04/12/2017 - 15:58

Govt backs ag accelerator to harvest big ideas

04/12/2017 - 15:58

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A new accelerator program for startups in the agribusiness sector will get under way next year after securing funding from the state government’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Govt backs ag accelerator to harvest big ideas
Tash Ayers says the program will get under way next year. Photo: Attila Csaszar

A new accelerator program for startups in the agribusiness sector will get under way next year after securing funding from the state government’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

The Harvest accelerator program will be run by consultancy Agristart, with support from the department, Austrade, and co-working hub Atomic Sky.

The eight-week program will run across a number of co-working spaces in Perth, according to Agristart founder Natasha Ayers.

The first year of the program will take on eight to 10 participants, with training to be provided across a range of disciplines.

Some participants will also be funded by Austrade to attend a trade show in Israel in May.

Ms Ayers said she was encouraged by the state government’s backing of the program.

“We feel there’s not a lot of support for researchers and agtech companies looking to trial new technology,” Ms Ayers told Business News.

“Farmers themselves often have great ideas for new technology but they’re not sure where to go with their ideas or how to commercialise them.

“There’s lots happening in this space in the mining sector; in agriculture, a bit more focus is coming since we’ve had the mining downturn, (though) there’s been very little government support for agtech in particular.

“It’s a really good sign that the Western Australian government is showing some support for agtech.”

It comes after Spacecubed announced in August that its Flux co-working hub at Parmelia House would be doubled in size, with two new floors to include an agtech innovation hub.

Ms Ayers said the Perth agtech networking group, which she chairs, had around 400 members, with about half either developing or running a startup.

Other members included financial players, technology industry participants and people generally from the agricultural sector.

Ms Ayers said farmers were keen to embrace new technology, but were hampered by poor internet connectivity in the bush.

“There’s so much talk around, and some stereotypes around, farmers being slow to adopt new technology, which are a complete and utter myth,” she said.

“Farmers are amazing at how they can adapt to new technology, but they are really hamstrung by the data drought in regional WA.”

Recent research from the Commonwealth Bank backs this up, with 37 per cent of farmers in WA planning to spend more on technology and innovation in the next 12 months, according to the bank’s Agri Insights report.

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