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Wish we'd thought of that: Astounding agribusiness ideas

Agribusiness helps form the backbone of Aotearoa's economy. Are you doing something stupendous that you think deserves to be recognised at the 2017 New Zealand Innovation Awards? Then enter it in the Innovation in Agribusiness & Environment category, sponsored by Bayer NZ.

The 2017 New Zealand Innovation Awards are open for entries. If you've got an amazing product, service, process or venture – or you know someone who needs to be shoulder-tapped – now’s the time to get it out there. And to help encourage entries and showcase the categories, we’re showcasing the best innovations we come across. We focus next on Innovation in Agribusiness & Environment, sponsored by Bayer NZ.

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Farmshed Labs

Anyone who has lived in Aotearoa for any length of time can attest to how important the dairy and cattle industries are to the New Zealand economy, especially out in the regions. Likewise, anyone who has worked with cows on a farm can explain the tricky art of knowing when to breed a cow to a bull, and how often such attempts are unsuccessful. But guess what? Breeding cows isn’t art – it’s science. And there’s some wearable tech that’s making that science easier than ever before.

Enter Flashmate.

Flashmate is a heat detection device that lets farmers know when their female cows are in heat and available for breeding. The device is attached to a cow on their right flank just below the hip bone, and when they are in heat, it flashes red for about 26 hours, giving farmers time to get things happening on the calving front.

An intelligent microchip embedded inside the device powers Flashmate. The technology makes farming easier and more productive because farmers no longer have to rely on guesswork in knowing when to breed their cows, allowing them to focus on other tasks. It is completely waterproof and recyclable, and includes spray glue so farmers can quickly put them on multiple cows.

Oh, and they also won last year’s Innovation in Agribusiness & Environment at the Innovation Awards.

OnSide Ltd

OnSide is health and safety and risk management software and a mobile app that’s designed for outdoor workplaces. It offers mapping of worksite boundaries, risk identification, compliance reporting, and more – and it’s all digital, and can work offline in places where Wi-Fi is not.

Hivemind

We all know bees are important. And they're also under pressure. And that’s precisely the problem hivemind is trying to solve – thanks to some pretty sweet tech.

The “Hive Strength Monitor with WiFi” campaign aims to develop and commercialise an affordable and accessible WiFi monitor for beekeepers. Targeted at responsible beekeepers, commercial pollinators, and honey lovers alike, the monitor also includes an app that lets folks check on their bees remotely.

The system comes with sensors and remote monitoring software that measures bee activity and hive conditions, and alerts beekeepers of changes in humidity, temperature, and bee numbers.

With the hives connected to their own WiFi network, beekeepers can open their Hivemind app to quickly assess the condition and wellbeing of their hives. Large-scale deployments can also install a WiFi hotspot to provide intensive hive monitoring at minimal monthly fees.

“Our Hive Strength Monitor can also help beekeepers pick up any early signs of trouble and to act quickly to prevent or minimise both loss of their bees and potential spread of disease,” says Hivemind director Berwyn Hoyt. “Any sudden changes in activity or temperature could mean the bees are swarming, or dying off due to disease or hunger, or that the honey from the hives is being robbed by wasps. Hivemind data alerts can allow beekeepers to proactively assess the situation and mitigate any risk to their hives quickly.”

Fonterra Ventures

Aotearoa's largest company has embraced the Age of Disruption by launching Fonterra Ventures Co-Lab, its own collaboration platform. The open platform provides the opportunity for anyone, anywhere to collaborate with the dairy giant on disruptive ideas for mutual benefit.

Individuals, small businesses or large corporates around the world can submit concepts that the Fonterra Ventures team will review and then potentially partner on to scale and succeed together. Submissions could relate to any kind of disruptive innovation such as new business models, services, technologies or processes.

Needless to say, the company is pretty stoked about the ability to access disruptive technologies without necessarily having to develop them exclusively in-house.

“Fonterra is fortunate to partner with some brilliant businesses in New Zealand and across the globe, and we’re looking to join forces with them in increasingly innovative ways to accelerate growth and ultimately return more value to our farmers,” says chief operating officer of velocity and innovation Judith Swales. “We’re also actively looking outside our organisation and are open minded as to where that could lead us. Through Ventures Co-Lab, we want to collaborate with innovators to think big and win big, together.”

Sprout

The problem is well-known: there are more people in the world than ever before, so there’s more need for food than ever before. But more people also means there’s less available land to grow that needed food. What is one to do?

That’s where agritech innovation accelerator Sprout comes in. Working with agritech startups from across New Zealand’s primary industries and boasting a bevy of big-name partners including BNZ, Callaghan Innovation, KPMG, Air New Zealand and Massey University and counting Fonterra as its supporters, the incubator has some serious firepower – or in this case, seeding power – behind it. Programme manager James Bell-Booth says it’s proof there’s a serious appetite for agritech ideas. “We have a lot happening around incubation and acceleration,” he explains. “We’re after ideas from the paddock to the plate.”

Startups that are accepted into the programme receive a cash investment of $25,000, expert training and mentorship in all areas of business growth, access to a national and international investor group, and the opportunity to raise between $100,000 and $1 million of capital at the Sprout company showcase. That’s not the kind of money easily found in your back pocket.

The stereotype of agriculture being a sector where 'tried and true' methods trump new ideas simply isn’t true, Bell-Booth says. As evidence, he points to BioLumic, a company that uses UV light to help crops grow. The company, founded in Palmerston North, proudly proclaims it has the “world’s first UV crop enhancement system,” developed in part thanks to ten years of research into plant and UV interactions by company founder Dr Jason Wargent.

Do you have an innovation worth celebrating? Check out the categories for the 2017 Innovation  Awards, and tell your story by clicking here

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