Agtech that starts with the farmer

Farmers2Founders program kicks off


Machinery
PADDOCK TO PLATE: Entrepreneur and CEO of the Food Futures Company, Dr. Christine Pitt has co-launched a new venture called Farmers2Founders.

PADDOCK TO PLATE: Entrepreneur and CEO of the Food Futures Company, Dr. Christine Pitt has co-launched a new venture called Farmers2Founders.

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The Farmers2Founders program is a paddock up approach

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A common paradigm in the agtech space is the Silicon Valley style start-up promising the earth if farmers would just take a risk on their unproven, and often unwanted, technology.

Two Australian based entrepreneurs are approaching technology from the opposite direction, focusing on the farmers first.

Farmers2Founders is a joint initiative between Dr Christine Pitt, known for her work as the former CEO of the MLA Donor Company and founder and CEO of the Food Futures Company and Sarah Nolet, partner and CEO of AgThentic amongst other projects.

Dr Pitt said Sarah and herself formed the company because they wanted to deliver a start-up program that worked for farmers.

"We have both worked together in the past on a series of initiatives, and it was obvious to us there are a bunch of producers out there who are really innovative, they have great ideas, there are also have lot of problems they need solving and opportunities they can see," she said.

"But there was nothing that really suited there needs to take those ideas forward.

"Most of the work with farmers is about extension and telling them what to do, rather then listening to what they want to say.

"That is where Farmers 2 Founders came from."

Dr Pitt said the program gained the support from Meat and Livestock Australia, Grains Research and Development Corporation, Australian Wool Innovation, AgriFutures Australia and Wine Australia to develop an innovation program geared and customised to farmers.

"We have a couple of streams, one is a venture creation stream, it is for those producers who not only have a problem and an idea, but they actually want to take it to market through their own agtech or foodtech venture themselves," she said.

"It is a pipeline towards an accelerator program and getting them in front of investors and looking at how they can deploy their new business at the end of the program."

Dr Pitt said the venture creation stream could be around agtech, such as the development of new sensors, water efficiency technology or data management systems, or it could be aimed at developing consumer driven ventures.

"At the market end we know there are quite a lot of producers who want to get closer to consumers and bridge that gap," she said.

"They might want to put in a traceability foodtech system, they might want to develop new products from their own production systems and so forth."

Dr Pitt said the venture stream would begin through a series of open 'ideation' workshops being held across Australia, with some participants moving through to pre-accelerator and accelerator stages.

However the workshops are not only open to those who want to become a founder. Dr Pitt said other participants may find a better fit in the Tech Trial stream.

"There are other producers who have great ideas and great understanding of problems, but don't necessarily want to start a venture," she said.

"They are the ones who want to work with people doing those sort of solutions."

Dr Pitt said the Tech Trial stream aimed to give farmers the confidence and the language and the skill set to work closely with tech development teams as they build their technologies.

"A lot of researchers and new agtech ventures are working on stuff that isn't going to work when it gets on farm, so we are trying to close that gap as well," she said.

Dr Pitt said Farmers2Founders would be running 15 ideation workshops across Australia, and urged people to check the website for dates.

"In the workshops we will introduce producers to technology trends and start to talk to them about what they might want to do with their concepts and ideas," she said.

"Then we take them through an interactive session where they have a bit of a practice on things.

"At the end of the workshop our aim is to help them make their next decision about where they want to go with their idea."

More information on Farmers2Founders can be found by clicking here.

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