Rocket Seeder is a start-up network which provides support to aspiring Victorian entrepreneurs who apply technological innovation to agriculture. ANDY WILSON reports.
Justin Webb is a mentor with the program, which connects budding entrepreneurs with researchers to test ideas before launching their own sustainable enterprise.
He praised the ingenuity of the program’s recently graduated second cohort and wants others to consider their ideas for future rounds of applications.
Justin is a livestock farmer, investor, executive chairman of farm software company AgriWebb and a self-described “serial start-up founder”.
He spoke about misconceptions with the timing of establishing new innovations, describing thoughts that it is currently not a good time as “absolute rubbish”.
“Some of the biggest companies in the world all formed during the aftermath of the dot com crash, such as Facebook, Uber and AirBnB,” Justin said.
“You have this roadmap of excitement, and Australian venture capitalists are the leaders.
“There’s a groundswell of venture capital at the moment that’s desperate for you to fill that gap in world innovation, to be a launch pad into the international world.”
Justin suggested that innovators who were taking risks in announcing their ideas should start their project in Australia and so arrive on the world stage “with full credibility”.
“We have some of the hardest testing ground to realise the value of agtech in the world.”
One of the projects accepted in the current cohort is the development of a new software program to help dairy farmers streamline herd management.
ST Genetics researcher Anna Norgren has developed the program to analyse data for each individual cow in a milking herd to compare it against the farm’s actual production targets.
“My job is to help farmers select the best animals for replacement,” Anna said.
“We help the farmer choose which heifer stays, which heifer goes, in terms of maintaining maximum milk production.
“This AgTech Seed program has accessed funding for us to help validate the software and to develop a network of contacts.”
AgTech Seeds program manager Nicki Marks said mentors such as Justin were an important part of the program.
“We talk about an ‘innovation ecosystem’ and mentors like Justin who have had their own successful start-ups are now giving back into that ecosystem,” Nicki said.
“You need lots of different players, and he’s just one mentor as part of it.”
Nicki considers AgTech Seeds to specifically cater to the early stages of an innovator’s dream.
“People at the very beginning of an idea just need to get started and we give that support, and we find that businesses don’t know what they don’t actually know and it’s our job to help them through that process,” she said.
“And there is lots of venture capital at the moment that’s looking for investments.”
The third cohort of participants began in July and although a fourth round of applications will be offered later in the year, Rocket Seeder was always ready to consider new projects.
“We would love to hear from anyone who’s interested, and we will talk to them anytime,” Nicki said.
Further information on the next round of applications can be found at: www.rocketseeder.com/agtechseeds