Agtech funds are cropping up everywhere, and growing like weeds.
New Zealand’s University of Waikato has launched a new agtech seed-fund through their commercial arm, WaikatoLink. With the new agtech fund and a conglomeration of nine-institutions they call the “AgriHub,” the University is aiming to disrupt the agribusiness sector of New Zealand.
“The Seed Fund has no upper limit at this point,” CEO Duncan Mackintosh told AgFunder, “however the funding size will be subject to the usual commercial checks.” Mackintosh said that the projects will range in size from NZ$5,000 to NZ$30,000. “If a potentially feasible idea is generated from the initial industry engagement, funds can be applied to confirm interest, carry out early proof-of-concept development and de-risk the idea.”
And of course “de-risk” sounds appealing. According to Mackintosh, the funding may be applied to contract research, licensing, and start-ups, and the nature of the projects eligible for funding are broad ranging–from sensing and automation, to alternative energy and bio-materials.
“In order for New Zealand to remain competitive in the global market, the government has identified we must double the value of our exports to $64 billion by 2025,” Mackintosh said. “Currently 70 percent of New Zealand exports good by value are primary products, and most of our exports growth has come from this sector in the past eight years. The Waikato region hosts one of the largest concentrations of agri-business, agri-technology and agri-service companies in the country, and so this region must play its part for New Zealand to be successful in meeting its goals.”
As an example of viable technologies coming out of the university, Mackintosh explained that Waikato University research engineers recently built a hole-drilling dibbler for New Zealand’s largest pine tree nursery, Arborgen. Mackintosh said the company’s productivity improved by an estimated 30 percent by reducing the number of reject seedlings.
“The AgriTech fund will help to optimize the University’s connections with industry players and simultaneously allow our researchers to work in partnership with businesses to provide complete solutions with a focus on real industry problems,” Mackintosh said. “These connections, and the dialogue they produce, will ensure greater practical relevance of new ideas, greater uptake by industry and, most importantly, improved industry performance.”
With the Seed Fund there to support researchers and engineers, “AgriHub” was developed to build viable connections within the industry, and therefore, to allow the university to put innovative and effective technologies on the fast track to success. Makintosh says the conglomerate of nine participating institutions will be a tool to attract investment into the region.
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FEATURED PHOTO: Phillip Capper/Flickr