AUSTRALIA'S emerging ag-tech sector has won a vote of confidence from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
The grains research body has partnered with venture capital firm Artesian to establish a $50 million fund designed to promote the growth of ag-tech start-ups.
It is believed the pool of capital, featuring a $25 million stake from the GRDC, is one of the largest in the Australian ag sector with the GRDC bullish about it attracting top class ag-tech ideas.
The fund, called GrainInnovate, is designed to complement the GRDC's more traditional suite of research, development and extension (R, D and E) in Australia.
GRDC chairman John Woods said his organisation had taken the plunge in increasing its exposure to technology-based research in order to identify potential groundbreaking work, both domestically and internationally.
He said he thought growers would approve of the direction GRDC was taking in terms of investing its research dollars.
"We have seen an increase in the gross value of grain production from approximately $6 billion to approximately $15 billion in the past 15 years – most of which has come from growers stepping up to adopt new and novel technologies,” he said.
Mr Woods said given Australia's harsh growing conditions, the grains industry needed to think outside the box to retain its edge globally.
“To stay competitive we need to seek new innovations and technology from Australia and around the world and get it grower hands as quickly as possible.
He said there was no set area the fund would focus on.
“Whether you’re a grower, breeder, research scientist, agronomist or ag tech developer – if you’ve got an innovation that can improve production or address a grains industry constraint– we want to hear from you."
The scheme has won plaudits from the government.
Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud welcomed the fund's creation.
“This will help turn grain-growing into a high-tech science,” Mr Littleproud said.
“This fund brings business on board to make the most of grain R&D.
Mr Woods assured growers the fund would complement, rather than work in competition to, GRDC's existing activities.
“GrainInnovate is bringing disruption to complement what it is a very stable R, D and E environment in the grains industry.
“While GRDC has a strong and diverse investment portfolio, this fund will give growers access to cutting edge ideas, technology and tools available."
Artesian managing partner Jeremy Colless said his company, which operates across the Asia-Pacific region, was excited about investing in the opportunities in agriculture.
“GrainInnovate will target scalable, high growth potential start-ups from all facets of the grains production and processing chain.
The initiative is setting its sights for entrepreneurs and start-ups working across a range of areas including genetic tools and technologies, crop and environmental sensing, grain storage logistics, renewable technologies, managing frost and heat, task automation and crop protection technologies.
These start-ups can be founded anywhere, but as part of the fund's investment due diligence, start-ups will demonstrate their commitment to solutions for Australian growers.