At the Farming2020 event last Thursday, the morning session was dedicated to the theme; ‘Taking New Zealand AgTech to the US’.

It was introduced by US Consul General, Melanie Higgins and closed with a 40 minute live Skype call with Dennis Donohue, Head of the Western Growers Technology & Innovation Center, in Salinas, CA. More about the outcome of that conversation in the coming weeks. New Zealand AgTech might just have found its own landing pad in one of the USA’s most significant produce growing regions.

The centrepiece of the session was a Fireside Chat with two prominent Silicon Valley based VC’s. Bill Reichert is co-founder and Managing Director at Garage Technology Ventures. Rob Trice is the founder of the Mixing Bowl and Better Food Ventures. I know them both well. They work closely with NZ Inc. supporting and advising early stage Kiwi technology companies enter the US market. They are real friends to New Zealand.

The whole session was videoed and livestreamed. I have linked the Fireside Chat video to this post below.

I had the pleasure of moderating Bill & Rob’s session. I said at the outset that this was to be a ‘no holds’ barred chat. They did not let me down. The chat generated some really interesting observations from Rob about the current investment landscape for AgTech not just in the US, but globally. He identified several trends in the most recent AgFunder Investment Report which are causing him some worry. For any Kiwi AgTech entrepreneur or investor looking at either raising capital or looking at co-funding opportunities, the video below provides some great insights.

It was then though that the question came up from the floor. How were Kiwi AgTech start-ups positioned in the Valley and how did the panel benchmark them against other nationals? These included the Isrealis, the Irish, the Dutch and the Nordics. The response was not what the audience expected. It was a rather brutal, but honest assessment. It really is essential viewing for any agency, investor or Kiwi network looking to support early stage New Zealand entrepreneurs enter this market. I’ll leave Bill & Rob to do the talking in the video below: (Rob shares some of his most direct personal experiences at 42 mins)

 

I understand the highly visible frustrations that were expressed. They were genuine. And sadly, they are not alone. I know others in the wider SF Bay area (also friends of New Zealand) who have told me of exactly the same experiences. I myself am frequently asked by Kiwi entrepreneurs to make introductions to Valley-based investors. Unless I am directly engaged with the discussion, I don’t. The risk to my own network is too high.

Over the coming days, I will be publishing more videos from Farming2020 at www.farming2020.nz. They provide great insights into some of the really innovative agricultural technology being developed in New Zealand. Plus commentary from industry thought leaders about just how quickly adoption by farmers to that technology will take place. What ROI are they looking for and what are the most appropriate sales channels into the sector?

If we are to grow and scale our sector globally however, there are some more immediate issues that need to be addressed. The video above highlights just how significant some of these are.