Powering Growth: Realising the potential of AgTech for Australia

6 September, 2016

StartupAUS report outlines insights and key recommendations

for the future of AgTech in Australia.

Australia, 07 September 2016: Australia is poised to use digital agricultural technology (AgTech) as a critical component of its goal to develop an AU$100 billion agricultural industry by 2030, according to a report, Powering Growth: Realising the potential of AgTech for Australia, released today by StartupAUS, Australia’s national advocacy group for startups.

The StartupAUS report, co-authored by KPMG Australia, and supported by the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), aims to uncover the opportunities for Australia in agricultural technology. The report makes a series of recommendations aimed at growing the AgTech sector in Australia in order to provide producers with the tools, data and knowledge to make more informed and timely on-farm decisions and improve productivity and sustainability.

The report notes that agriculture is a significant contributor to Australia’s economy. The sector is the largest employer in rural and regional communities, generates four per cent of Australia’s total employment, provides 93 per cent of the nation’s domestic food supply, and contributes approximately 13 per cent (AU$42 billion) of Australia’s export revenue.

The report draws on detailed discussions with more than 60 stakeholders – including AgTech startups, farmers and agribusinesses, research bodies, government, and investors.

The StartupAUS report identifies three key components necessary for Australian AgTech to reach its full potential – capital, connectivity and direction. It makes 12 total recommendations, including:

  • Establish an independently-administered fund designed to make AgTech more affordable to industry
  • Develop a marketplace for AgTech products
  • Establish a network of AgTech hubs
  • Establish a joint R&D fund with leading global AgTech players
  • Increase funding for the Accelerating Commercialisation component of the Entrepreneur’s Programme
  • Develop a nation-wide AgTech strategy
  • Provide direction to university and RDC research via KPIs centred on commercialisation of technology and shorter grant periods that encourage agile testing

Alex McCauley, StartupAUS CEO, said: “Agriculture is a key driver of Australian exports, and technology has always played an important role in increasing agricultural output. We have an extremely valuable opportunity here to develop technologies that make a real difference to the economy’s bottom line, while also helping rural Australia realise the economic benefits of the digital technology revolution. This is a great example of how technology can have a transformative effect on broader traditional industries. If Australia is to realise its ambition to be the food bowl for a rapidly-growing middle class in Asia and Africa, we will need to become a leader in AgTech. 

The Hon. Andrew Robb AO, wrote in his forward: “Agriculture plays a central role both in Australia’s economy and its national identity. It has always been a strength and passion of ours. This document provides important thought leadership on how to nurture the technology which will help Australian agriculture remain world-leading in the years ahead.”

Ben van Delden, KPMG AgTech Leader & Head of Markets, said: “Global venture capital inflows into AgTech were up 336 per cent in 2015, and Australian agriculture is poised to nearly double to an AU$100 billion industry by 2030. Technologies such as autonomous vehicles, precision sprayers, virtual fencing, smart gates, sensing devices and robotics are already transforming how we farm. The Internet of Things will draw consumers closer to growers and integrate supply chains to improve yield and reduce wastage.

“The question facing Australia is: do we want we want to be builders, buyers or bystanders in the AgTech market? In countries such as Canada, England, Israel and New Zealand, government is already playing a key role bringing together researchers, producers, technology providers, startups and investors. It is our hope that this report can form a go-to-market strategy for Australian governments and corporates to work alongside each other to build and grow a vibrant, world-leading AgTech ecosystem.”

Tim Harvey, Commonwealth Bank’s General Manager, Regional and Agribusiness Banking NSW, said: “Commonwealth Bank recognises that enhancing the financial wellbeing of businesses, people and communities means identifying the best practices and benefits associated with a new wave of agricultural technology. To do this, we must understand the key roadblocks, and determine how we can contribute to turning significant opportunity into reality. We hope Powering Growth will raise awareness of this sector and spark conversation about the best ways to realise the potential in the industry.”

McCauley added, “This research highlights the fantastic work startups, corporates and universities are already doing to develop the AgTech sector in Australia. It also shows how Australia is well placed to capitalise on the huge potential for future growth.”

Key statistics from the report:

  • The global opportunity for AgTech’s impact in the private sector is estimated to be as much as US$189 billion between 2013 and 2022
  • Australian high technology exports rose US1.44 billion from 2009 to 2014, an increase of 44.3 per cent
  • In the same period, high technology as a percentage of manufactured exports rose from 11.9 per cent to 13.6 per cent.
  • In 2015, global venture capital investments alone reached US$1.5 billion across AgTech, up 336 per cent compared with the VC investment in 2014
  • More than 50 per cent of Australia’s food is exported
  • Export earnings from farm commodities are forecast to be around AU$43.4 billion, in nominal terms, in 2015-16 – around 14 per cent higher than the five-year average of AU$38.2 billion
  • Agriculture comprises about 15 per cent of merchandise exports
  • In 2013-14 Australia’s agriculture, fishing and forestry industries directly employed over 300,000 people
  • The gross value of Australia’s farm production is forecast to increase by eight per cent in 2015-16 to around AU$57.1 billion
  • In 2015, Australia achieved record farm-gate returns of AU$57.6 billion, an eight per cent uplift on 2014, which was driven by strong commodity prices in cattle, beef, dairy, chickpea and grains
  • Australia’s agricultural productivity growth, once up around an average of 2.9 per cent per annum in the years between 1991 and 2000, has fallen back to 1.4 per cent in the decade to 2011, and sits below the world average of 1.7 per cent
  • Australia accounts for 1 per cent of global agriculture production

To download the full report: https://startupaus.org/resources/agtech/


Media Contact

Louise Proctor louise@launchgroup.com.au


About StartupAUS

StartupAUS is a not-for-profit entity with a mission to transform Australia through technology entrepreneurship. StartupAUS believes a strong home-grown tech sector is vital to future Australian jobs and wealth. But getting there will require a national imperative to create the right environment, with a supportive culture and more entrepreneurs with the right skills.


StartupAUS will expand its efforts to bring financial partners on-board to help corporates have a bigger voice in the emerging innovation conversation and assist StartupAUS in increasing its resources and activities ahead of this year’s election, as both sides of politics vie for innovative traction. The organisation’s current corporate partners include Salesforce and Google Australia. It also has a growing list of philanthropic benefactors including successful tech entrepreneur, Steve Baxter, Co-Chairman of CHAMP’s Board of Directors and Investment Committee, Bill Ferris, and Director and Co-Founder of Allen & Buckeridge, Roger Allen.

For more information visit: www.startupaus.org

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