It was 2017, attending the World Agritech Innovation Summit in San Francisco, that I first grasped the scale of the excitement, energy and investment going to agrifood tech around the world.
One experience that has stayed with me from that trip was meeting the CEO of Eat Just, Inc. who told us they had just raised US$300 million. It occurred to me then that this tiny start-up had generated as much capital in one round of fundraising as the Australian federal government puts into all 15 of our Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) each year. That was when it became crystal clear that there was a huge opportunity for Australia, and we had to find a way to be part of the game.
AgriFutures evokeAG. - the Asia Pacific's premier agrifood innovation event arose out of this realisation, and then it became obvious that Australia really needed to be open for business 365 days a year and we had to make it easier for people to navigate and connect to our innovation ecosystem - that's where AgriFutures growAG. came in.
To develop growAG. we worked closely with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) and now 12 months on from its launch in April 2021 we have a vibrant platform with 40,000 users, more than 2500 research projects and 100 commercialisation opportunities listed. The fact that all the research projects - from every RDC - are on growAG. means amazing transparency for farmers and researchers plus the chance for investors to see all the innovation happening in Australia.
In March, I attended the 2022 World Agritech Innovation Summit, albeit virtually getting up at 3am for four days in a row to connect online, and it stands out to me that there has been nothing but continuous exponential growth in agrifood tech over the past five years.
The opportunity for Australia is bigger than ever. AgFunder reports that venture capital investors pumped an extraordinary US$51.7 billion (AU$70 billion) into agrifood technologies in 2021, which is an 85 per cent increase on 2020.
Eat Just, Inc., that small start-up that I visited in 2018, is now valued at US$1.58 billion and has moved into manufacturing cell-based meats with a pilot production facility that will grow 6.8 million kilograms of food a year.
This tells me the agrifood tech space is moving fast and it is critical that Australia stays connected to what is happening globally. If anything, it is time for us to pick up the pace because the prize is huge, but only if we can do a great job of this.
The bottom line is, there exists an enormous opportunity for Australia to be the agrifood tech innovation hub for the southern hemisphere. The truth is we are great at agriculture, great at farming and great at research. We have all the environments available to test technology and that means if something works here it can work anywhere in the world. So why shouldn't we be an engine house for developing technologies, making them available to our farmers and exporting them around the world?
Through AgriFutures growAG. global gateway and AgriFutures evokeAG. two-day international event we have the exposure, recognition and reach into the international market, and now is time to grab the opportunity with both hands and make it happen.
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