By Robyn Molloy
There’s a buzz about agtech in WA, especially with 24 budding companies completing the state’s first AgTech Harvest accelerator programs this year.

Fifteen WA start-ups presented their products and ideas at the recent Agtech and Regional Innovation Showcase at Deloitte’s Brookfield Place offices.

Run by AgriStart in partnership with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the programs included mentoring, access to experts and training – preparing them to take on local and global markets.

Beef and lamb producer Latitude 28 aspires to setting China free from zombie beef – where beef up to 40 years old was imported and sold to consumers in 2015 – by supplying blockchain verified products.

Co-founder James Williamson told more than 150 people attending the showcase the company was on track to deliver its first verified blockchain beef to China this month.

“Within the blockchain space, it’s not been the technology that has been hard but integrating that into the supply chain so processors, producers all the way through to third party logistics, airlines, the little tiny scooter delivering our product to our consumer are all independently authenticating our product,” he said.

He says the company has also taken data analysis to a new level by capturing every online beef transaction including profiles of every competitor, which are all Chinese companies that import produce then rebrand as Australian.

The company will use the data to maximise sales in China’s $120 billion e-commerce market.

Hemp start-up Mirreco CEO Richard Evans said his company had found a solution for one of the biggest problems in the world today – carbon emissions – by developing and processing carbon absorbing building materials grown from hemp and processed in six months.

“We’ve developed a globally scalable carbon asset storage technology that we call CAST,” Evans said.

“From a timeline spanning less than six months, farmers can grow industrial hemp, we then process and manufacture carbon absorbing building materials into a product that we take to market very fast.

“We are preparing a demonstration house in the next three months, using the house technology combined with some other innovation have integrated into our panels that convert light into electricity.”

He said AgriFutures Australia had identified a lack of hemp processing technology, with global competition designing a machine that processes two tonnes of hemp per hour, while Mirrenco’s innovation can convert 20 tonnes per hour.

“We can create our carbon absorbing building products faster cleaner and greener than anything in the world today using a crop we can grow locally,” Evans said.

“We are executing this into the market in the second quarter next year with a range of other technologies and our intentional is to drive a new industry, conservatively estimated at $200m in the next three to four years. We want to drive a new industry around climate change.”

AgThentic CEO Sarah Nolet – who was introduced as an “agtech guru on the east coast and in the US” – outlined her five reasons why Australia was best placed to lead agtech.

These included:

  • Agriculture is changing and the food system is facing unprecedented pressures such as drought and climate change, which are an opportunities to find solutions.
  • Consumers are demanding safer, healthier food and want to know where it comes from. 
  • Technology is now affordable.  
  • Anyone can be an innovator and Australia has the knowledge, expertise and productivity levels to lead R&D and build the sector.
  • The agrifood ecosystem is growing and there’s more support than ever for start-ups.

“When I came over from Silicon Valley to Australia a couple of years ago, some of my colleagues said why are you going to Australia … now I can confidently say this is the place to be and there truly is a competitive advantage in Australia,” Nolet said.

Australia’s first agritech venture capitalist firm Tenacious Ventures was launched recently to support the sector.

Find out more about Harvest accelerator programs here.

► CCI offers memberships packages to suite businesses of all sizes. It has an International Trade and Investment Centre too. Find out more here.