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AgriTech at _Southstart

News

7 May 2021

AgriTech at _Southstart

AgriTech at _Southstart

On 5 May several Stage 2 Agriculture students attended the Southstart Conference at the Adelaide Wine Centre. With a multitude of speakers from multiple different industries, our focus was on the AgriTech sector. 

This conference focussed on people who are significant contributors to the AgriTech community. Hosted by Michael Macolino, he brought this audience together to create a greater awareness between agri-food tech, and the future generations of agriculture with those rich in knowledge. The 10 speakers were Sarah Nolet, Michael Fox, George Peppou, Olympia Yarger, Tom Rayner, Justin Webb, Emma Weston, John Harvey and Martin Cole. Each of these speakers were experts in their fields with a common goal; to make technologies that not only benefit Australian industries but the commercialisation world-wide.

The first panel of discussion centred around the future of agri-food with George Peppou and Michael Fox. Both George and Michael shared a common goal to reduce Australia’s meat consumption and slaughtering statistics. George, a founder of Vow Food uses animal cells to grow cultured meat. Michael, CEO of Fable Foods with a mission to end livestock production using mushroom as a meat substitute. They both discussed the ethics behind their work, and how these substitutes can lead to a zero carbon process. Michael said the biggest restrictors influencing capital is taste, price and convenience. However, whilst Vow food is still in the research stage, Fable Foods is available in Woolworths, Coles, and Harris Farm Markets.

The next speaker was Tom Rayner, Business Development Executive for Myriota. Myriota was formed to help farmers who cannot reach satellite signals with low data areas. Using space technology, Myriota formed a digital chip used to collect data from water tanks, and rain gauges up to a satellite to the farmer’s phone. The data sent to a satellite orbits at an altitude of 550km travelling 7.5km/sec, orbiting earth every 90 minutes. As the satellite is the size of a bread loaf, it travels efficiently collecting virtually real time data and making it accessible to the farmer on their phone.

We then heard from Eshan Abbasnejad, from the Australian Institute for Machine Learning. He spoke about the AI applications into AgTech, particularly in canopy management, to reduce irrigation levels. Further, they have developed a rover for yield prediction, gathering information on berry number and climate inside the canopy. 

After the break, Olympia Yarger from Goterra spoke about her ‘maggot robots.’ She discussed what the ‘full bellied privilege’ looks like in the world right now, and how the waste we produce is ruining that. With 26% of waste being ‘clean waste’ the other 60% is considered ‘contaminated waste’. This 60% is where the difficulty lies, however maggots can eat this. From this, the maggots could then be turned into protein source for animal feed, which is 70% of the cost in agriculture. Not only would Goterra’s solution eliminate waste that needs somewhere to go and somewhere fast but provides a higher protein cheaper alternative for farmers. 

A panel on Exporting in AgriTech with Sarah Nolet, Emma Weston, Justin Webb, and Olympia Yarger centred around the difficulty of running a business and being able to commercialise it overseas. Justin’s biggest piece of advice was, “don’t be a solution looking for a problem to solve.” Being clear in what you’re doing and ensuring your customers know exactly what you’re doing is so important. 

The final panel, about the Ecosystems in AgriTech included John HarveySarah Nolet, and Martin Cole. The priority going forward in agriculture is the relationship between generations of both farmers and city people. Martin Cole from the Waite Campus of Adelaide University discussed the need for improvement in innovation through education, and the importance of the generations at school currently – they will be leading our country. 

As citizens of Australia, we have the responsibility to push for changes, unite states and advocate for an AgriFood Minister. Changing the perception of who’s entitled to work in the agriculture sector starts at school; educating our generation on the opportunities they have and how they can achieve them, no matter where they’re from, is how we can make this industry one of Australia’s strongest yet. 

Annabelle Wilkinson and Will Ireland