AgTech program bridges the gap between South Australian farmers and startups
AgTech Farmers2Founders consultants seek to connect farmers to cutting-edge technology to solve on-farm problems through a program called TEKFARM.Ashlea Miller-Pickersgill
Established in 2018, Farmers2Founders offers programs to benefit farmers and is now launching the TEKFARM in partnership with the agricultural industry in South Australia.
Farmers2Founders founder Dr. Christine Pitt said her new TEKFARM program will help growers find, test and select the best technologies for their farming operations and give AgTech companies with proven technologies the opportunity to deliver more value. to their customers.
“This is a program of activities that will provide benefits to growers and engage growers early in the process,” she said.
Michael Macolino, Associate Director for AgTech at BDO, works with the TEKFARM program to bridge the gap between agtech companies and producers.
“How do you get Agtech companies to reach out to farmers to solve on-farm issues?” Macolino asked.
Macolino said a possible solution to this problem is to use agronomists, agricultural advisers and specialists in all things technology and agriculture as intermediaries to bring technology companies and farmers together.
“We hope to have 30 producers from different sectors, such as red meat, cereals, and on the other side 30 AgTech companies,” Macolino said.
“The people in the field can then help identify the problems on the farms of these 30 producers, research companies that participate in the program and find the ones that work best for this problem.”
Although still in its infancy, Macolino is currently raising awareness about TEKFARM and soon hopes to identify the right companies and growers for a pilot trial.
“We want farmers who are in South Africa, actively looking for solutions to their on-farm problems, maybe have tried AgTech in the past and have a better understanding of what they are looking for,” he said. he declares.
“We also want farmers who are collaborative and willing to share and actively participate in the conversation between the people involved.
“We want them to express what worked, what didn’t and how the technology used can be improved.”
Farmers with these qualities will help them get the most out of the program, with Farmers2Founders also wanting a range of technology companies to deliver a productive outcome for everyone involved in the TEKFARM program.
“We would like a wide range of technologies in areas such as sensing, field robotics and farm management software,” Macolino said.
“We want tech companies that have business integrity, are robust, and can support and nurture all of SA.”
According to Macolino, one of the biggest challenges for farmers adopting the technology is managing change.
“For the technology to work, there needs to be some level of change happening on the farm,” he said.
“There is also the problem of technologies deployed in isolation. This is not ideal as some problems require two or three technologies to solve a solution. Getting them all out and working smoothly can be a challenge.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) has an AgTech strategic plan to help increase production on state farms.
Macolino said the TEKFARM program responds to that plan and, if successful, could generate up to $2.6 billion a year in additional gross agricultural value from production in the state.
Founder of Farmers2Founders, Dr. Christine Pitt held an information session about the Farmers2Founders program last week to allow anyone interested in the opportunities to ask questions.
Dr Pitt said there was no direct funding for this trial, but a number of companies would contribute to established ideas.
“There is a funding pathway for more substantial, longer-term trials that would go beyond the June timeframe,” she said.
Farmers2Founders hopes to have the TEKFARM program well launched by April, to begin matching growers with tech companies, then processing facilitated trials in May, ending in June.