Smart farmers

Background

Future of agtech discussed at EvokeAG Melbourne

More than 1,300 delegates from 22 countries visited EvokeAG 2020 in Melbourne last week to discuss the future of agtech and agrifood. The two-day program in the historic Melbourne Exhibition Building saw more than 100 speakers from eight different countries take to the stage.

The EvokeAg program offered delegates a varied programme with simultaneous activities, thought-provoking conversations, interactive sessions and networking opportunities.

CEO Mark Allison of the Australian agricultural company Elders said in his opening address that agtech is driving advances that have the potential to make farmers’ lives easier, better and more profitable.

Tangible initiatives

“But what agribusiness needs now are tangible, on the ground initiatives that will benefit farmers and optimise overall supply chain productivity and sustainability”, Mr. Allison said. “It’s important that farmers are supported, to ensure the digital advancements discussed at events like this, match the needs of those on the frontline to achieve a productive, profitable and sustainable future.”

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  • EvokeAG took place at the historic Melbourne Exhibition Building. - Photo: EvokeAG

    EvokeAG took place at the historic Melbourne Exhibition Building. - Photo: EvokeAG

  • Sarah Nolet: "Agtech helps to add value to an industry that has been doing things the same way for a long time." - Photo René Groeneveld

    Sarah Nolet: "Agtech helps to add value to an industry that has been doing things the same way for a long time." - Photo René Groeneveld

  • CEO Andrew Bate of SwarmFarm and his wife Jocie, an agricultural economist, run the company together. - Photo René Groeneveld

    CEO Andrew Bate of SwarmFarm and his wife Jocie, an agricultural economist, run the company together. - Photo René Groeneveld

  • A SwarmFarm robot was on display at EvokeAG in Melbourne. - Photo René Groeneveld

    A SwarmFarm robot was on display at EvokeAG in Melbourne. - Photo René Groeneveld

Challenges and opportunities of agtech

There were many panel discussions, where different parties discussed the challenges and opportunities of agtech. One of the hosts of these discussions was Sarah Nolet, who is also the CEO of Agthentic and Farmers2Founders, a blogger and host of the podcast ‘Agtech, so what?’.

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Hype

According to Ms Nolet the future of agtech holds many opportunities but there is also some hype. “We are seeing many crazy valuations and lots of capital coming into this space”, Ms Nolet said. “Things, of which farmers might say ‘I’m not really sure that’s all that useful’. But the good side is we see new forms of money, new perspectives and new kinds of innovation. It helps to add value to an industry that has been doing things the same way for a long time.”

Many startups presented themselves in ‘Startup Alley’. Founder of FarmBot Monitoring Solutions Andrew Coppin sees evokeAG as an important opportunity to connect with farmers in the room to showcase the technologies which have the potential to revolutionise farming systems.

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“EvokeAG has presented us with an opportunity to converse with farmers and showcase how our technology will assist to make them more productive and profitable”, he said. “But also to engage with relevant investors, industry leaders and other agritech companies.”

No farmers wants to have seven apps to run the farm

Mr Coppin explained he talked to several other companies about collaboration. “It has been great. We can work together on the ecosystems on the farms. No farmers wants to have seven apps to run the farm. So we have to work together to get the best integrated solutions for farmers.”

Agritech Association

Mr Coppin is one of the founding board members of the Australian Agritech Association. “Farmers don’t necessarily know where to go to have the conversation about agtech. And investors from Europe or the US don’t really know where to start, when they come into Australia. We are trying to get likeminded people to join us. If we get it right, Australia can hugely benefit from agtech.”

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  • Delegates discussing the future of agtech in the meeting space of EvokeAG. - Photo EvokeAG

    Delegates discussing the future of agtech in the meeting space of EvokeAG. - Photo EvokeAG

  • Cameron Leeson of thingC Robotics: " We've had a lot of interest from farmers." - Photo René Groeneveld

    Cameron Leeson of thingC Robotics: " We've had a lot of interest from farmers." - Photo René Groeneveld

  • Future of agtech discussed at EvokeAG Melbourne

Robot on show

Among the new agtech companies and startups were several robotics companies. Australian SwarmFarm Robotics attracted a lot of interest at EvokeAG, having one of its robots on show. SwarmFarm is one of the most successful businesses in this field worldwide. “Very few companies have got to this stage of actually handing over the keys of a robot”, CEO Andrew Bate of SwarmFarm said. “We‘ve got eight robots out there now, being used by farmers every day.”

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Founder Cameron Leeson of thingC Robotics explained he had a lot of interest from farmers during EvokeAG. “They can see there’s really good applications for our machine. A lot of people like the idea of it being fully electric. It gives them the possibility of being self sufficient. That’s something people are thinking towards for the future.”

More than 200 farmers

More than 200 farmers visited the event with sessions on emerging and established technologies to connect producers to remain competitive in the global marketplace and precision farming keeping farmers at the forefront of innovative thinking.

After two sell-out events in Melbourne in 2019 and 2020, Perth was named as the host city for the third edition of Asia Pacific’s premier agtech and agrifood event on 16-17 February 2021.

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