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Melbourne-based agtech innovation hub SproutX has opened applications for its first full accelerator program, which will see 10 startups work to develop and commercialise their ideas in the agricultural sector.

The program is backed by the SproutX Venture Capital Fund, a $10 million fund managed by Artesian Venture Capital; a portion of the $85 million investment into Artesian from superannuation fund Hostplus is being put into the SproutX fund.

Teams will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for eight percent of equity, as well as the opportunity to receive follow-on funding from the SproutX VC fund.

Participating startups will receive office space at the SproutX hub, however they may work from around Australia to ensure they are close to their target customers rather than inner-city Melbourne. Teams based elsewhere will be flown to Melbourne every six weeks for workshops with customers, corporates, and investors.

The launch of the accelerator follows the running of SproutX’s pre-accelerator last year, in which 100 startups and entrepreneurs around Australia took part online.

Andrew Lai, director of the accelerator, believes the program’s unique value proposition lies within its partnerships with Findex and Ruralco, which will give startups the opportunity to work directly with potential customers; four of SproutX’s pre-accelerator participants are currently undertaking in-store trials with Ruralco.

With the Australian agriculture sector estimated to develop into a $100 billion industry by 2030 with the support of agtech, Artesian’s chief operating officer Tim Heasley said the firm has seen strong interest from Australian and international investors in the SproutX fund.

“Australia has a competitive advantage in agriculture, including brand recognition, world-leading research, diverse climatic regions and a history of agricultural innovation,” he said.

“Australia is perfectly positioned to benefit from growing demand from Asian markets. Global food demand is forecast to increase 70 per cent by 2050, and the growing middle class of China and India will consume both a greater amount and greater variety of food.”

Also looking to uncover new ideas in the agricultural sector is the Agrihack Innovation Harvest, set to take place in Wagga Wagga on April 6-7.

In collaboration with Commonwealth Bank and Charles Sturt University, the event looks to focus on real challenges faced by people in agriculture and regional communities.

Founder Dianna Somerville said, “The Agrihack Innovation Harvest will involve participants working in teams to creatively solve a number of different challenges that people face on the land. The event provides an opportunity to further connect the entrepreneurial ecosystem of metro areas to rural developers and disruptors.”

Two challenges will be set, one looking at technology challenges and another examining social challenges affecting regional areas.

You can learn more about the SproutX accelerator here and Agrihack here.

Image: Andrew Lai and Sam Trethewey. Source: Supplied.

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