Seeds sown for WA agtech growth

A partnership between the University of Western Australia and agtech commercialisation company Oterra has brought more than $100 million in potential investment aimed at getting a slice of the world’s billion-dollar IP pie.

Under the collaboration agreement, the partnership will work to capitalise on marketing innovations borne from Australia’s, and particularly Western Australia’s, unique environment and innovative farmers.

The UWA Institute of Agriculture, led by agriculture expert Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique, and Oterra, will be looking to fast-track technologies that have proved to be successful for use in Australia’s challenging environments, and translate them into commercially available products.

Siddique’s track-record for developing new varieties of grain legumes designed to thrive in Australia’s poor soil quality and hostile environments is unrivalled, with more than 12 types of seeds including the chickpea varieties Kimberley Large and Almaz.

Oterra founder Michael Minosora, who is also the chief executive of agriculture and resources investment company Seabourn Capital, said Australia could leverage significant value from agtech as the industry increasingly seeks to become more efficient both domestically and globally.

“If you talk in real dollar terms, often in the world of farming IP an annual figure of $1 billion is often quoted from estimates calculated by the Federal Government and other studies that have been done,” he said.

“That’s the commercialisation opportunity over a three to five-year period for Australia.” Minosora said the partnership project works globally with numerous institutions across many sectors.

“The appetite for exposure to technology and every form that it takes by mainly overseas institutions is substantial,” he said.

Siddique said large multinationals are driven to work with Australia because of our track record of developing grain varieties suited to harsh environments.

“For example, wheat germplasm that we have developed over the last 50 years, which is unique because it has heat tolerance, drought tolerance, adaptation to poor soil conditions,” he said.

“Farmers in Australia and particularly WA are operating in a unique environment where they have to innovate, and as they say, necessity is the mother of invention.”

He said the UWA’s capabilities extended to other biotechnologies which could further assist with fundamental work that could evolve into commercial returns to the investors and industry with better seeds for farmers.

Grants to grow agtech

WA grower groups and agricultural colleges can help drive the next leap in agricultural productivity improvements under a new program to accelerate adoption of new digital technologies.

The State Government’s Internet of Things DecisionAg Grant Program will provide $500,000 to stimulate development and use of digital agricultural technology by farm businesses.

Matched funds will be available for successful applicants to trial internet-based technology, such as computer platforms and tools, to help growers to make more informed, data-driven decisions.

Apply for your share – applications close October 5. Visit here for details. 

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