AUSTRALIA’S largest agrifood tech event — evokeAG — ignited in Melbourne yesterday with a sold-out crowd of more than 1100 delegates and a long list of domestic and international agtech investors and companies.
The innovative two-day event on February 19-20 is being run by AgriFutures Australia at the Royal Exhibition Centre with a theme of ‘Food, Farm, Future’.
AgriFutures Australia managing director John Harvey said registrations were closed at about 1150.
“We were blown away by the support we’ve had, absolutely blown away by the amount of interest, from all of the different players in agriculture in Australia and from overseas.
“We have a very strong contingency of more than 100 people from New Zealand,” he said.
“We have people here from 20 different countries, and trade missions from the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and Singapore.”
The event is highlighting new agtech technologies, products and practices emerging in Australia’s dynamic and growing agriculture sector. The program features more than 100 international and national speakers, as well as local farmers, ag entrepreneurs and agricultural youth pitching their ideas and opinions. Delegates have also come from Uganda, Chile, Senegal and India. China, Ireland, Indonesia, Nigeria, Japan, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Italy, the Philippines, Uganda, Andorra, Chile, Fiji, France, Germany, Iran, Nepal, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan, Switzerland, Taiwan, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe.
Mr Harvey said the conference’s strong attendance was timely.
“I think the time is right; it’s the explosion of new technologies, all your digital technologies, the Internet of Things, sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics and automation… that are getting married with the new players coming into the innovation system like the start-ups, the investors, venture capital funds, corporate investors, and small and medium-sized enterprises.
“There is a real thirst to actually build some of those connections between some of the new players and some of the traditional players.”
Trade missions make evokeAG their focus
Mr Harvey said the trade missions were using evokeAG as their “central piece” for their visit to Australia involving a range of activities.
He said before evokeAG, there was a plethora of smaller activities and events happening in Australia happening in agtech. But the concept for delegates to come out and “see the best of the best over two days” and then sit on the beach and be home by the weekend had worked, Mr Harvey.
“We’ve given them enough reason to come and see the best of the best and they’ve come.”
Mr Harvey said he had been more concerned about getting the “right” people at the conference than numbers.
“And we have; we’ve got something like 15 venture capital funds from around the world.
“That’s what we want people that are coming because they are interested in investing – we’ve got the start-up, the investors, the researchers and the farmers.”
Mr Harvey said one AgriFutures’ key drivers to hold evokeAG was to increase agtech investment in Australia.
“It might not happen over night, but as people get to know the players and the quality of our innovation here in Australia, I think they will build the confidence to actually invest and I wouldn’t be surprised if we do some deals done.”
evokeAG speaker and chief executive officer of Goterra, Olympia Yarger said the event is a timely opportunity for innovative thinkers and investors. Her leading-edge start-up is providing a sustainable solution for food waste management and an alternative livestock feed compound for primary producers.
“evokeAG. will provide entrepreneurs and the tech industry an opportunity to get to know the agrifood industry better, which will, in turn, change the course of how we view tech in agriculture,” she said.
“Australians are innovative, none more so than our agricultural communities and industry.
“Those of us in this space and certainly the industries and stakeholders that are part of the agtech ecosystem, have been waiting for an opportunity to discuss, collaborate and interact,” Ms Yarger said.
Leading industry experts presenting at evokeAG include Professor Oded Shoseyov, a world-renowned nanotech pioneer from Israel, who has founded 12 companies. He has authored and co-authored more than 180 scientific publications and his TED talk has been translated into 21 languages with more than 1.4 million views.
In the food space, Joseph Zhou, investment partner from Shanghai-based Bits x Bites, will discuss opportunities for food tech start-ups within the lucrative Chinese market. He will also share cultural nuances that are often overlooked in the success and failures of breaking into Asia.
With new robotic perception systems, autonomous harvesting and industrial warehouse automation changing the face of the industry, National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson will take part in a panel discussion on automation, AI and farmers of the future.
Ground-breaking ideas from finalists will be revealed during Pitch Tent activities as they vie for a chance to share in a $35,000 funding prize pool. Among the featured inventions include a GPS tracker that will allow farmers to monitor their cattle and a plastic mulch that could help with crop production.