Building on an amazing inaugural event in 2019, evokeAG 2020 was talked up to be the biggest agrifood tech event in Asia Pacific. Though that’s a bold claim, this year’s event did not disappoint. From billionaire CEOs to early adopter farmers to robots, there was no shortage of innovations to look at, innovators to speak with, and inspiration to gain. With sore heads and lost voices over an epic team debrief brekky, we put our heads together to come up with a few tips and takeaways in case you missed it.

Startups, know your audience! (Georgia Pugh)

One of the many benefits of an event like evokeAG is having agtech startups, farmers, and investors all in the same room. But for a startup, balancing the messaging for what can be two very different audiences is a challenge.

As a startup, it’s critical to know your audience and adjust how you approach each conversation accordingly. evokeAG is both an opportunity to attract investment as well as connect with potential customers. But perhaps most importantly, it is a fantastic forum to test, validate, and refine your ideas with farmers. Don’t be afraid of constantly checking that your product is actually solving a problem for farmers, your product will be much better for it! Farmers will also find you and your business way more memorable, plus you’ll find you are more likely to build a meaningful relationship with them, if you show that you want to take onboard their feedback and ideas.

As a farmer myself, when I was chatting to startups I found it frustrating when startups would just assume that their product would actually help my family farm, rather than asking about the problems we have, and any suggestions for their solution. I wanted to help! It’s also exhausting and confusing as a farmer being pitched to all day long. We get it, it’s not always super straight forward knowing exactly who you are speaking to, but next time, if you are speaking to a farmer, stand out from the crowd, ask questions and show that you are actually trying to help, and you may find you’ll get a few more follow-ups as a result!

Australian AgriTech, we have arrived (Matthew Pryor)

On the surface, this year’s evokeAG had many similarities to last year. Same venue, similar topics, world-class networking, and a giant delegation from New Zealand, showing strong commitment to cross-Tasman collaboration.

But if you only paid attention to these slight changes, you might have missed the biggest shift that has occurred in the last 12 months.

Last year, delegates came to evokeAG to understand if “this”- the agrifood tech ecosystem in Australia- was really a “thing”. This year, producers, investors, startups and corporates all came because they wanted to engage with the ecosystem, connect with others, source deals, and access what Australia can uniquely offer. The skepticism is gone; we have arrived!

In the closing plenary, Michael Dean of AgFunder revealed their 2019 investment report, showing a significant increase in the total amount (US$90M) of investment in Australian-originated agritech deals. Even correcting for the monster success of v2food, there were plenty of deals, showing that domestic and international investors are taking Australia seriously.

Now, it is true that the level of investment is only one measure. To improve the sustainable production of food and fibre, and work to achieve the target of $100B of farmgate output for Australian agriculture, we also need adoption and collaboration.

To support this, we are thrilled to be part of the launch of Australia’s peak body for agritech innovation — AusAgritech. The membership-based organization will play a vital role in developing and promoting the local agritech ecosystem, and ensuring it continues to be a globally recognized and highly collaborative hub.

Learning from the producers on center stage (Cass Mao)

Last year there were murmurings that not enough producers attended evokeAG, and complaints that none were featured on stage. This year, over 100 producers attended, and many were on stage. This included a standing-room-only panel on producer-led innovation, hosted by Sarah, and our sold-out Farmers2Founders pitch night, featuring pitches from 6 producer-led startups.

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