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Fresh talent takes on ag problems in one helluva weekend

by Agtech Central editor, Sam Trethewey, 11 October 2018

ONE of the greatest benefits to agriculture that agtech brings, aside from its innovative solutions, is new talent.

People from all walks of life, with usually no previous exposure to farming, are brought in to solve old, new and future problems. They bring fresh eyes, unbiased thinking and of course a tonne of knowledge from another sector, commonly software or hardware, but it spreads as far as aviation, engineering and biotechnology.

However, the biggest problem we have in ag-innovation is getting these fresh-eyed, enthusiastic entrepreneurs to understand, and better yet, experience the problems farmers face on the land, or in the supply chain. After all, how can you solve a problem you don’t know exists?

There have been some great efforts to date to address this opportunity including last weekend’s ‘Agtech X Fintech Hackathon’ in Melbourne.

Firstly what’s a hackathon? Well, as farmers, we all know how to hack; Hacking at problems to come up with better solutions, all whilst juggling time, money and material constraints. A hackathon is a startup-creating marathon; an event lasting from a few hours to a few days, where teams battle to create legitimate businesses from scratch.

Usually hardware and software gurus are presented with specific problems and then choose one to spend the next 48 hours solving by building a startup that assesses market share, competitors and market opportunities. It’s entrepreneurship on steroids, packed into an intense weekend.

Secondly, what’s Fintech? Financial technology, most of us use it every day without even knowing. Fintech is arguably the most popular tech ecosystem in Australia.

The result of these hackathons? A group of highly experienced, passionate people creating businesses that address real industry problems in a short space of time, living off pizza, coffee and sleep deprivation. Yes they do this for fun. Because maybe, just maybe, one day, you’ll pay good money for their creation.

SproutX (Australia’s first agtech accelerator program) and Stone & Chalk (Australia’s largest financial technology innovation hub) joined forces over the weekend for a hackathon focused on solving agri-fintech problems put forward by companies such as Ruralco and Findex/Crowe Horwath.

The hackathon stimulated tech innovation that could provide real-life solutions for farmers, while participants got the opportunity to generate a potential new commercial digital product.

SproutX Accelerator Director Andrew Lai says “Technologists in capital cities are very keen to work on agtech, but don’t know how to find a problem to work on.  On the flipside, we sometimes encounter farmers or other folk who are seeking technology solutions.  Hackathons are a great way of putting these people together in a room to create something special.”

So what happens when you do? Well, take a look below at the top three Melbourne hackathon teams that came up with some impressive ideas in under 48 hours.

1st Prize

  • Problem: How can we provide real time digital business planning?
  • Submitted by: Ruralco
  • Startup: AgriCoon

Solution: A browser based simulator, customised to the farmer’s farm/paddocks. Like FarmVille but with educational and practical outcomes derived from accurate scenario planning. For example; What happens to production, and the financial position if new land is purchased?

2nd Prize

  • Problem: What is the best way to deliver financial education and wellness to farmers?
  • Submitted by: Findex/Crowe Horwath
  • Startup: AgriScore

Solution: Quick and insightful agribusiness assessment app with data integration. A single numerical score for a farmer to know the health of their farming business at any one time. Features of the platform include:

  • Identify and monitor strengths and weaknesses
  • Assess financial preparedness for worst case scenarios
  • Get specialist help before critical situations
  • Banking and Accounting support
  • Assess farm production, markets and weather

Commended

  • Problem: Livestock are Australia’s second biggest commodity class. How can we unlock equity in the herd size and reduce financial costs?
  • Submitted by: RuralCo
  • Startup: PriceEye

Solution: Real-time valuation of livestock assets on-farm with current commodity marketplace prices, assisting both the farmer and financial institutions with lending and asset management.

Other teams focused on succession planning, outback aquaculture on infertile salty land, and an employment platform for backpackers.

 

About Sam Trethewey

Sam Trethewey is from a farming family and has worked across Australia and overseas on most major commodities including beef, wool, lamb and cropping. He co-founded SproutX, Australia’s first and largest agtech accelerator and investment fund where he spent nearly three years developing an ecosystem of support for agtech startups. He has been a regular commentator on agriculture through print, radio and online and has recently started his own food production company whilst also working as Head of Brand for Redhanded, a rural and regional communications specialist.

Questions? If you’ve got an agtech topic you’d like Sam to tackle, please email sam@beefcentral.com.au



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