The flood of foreign money pouring into Australia to buy farms and invest in food production and agricultural companies has obscured the quiet rise of another hot investment favourite â€“ agricultural technology.
Australian farmers are regarded as some of the most innovative in the world and over the past decade there has been a rapid adoption of â€œsmart farmingâ€ technologies, ranging from big tractors that can steer and adjust their operations autonomously to the use of drones, sensors and satellite imagery that can monitor and record everything from soil moisture levels and crop growth rates to animal locations, movements and pasture availability.
But a new generation of agtech is now hitting the market, much of it developed in Australia by an exciting mix of scientists, new start-ups, young entrepreneurs, aspiring specialist agtech companies and farmers themselves.
From a sector valued at attracting just $30m of capital in 2017, the AgriFutures R&D group estimated last year there was now a deal flow of $90m into new Australian agtech ventures and technology. The sector has also been earmarked by the federal government as having significant growth prospects and export potential.
Sarah Nolet, partner in Tenacious Ventures and a founding member of the nascent Australian Agritech Association, predicts exponential growth in both the number of new technologies being made available to agricultural companies and farmers, and in interest from local and global investors looking to grab a stake in the hot sector.
â€œOne of the big thematics we are seeing in agritech is a move away from technology tied to the industrial era of big equipment, big tractors and big scale agriculture, to what we call â€˜digitally native Agâ€™,â€ says Nolet, who also plays a key role in helping farmers turn new ideas into commercial and practical businesses with scale-able potential.