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AgTech program bridges gap between SA farmers and startups

Regional News

AgTech consultants Farmers2Founders are looking to link farmers with advanced technology to solve on-farm problems through a program called TEKFARM.

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Established in 2018, Farmers2Founders offer programs to benefit farmers and are now starting the TEKFARM in partnership with the agricultural industry in South Australia. 

Founder of Farmers2Founders, Dr. Christine Pitt, said their new TEKFARM program will help producers find, test and select the best technologies for their farming operations as well as give AgTech companies with proven technologies the chance to deliver more value to their customers.

“This is a program of activity that will deliver benefits to producers and engage producers early on in the process,” she said.

Michael Macolino, associate director for AgTech at BDO, is working with the TEKFARM program to bridge the gap between agtech companies and producers. 

“How do you get Agtech companies to contact farmers to solve on-farm issues?” Macolino asked.

Macolino said a possible solution to this issue is to use agronomists, farm advisors and specialists on everything tech and farm related as intermediaries in bringing the tech companies and farmers together.

“We are hoping to have 30 producers from different sectors, such as red meat, grains, and on the other side 30 AgTech companies,” Macolino said.

“The people in the middle can then assist in trying to identify problems on the farms of those 30 producers, look for companies who are in the program and find which ones work best for that problem.”

Although still in its early stages, Macolino is currently raising awareness of TEKFARM and hopes to soon identify the right companies and producers for a pilot run. 

“We want farmers that are in SA, actively looking for solutions for their on-farm issues, have perhaps tried AgTech in the past and have a deeper understanding of what they are looking for,” he said.

“We also want farmers who are collaborative and willing to share and actively participate in the conversation between those 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 tech companies to further provide a productive outcome for everyone involved in the TEKFARM program.

“We would like a broad range of technologies in areas such as sensing, field robotics and farm management software,” Macolino said.  

“We want tech companies that have commercial integrity, are robust and can support and service SA wide.”

According to Macolino one of the biggest challenges to farmers adopting the technology is change management. 

“In order to get the tech to work, it requires some level of change to happen on the farm,” he said.

“There’s also the problem of technologies being deployed in isolation. This isn’t ideal as some problems require two or three technologies to fix one solution. Getting them all out and working harmoniously can present a challenge.”

The Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) has an AgTech strategic plan to help increase production on the state’s farms. 

Macolino said the TEKFARM program is in response to this plan and, if successful, could produce up to $2.6 billion per annum in extra agricultural gross value of 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 there are a number of companies that would contribute for established ideas.

“There is a pathway for funding for trials that are more substantial and longer term that would go past the June time frame,” she said.

Farmers2Founders are hoping to have the TEKFARM program well underway by April, to start matching producers with tech companies then processing facilitated trials in May, finishing in June.

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