spirits that retain the delicate aromatic flavours that are normally missing from non-alcoholic beverages, and offer three blends which are currently available both online and through various large retailers.


Codello co-founders Paul Lockwood, Jaxon Hickey, and Lisa Stephenson


Australian hospitals are spending up to $750 million annually to cover nurses that call in sick. Regulation requires these staff be replaced through agency or other temporary means, with patient safety the paramount concern.

It’s a problem Lisa Stephenson knew all too well after spending over a decade working in HR for hospitals, and along with her co-founders Paul Lockwood and Jaxon Hickey who met at the University of Melbourne’s Master of Entrepreneurship, the team set out to find a solution after discovering nurses would rather be swapping shifts than calling in sick in order to manage their work-life balance.

Codello is an online platform that enables hospitals to optimise the efficiency of their nursing workforce, by enabling nurses to swap shifts with one another, at first within the same hospital but eventually across nearby hospitals.


Curvecrete co-founders Daniel Prohasky and Warren Rudd


The Sydney Opera House is one of many of the world’s most spectacular structures that features curved concrete — a manufacturing technique that is both expensive and creates a lot of construction waste, however thanks to two Melbourne entrepreneurs this may be a problem of the past.

Daniel Prohasky and Warren Rudd, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne, have created Curvecrete; a company using robotic forming technology to make the production of curved concrete panels simpler and more cost efficient.

Their solution enables them to create a variety of complex curvatures in a standardised manner, is fully adjustable, and requires no formwork — meaning less timber, steel, fiberglass or polystyrene ultimately ending up in Australia’s landfill.

The startup has the ability to have one machine create bespoke curved panels repeatedly, dramatically reducing the complexity and labour requirements usually involved in the manufacturing process. They currently have 12 uniquely shaped lightweight panels on display in the Melbourne office of leading engineering firm Arup.


Enable founder Huy Nguyen


Over 500,000 people with disabilities need support workers to have quality of life, but Australia is short 90,000 skilled workers to deliver these services and existing forms of training and education for support workers are insufficient, ineffective, and not working.

It’s a problem Huy Nguyen knows very well, and has developing a solution called Enabler; a digital training platform to skill up workers supporting people with disabilities, using 3D mobile gaming technology.


Gecko Traxx founder Ryan Tilley

Gecko Traxx

65 million wheelchair users globally cannot easily access unpaved surfaces, whether it be sand, snow, or many other natural terrains. Gecko Traxx provides a portable wheelchair accessory that enables off-road access for manual wheelchairs.

Developed by industrial engineer Ryan Tilley, Gecko Traxx is a flexible set of over-tyres that fits inside a backpack, wrapping around the existing tyres of a wheelchair. Like snow chains for cars, but for wheelchairs.


Hello Cass founder Emma Koster

Hello Cass

From age 15, 1 in 4 women in Australia experience physical violence and 1 in 5 experience sexual violence, yet only a third of incidents of violence are disclosed or reported.

Emma Koster has created Hello Cass — an SMS chatbot that makes it easier for those experiencing or affected by family and sexual violence to ask questions about domestic violence, sexual assault, financial, emotional or psychological abuse — and feels just like texting a friend.


Scratch founders Mike Halligan and Doug Spiegelhauer


60% of Australian households have a dog but many have become disillusioned with the quality, service and trust of big dog food brands.

Two Melbourne-based entrepreneurs have created Scratch — a premium dog food with real ingredients, made fresher on subscription, delivered to your door, with orders customised according to the breed, age and activity level of the dog.

By selling direct to consumer on subscription and not via retail, the team are able to spend up to 50% more on ingredients for the same price — a solution consumers are loving.

Scratch has become the only dog food brand in Australia to reveal ingredient quantities, so you can finally know what’s in your dog food.


Thingc Robotics founder Cameron Leeson

Thingc Robotics

An on-demand workforce of fully autonomous, Artificial Intelligence-powered robots, is the vision for farmers from a Melbourne-based entrepreneur.

Cameron Leeson believes one of the greatest challenging facing farmers is finding skilled workers when they need them, and believe their extremely flexible & adaptable robots that can accommodate a range of tools/accessories may be the solution.


Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP)

The official medium publication of the Melbourne…

Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP)

The official medium publication of the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), a homegrown startup accelerator based at the University of Melbourne

Heath Evans

Written by

Marketing & Communications Manager at Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP) | Director at Future Talent | Seth Godin's altMBA Coach. www.heathevans.com.au

Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP)

The official medium publication of the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), a homegrown startup accelerator based at the University of Melbourne