INNOVATION will play a critical role in boosting Australian agricultural revenue according to the managing director of farm innovation accelerator Farmers 2 Founders.
Christine Pitts said she was upbeat about the prospects of agriculture in coming years, but said to unlock its full potential those on each side of the agri problem solving equation needed to know how to link up with each other.
She gave the incredible stat that individual producers could increase their returns by 250 per cent during the current ag boom, but qualified this by saying only by closing the massive gap between those with problems, solutions and commercialisation capacity would this be possible.
Dr Pitt said a key part of F2F's charter was better linking in farmers and those who can help boost productivity, such as researchers and corporates with R&D capacity, and frontline agriculture.
"While the essential elements for driving innovation are all there, they are not necessarily coming together," Dr Pitt said.
"There's a big gap between those who experience the problems in agriculture, those who have the ideas that can solve those problems, and those who can turn those ideas into real, commercial solutions, and it is costing the industry billions," she said.
According to Dr Pitt the ag-tech sector was seeing products pitching solutions where there is no real problem and ideas were falling by the wayside because no one knew what to do with them.
"Investors and industry bodies are frustrated and producers are missing out on immeasurable opportunity," she said.
The solution, she said, was to bring all the parties together in the early stages of problem identification and solution creation, and keeping the producer at the centre of the equation, to make sure the value of their ideas is not lost.
With this in mind she said F2F's program, Matchmaking through Muster, was critical to linking up producers and ag-tech specialists.
"What has become clear to us is that those on each side of the agri problem solving equation just don't know each other," Dr Pitt said.
"They're not exposed to each other, and they can't find each other."
Coming into its third year of operation, F2F's program structure has been overhauled to focus on the top of the innovation funnel, through a broad matchmaking service called The Muster that brings together problem holders and problem solvers.
This includes individuals, organisations and business from in and outside agriculture, recognising that good solutions could come from any sector.
From there, the program offers a range of pathways from initial discussion to commercial solution.
"It's the first time there has been a start-to-finish program focused primarily on keeping producers at the centre of industry innovation," Dr Pitt said.
"People don't know what they don't know," she said.
"What was missing was an opportunity for unpressured idea-sharing between producers, tech developers, RDCs, research bodies, corporates and anyone else who might have a role to play in progressing the industry."
She said F2F already had a strong history of guiding many producers to success through innovation, problem solving and value adding.
Success stories include a wine grower who has developed new technology that not only solves a real problem in their own business - but has raised millions of dollars of investment capital to enable them to successfully commercialise the technology with other producers, and a lentil producer who found a way to turn downgraded grains into a high value product by milling them into flour.
"These are great results, but we want to find far greater scale, to ensure more farmers, and more of industry, can achieve the same results," Dr Pitt said.
To share an idea or problem, or see what others have shared and how you might get involved, visit https://www.farmers2founders.com/the-muster