GrainInnovate’s $50m punt

Ann RawlingsCountryman
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and GRDC chairman John Woods.
Camera IconFederal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and GRDC chairman John Woods. Credit: GRDC

The Grains Research and Development Corporation has staked its claim on the future grains landscape, establishing a $50 million venture capital fund geared towards the most innovative ag-tech start-ups.

GrainInnovate, an initiative of the GRDC and venture capital firm Artesian, will be used to invest in start-ups that subscribe to a specific mandate — developing workable solutions for Australian grain growers.

GRDC chairman John Woods said the nation’s grain growers were some of the most innovative in the world.

“We have seen an increase in the gross value of grain production from an average of $6 billion to approximately $15 billion in the past 15 years, most of which has come from grain growers adopting new and novel technologies,” he said.

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“To stay competitive, we need to seek new innovations, new technologies and bright ideas from Australia and around the world and get it into grower hands as quickly as possible.”

Mr Woods said the fund would aim to capture ideas that either improved production or addressed a grains industry constraint.

“Whether you’re a grower, breeder, research scientist, agronomist or ag-tech developer ... we want to hear from you so we can capitalise on those opportunities and maximise the productiveness of our systems,” he said.

GrainInnovate will target scalable, high-growth potential start-ups from all facets of the grains production and processing chain. It is an opportunity that organisations in the business of start-ups find exciting.

AgriStart managing director Natasha Ayers said GrainInnovate was recognition in the value of start-ups to the future of agriculture.

“It will enable companies at an early stage to get the leg up they need to kick-start trials.

“It means they will now have someone to back them ... at that early stage,” she said.

Dr Ayers said it was important that, alongside its traditional research and extension activities, the GRDC invested in early- stage technology “that would make a difference on farms”.

“The GRDC is funded by farmers, and farmers need this new technology,” Dr Ayers said.

“So it’s a good sign the GRDC is responding to their needs.”

Artesian, which matched GRDC’s $25 million investment in the fund, will manage the selection process, with start-ups moving through an investment ladder from seed stage to growth, and finally to potential merger or acquisition opportunities.

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