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Meet the company helping sprout NZ’s AgTech and FoodTech industry

Sprout AgTech

Like its name suggests, Sprout, the investment and accelerator company’s purpose is to support New Zealand companies grow.

Covering some of New Zealand’s largest industries such as AgTech (agriculture technology) and FoodTech, Sprout is on a mission to support entrepreneurs, start-ups and more who are building solutions with disruptive ideas not just for the country, but the world.

“As a planet, we will need to sustainably feed more than 10 billion people by 2050. This will require us to transform food and agriculture on a global scale, and we have the entrepreneurs right here who are willing to question the status quo, and create a better future,” says Jonathan Good, Sprout’s Lead Mentor.

Chelsea Millar, Sprout’s Marketing and Communications Lead says the entire AgTech and FoodTech industry has matured since it was first built up as an accelerator in 2015.

“When we first started, it was an infant industry, no one knew what AgTech was and people didn’t understand it,” says Millar.

“Overtime the ecosystem has matured, global interest is growing in AgTech and FoodTech,” she adds.

Read more: Business accelerator Sprout returns to invest in Kiwi AgTech and FoodTech start-ups

AgTech is the sector which creates and uses technology to improve the efficiency and profitability in the dairy, meat, agriculture, fisheries, horticulture, cropping and more.

Technology that supports these sectors can include biotechnology, crop protection, input management, animal technologies, robotics and automation, software and AI, sensors and ecommerce.

One of the AgTech companies Sprout has aided in its accelerator, and later joined its investment portfolio, is ProTag, a dairy cow health technology business. In the words of Millar, “the fitbit for cows”.

The tags help provide farmers with data such as when their cows are ovulating.

“They are aiming for their technology to be implemented on 15 percent of New Zealand dairy farms by 2027, with plans to expand into global markets,” says Warren Bebb, Sprout Investment Manager.

On the other hand, FoodTech, which Sprout began to focus on later in 2018 when they saw a push in the sector, is the integration of digital technology with food production, preparation and the sale of food products.

“We are seeing a big growth in that food space,” says Millar.

Sprout AgTech

Sprout supports companies that incorporate software, AI, e-commerce, novel foods and ingredients, supply chain and logistics and processing and packaging in the FoodTech world.

Former rugby player, Fa’alogo Tana Umaga’s wellbeing supplement company, Viktual+ is among the FoodTech companies that Sprout has been working closely with. Uniquely, the supplements combine ancient Māori and Pasifika wisdom with New Zealand ingredients.

Millar says people are beginning to look at the AgTech and FoodTech sector at a global level, which means it makes sense for Sprout to support companies breaking into the industry.

With the backing of large New Zealand companies such as Fonterra, Zespri, and Callaghan Innovation, Sprout is aiming to help support industry growth based on New Zealand talent and currently offering up to $1 million in seed-stage funding to companies that fit its investment strategy.

To get the backing of Sprout, Millar says companies must meet the criteria based on three important points.

“Team is a big one – do they have all the elements [of one]? The products – what is the application and depth? And finally, the market – what is the size? Is it just in New Zealand or bigger or is it small?”

Sprout’s roots are firmly planted in New Zealand and the organisation only works with companies that have a 50 percent New Zealand-based workforce.

“Not only is it home to us and our partners, but our roots are here, and there is lots of talent here. New Zealand is also a good market to test things out,” says Millar.

Accelerator

Every year, Sprout chooses eight to 12 AgTech and FoodTech companies to go through an Accelerator programme, which will result in an opportunity to pitch to investors, future customers, and other companies.

The two three-month programme allows companies to be educated on how they can “strengthen their value proposition”, through workshops, networking events and more.

Supporting New Zealand companies will attract talented and likeminded people into the industry and the country adds Millar.

Looking to the future, the Sprout team aim to identify more companies to support to further grow the industry in New Zealand. Along the way, they aim to build their investment portfolio and partnerships.

“We want to help companies get investment ready,” she adds, as Sprout continues to also focus on growing its network of mentors.

There are currently three companies under Sprout’s investment portfolio, MenuAid, Protag and Scentian Bio, a company that replicates insect odours in a device to help the fragrance market.

With around $40 million available to invest in AgTech and FoodTech companies, Sprout is continuing its search to support companies on the pathway toward a more sustainable planet.

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles, The Register and Idealog. To get in touch with her, email bernadette.basagre@scg.net.nz

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