Australia Needs an AgTech VC — So We’re Building One

October 31, 2018

Back in the early aughties, agtech was not a thing. Having spent the late nineties in Silicon Valley, witnessing the Dot Com boom first hand, I was ready for something more tangible. The opportunity to get my hands dirty (yeah, yeah) came up when I got the chance to join Simon Holmes à Court as a co-founder in the company that would become Observant.

When I say agtech wasn’t a thing, it wasn’t just that the word didn’t mean anything, but none of the building blocks even existed. Hardware in the field was new. Selling software-as-a-service to farmers was new. For most things we needed, we pretty much had to start from scratch. Setting those challenges aside, the most intriguing part of the journey was — and still is — working out how to put technology in the hands of farmers in a simple, reliable and impactful way.

making technology practical and valuable for farmers is still really hard

The world is different now. Today, you can say agtech in a sentence without raised eyebrows. There are a bunch of software companies building and delivering software and hardware products to farmers. There is far more awareness of the role of startups in innovation, and the need for early support and advice to help along the way. And yet, making technology practical and valuable for farmers is still really hard. It is also more rewarding than ever, given the huge challenges faced by our agricultural food and fibre systems.

As proud as I am of having been a pioneer in the global agtech market through Observant’s growth and international expansion, I am far more excited about what is happening right here in Australia. Our world-class agricultural food and fibre production system is the perfect launchpad for a world-class agtech knowledge economy.

there is still plenty of work to do to help Australian startups succeed

And we are already well on the way. We’ve built a solid foundation to help agtech startups launch and we’ve seen some great, early success. I’ve been lucky to have helped some of those startups in their journey, as an advisor and through my involvement in RocketSeeder and other innovation programs. But there is still plenty of work to do to help Australian startups succeed on a global scale. I am passionate about playing a role in this growing sector. To that end, I am thrilled to announce that I am moving to a new role as a Partner at AgThentic and as co-founder of Tenacious Ventures.

AgThentic is at the vanguard of the agtech innovation ecosystem. Likely you already know Sarah Nolet, the founder & CEO, who has been a major shaping force in the establishment of Australia’s agtech scene. In the last few years AgThentic has delivered innovation programs for organizations like MLA Donor Company and Australian Wool Innovation, worked with dozens of startups directly and through programs like GrowLab, worked to raise the profile of agtech through reports and speaking, and provided strategic advice to research, government and corporate clients.

Australia’s first seed-stage, agri-food venture capital firm

Together, Sarah and I have co-founded Australia’s first seed-stage, agri-food venture capital firm — Tenacious Ventures — to identify, fund, and accelerate the best startups in Australia and help them solve agriculture’s biggest global challenges.

2019 will be a watershed year for me. I am so grateful for the experience of working with the wonderful team at Observant and since the acquisition, being part of a global innovator like Jain. I am full of excitement for the new adventure I am starting. AgThentic is a powerful platform to support entrepreneurs to make technology practical and valuable for farmers. Tenacious Ventures will provide new ways for farmers and founders to collaborate in bringing impactful innovations to the global agriculture market.

Australia has the potential to be at the forefront of agtech innovation worldwide

Australia has the potential to be at the forefront of agtech innovation worldwide, and I’m so excited to step into this next chapter in supporting important businesses and technologies reach the users who need them most.

I look forward to working with you throughout this journey and would love to hear your ideas about how we can achieve lasting results and who might want to be part of the journey with us.