Regional Startups 3 MIN READ

Australia’s agritech innovation hub SproutX has today announced a partnership with MLA Donor Company [MDC], a subsidiary of Meat and Livestock Australia [MLA]. The partnership aims to help solve some of the biggest issues faced by the red meat and livestock industry.

The partnership will provide agritech startups and entrepreneurs with a testbed and a commercialisation pathway, which will link up with red meat producers, including MILA members. Connections between startups and people working in MILA will increase the chances of ideas being developed, market tested and ultimately commercialised.

In September this year SproutX launched its innovation hub to help transform the country’s $60 billion agriculture industry. The hub followed on from a StartupAUS report outlining how Australia’s agriculture sector, supported by agritech could develop into a $100 billion industry by 2030.

SproutX became Australia’s first national pre-accelerator and full accelerator for startups working in the agritech space. The initiative was first formed by a joint collaboration between Findex and the National Farmer’s Federation, and then went on to receive support from corporates, academia and government.

Sam Trethewey, general manager of SproutX said the partnership with MDC will help translate research in co-working spaces and labs, 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 Trethewey.

“Some 18 of the 100 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.”

Startups and entrepreneurs who are involved in SproutX will be encouraged to address on-farm issues like virtual fences, water management, livestock location technology, livestock reproduction, methane emissions, weed control, feed conversion, animal health and welfare and pest control.

“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,” said Dr. Christine Pitt, CEO of MDC.

“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,” she added.

MDC is responsible for attracting voluntary investments in R&D innovation into the red meat industry from the commercial sector. With the help from SproutX, MDC aims to more than double its planned R&D expenditure in 2016 to over $70 million.

Vijay Viswanathan is an entrepreneur already involved in SproutX and will be part of one of the first startup teams to access MDC’s commercialisation pathway. Viswanathan has been building on his idea of a wireless ear tag that monitors the temperature of cattle on large farms. The ear tag alerts farmers to early signs of disease or stress among their livestock.

Viswanathan, who has worked across startups in Bangalore and the United States said the support he has received from the agritech ecosystem in Australia has been outstanding.

“When I came to Melbourne I had these preliminary ideas around improving network connectivity to better utilise data in Australian agriculture,” said Viswanathan. “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.”

Image: Sam Trethewey. Source: Supplied.


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