MLA Donor Company (MDC), a subsidiary of Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), has teamed up with SproutX, Australia’s first national agtech innovation hub, to encourage entrepreneurs and startups to solve some of the biggest issues facing the red meat and livestock industry, through new technology, ideas and data.
The new partnership will provide a testbed and commercialisation pathway for agtech startups, who will link up with red meat producers, including MLA members, to research, develop, test and ultimately commercialise new technologies.
MDC attracts voluntary investments in research and development innovation into the red meat industry from the commercial sector, and aims to more than double its planned research and development expenditure in 2016 to over $70 million.
Under the partnership, startups and entrepreneurs involved in SproutX will be encouraged to tackle on-farm issues such as virtual fences, water management, livestock location technology, improved reproduction, methane reduction, weed control, feed conversion, improved animal health, welfare and mortality rates and developing new pest control technologies.
SproutX, a joint venture between Findex and the National Farmers’ Federation, welcomed MDC as a founding industry partner of the innovation hub, to help translate research from labs and co-working spaces, and onto farms.
“We’ve already seen some amazing talent and ideas join SproutX since we launched our pre-accelerator program, and it’s time to put those ideas into action,” said Sam Trethewey, General Manager of SproutX.
“Working with MDC means we can move cutting edge research out of labs and offices and onto farms, where it can be tested and commercialised. Some eighteen of the one hundred startups recently accepted into the SproutX pre-accelerator program are already focused purely on technology for livestock farms, while others are aiming to solve problems that will partially benefit red meat producers across Australia and internationally.”
Dr Christine Pitt, MDC CEO, said: “We are excited about the partnership with SproutX and the solutions that will be developed as a result. We need big ideas to put Australia’s red meat industry at the forefront of the growing global food revolution, which is why we’re working with Australian entrepreneurs and startups to develop new thinking, technologies and ideas on how research can be adopted and commercialised for use on-farm.
“We are also looking to develop productivity gains, digital solutions and offer completely new ways to effectively connect farmers to high value marketplaces, in Asia and globally.”
Vijay Viswanathan, an entrepreneur involved in the SproutX pre-accelerator, has used his PhD in industrial engineering and experience in supply chain analytics to build on an idea for a wireless ear tag that monitors the temperature of cattle on large farms, alerting farmers to early signs of disease or stress.
Mr Viswanathan, who has worked across startups in Bangalore and the United States, said the support he’d received from the agtech ecosystem in Australia has been outstanding.
“I’m extremely impressed by how fast this all took off,” he said. “When I came to Melbourne I had these preliminary ideas around improving network connectivity to better utilise data in Australian agriculture.
“I didn’t think that within two weeks I would be straight into the ecosystem and meeting people that are actively encouraging us to make our research a reality.
“We are in front of the right people in the industry, which is a huge step in further developing our ideas towards commercialisation. The energy and appetite for this work in Australia right now is absolutely amazing.”