Techweek17 has officially ended. Over the past 10 days, 270+ tech-focused events have been held across New Zealand. Hat doffed to Jenn Clamp, Graeme Muller and the whole Techweek17 team for making this happen. It’s a totally awesome achievement.
Farming2020 however, was never intended to be just another Techweek17 three-day event. It was designed as a three-day platform that would enable New Zealand’s emerging AgTech sector to connect with the global AgTech market. That conversation starts today.
Over three days last week, Farming2020 hosted 28 presentations at our home in the Waikato, the LIC Innovation Farm. Every presentation was videoed and livestreamed. Over the coming days, we will be publishing every one of those presentations to this website. It’s curated content that will help Wharf42 who initiated the Farming2020 platform, work with others, to help build the New Zealand AgTech story.
Two key themes emerged from these presentations.
The first was the need for New Zealand’s largest agribusinesses to engage and collaborate more actively (and effectively) with the country’s start-up and early stage AgTech sector. This message was reinforced in presentations from Fonterra, LIC, Gallagher, Spark & ASB. Government agencies, including Callaghan Innovation and NZVIF, also actively endorsed this view.
The good news is that a number of initiatives are already underway to accelerate this engagement. What was also hugely encouraging was the commitment that several of the larger players made to work more closely together to support this movement. Expect significant announcements, in this regard, over the coming weeks.
The second less encouraging theme to emerge was that as a sector, AgTech in New Zealand remains very siloed. Lots of amazing innovation, but little in the way of co-ordinated collaboration and messaging. One of the major benefits for those exhibiting in the Farming2020 Marquee was the opportunity to meet and share experiences with other exhibitors. I expect a number of collaborations will emerge from those conversations. That will be a very tangible and positive outcome for the Farming2020 initiative.
For Wharf42, this theme is significant. We have for a long-time advocated New Zealand as a global AgTech hub. In November last year, we published a post called, ‘Why New Zealand can become a Global AgTech Hub’. You can view it here. As a country, we have significant domain expertise and a Government, Crown Reserach Institutes and an industry deeply committed to it. Yet the sector remains deeply fragmented.
New Zealand’s siloed approach is in stark contrast to other national AgTech ecosystems. On Thursday, two Silicon Valley thought leaders spoke at the event. Rob Trice of the Mixing Bowl and Bill Reichert of Garage Technology Ventures benchmarked the performance of Kiwi startup entrepreneurs (both AgTech and wider tech) in Silicon Valley with those of other nations. It was a pretty brutal assessment and made uncomfortable listening for those in the audience. Watch out for this video when we publish it in the coming days. It is essential viewing for any New Zealand agency or entity engaged in supporting build New Zealand’s tech presence in the Valley.
Rob & Bill compared the New Zealand approach with that of the Israelis, the Dutch, the Irish and the Nordics. Not only were these nationals more aggressive in their approach, (Kiwis apparently want to be loved), they were supported by a strong, coherent and coordinated Country Story. In the Ag space, the Irish leverage the Origin Green initiative whilst the Dutch build on their country’s focus on moving towards a bio-based economy to improve sustainable agricultural practice. The Israelis just hussle. Loudly and effectively. They talk like they own Silicon Valley. Not surprising perhaps then that after the US, Israel has the second largest cohort of companies listed on the NASDAQ.
In the view of Wharf42, building a credible New Zealand AgTech story is a major priority for the country’s AgTech sector. We need to articulate our strengths and our real advantages to the rest of the world. Farming2020 last week was a start. It must now move on to the next level.
Events such as Techweek17 are a great way to bring innovators, technologists and investors together. We need to ensure however that we are not only talking to, and high-fiving, each other at home. The real value will only come about when these conversations create and generate longer-term tangible outcomes for our wider economy. That demands a global view.
Over the next few days, Wharf42 will be contacting Farming2020’s key sponsors, speakers and exhibitors. If we are to leverage our competitive advantage in the Agribusiness domain, we need to talk.
The need to engage and commence the conversation that will build New Zealand’s own unique AgTech Story cannot start soon enough. That process starts this week.