Start with the problem, not the solution, ag tech startups advised

James Nason, 07/10/2016



INTEREST in ag tech investment in Australia is taking off, as evidenced by the fully subscribed, standing-room-only crowd which packed a Brisbane conference room yesterday for MLA’s inaugural red meat industry digital strategy forum.

In the rush to get new technology to market in an increasingly crowded space, one question repeatedly emerged at yesterday event: to what extent are new ag tech providers offering solutions to problems that agricultural producers do not actually have?

In a sea of emerging new players, the most likely to succeed will be those who work with producers to identify problems first and then develop solutions.

“You have to find out what are the problems you are trying to solve,” Rob Ford from Landcorp, NZ’s largest agricultural landholder, told the forum.

“There is a lot of tech out there, but that is going to confuse the person who is most important, and that is the farmer.

“Try to ascertain what the problems are, and ask more questions of farmers: why, why, why?

“If you can not capture and win the hearts and minds of the producer by providing them value, your digital strategy will not be effective.”

Farmers wanted simplicity and a single place to see all of the information they need , Mr Ford said.

“They farm to farm, they don’t farm to be in the office.

“So what you need to do is to come up with a solution from a digital perspective that integrates into their farming system and how they run their farming business and their everyday life.”

Investment in ag tech in Australia is an idea whose time has come, judging by the level of interest and energy in yesterday’s forum.


KPMG’s Ben van Delden

Australia, despite arriving a little late to the global ag tech party, has an opportunity to become a global leader in the space, research by KPMG indicates.

“The airport is filling up with people coming to Australia to have conversations about ag tech,” KPMG’s Ben van Delden told the forum.

KPMG’s research identified a fundamental need for Australia to develop a clear national strategy for ag tech to corale investment interest.

A single market place was needed, Mr Van Delden said, to:

  • make it easier for farmers to understand the solutions that now exist,
  • provide a channel for farmers to provide feedback on the performance of that technology,
  • enable startups to engage with farmers to understand their problems design solutions for those problems,
  • Allow investors to identify where opportunities lie, and
  • help researchers see what activity is taking place to avoid duplication.

Technology that solves rural connectivity problems will have the most fundamental impact in ag tech, Mr Van Delden said.

“Our biggest challenge is not what Sky Muster does in terms of connecting the homestead, it is actually connecting the data points out in the field to the localised networks.

“The development of technology in that space is, I think, going to make the most fundamental impact for Australia’s red meat industry particularly.”


  • More reports from the Australian Red Meat Industry’s Digital forum next week.



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