Last month, the New Zealand delegation participating in the 2017 Silicon Valley AgTech Immersion Program visited Salinas, the major AgTech hub in Northern California.

Whilst the delegation listened to presentations from some of the key players that make up this dynamic ecosystem, I slipped out of the room to catch up with Dennis Donohue, Head of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology. The meeting was pre-arranged as we were both keen to discuss how New Zealand AgTech entrepreneurs could best leverage both the Center and its access to Western Growers. It’s a conversation that has continued since I returned to New Zealand.

As background, Western Growers was founded in 1926. It represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California and Colorado. Its members and their workers provide over half the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including nearly half of America’s fresh organic produce. If New Zealand AgTech entrepreneurs want to understand the problems and challenges faced by US farmers, ranchers and growers and then market validate their technology before entering this market, Western Growers is the place to start.

Next Thursday, Dennis will be joining the ‘Taking New Zealand AgTech to the US’ session at the LIC Innovation Farm via live video conference from Salinas. We will be discussing the outcome of some of those conversations and talk about how it can facilitate US market entry for New Zealand AgTech businesses. Two have already made the leap: Biolumic and TracMap both have desks inside the Center. At least one further NZ AgTech business is on the cusp.

Building a significant New Zealand AgTech presence in this region is a key ambition that both Dennis and I share. Next Thursday, we will expand on that vision.

Before Dennis joins the session, I will be moderating a one-hour ‘Fireside Chat’ with two of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture capitalists: Bill Reichert, co-founder of Garage Technology Ventures and Rob Trice, founder of The Mixing Bowl & Valley-based Better Food Ventures. We will be discussing the current investment landscape in the Valley, its appetite for investing in AgTech and what New Zealand AgTech companies need to do to make themselves ‘investment-ready’. I expect this to be an insightful, and potentially, brutal 60 minutes. A few illusions are likely be shattered as Bill and Rob spell out just what is needed to secure Silicon Valley venture capital.

The ‘Taking New Zealand AgTech to the US’ session is being introduced by Melanie Higgins, US Consul General to New Zealand. Despite some of the recent commentary coming out of the White House, the US is still very much open for business. Melanie will talk about the real opportunity that New Zealand AgTech entrepreneurs have to leverage the close trading relationship between the two countries. Members of the US Commercial Services team will join Melanie in Hamilton. They are keen to talk to Kiwi AgTech entrepreneurs who are looking at entering the market. They can advise on all the key elements that you need to consider; visas, insurance and all the other pointy stick things that need to be covered off before you depart Auckland on NZ8. Remember to bring your business cards!

Interest in this session is high and with seating inside the Hooper Innovation Centre limited to 75, we have set up an Eventbrite ticketing system for the event. The cost? Just $25, plus GST. Tickets will be sold on a first come, first served basis and entry to the session will be by ticket only.

You can secure your ticket right now by going to the Eventbrite site at

If the US is a market you are looking to either enter or sell into, this is one Farming2020 session you won’t want to miss.