Sprout Agritech Limited

AGMARDT is a committed investment partner of Sprout Agritech, New Zealand’s world leading agri/food-tech accelerator and early-stage investor.

Sprout is all about growing New Zealand’s capability for commercialising science and technology to accelerate a better future for food and fibres. It does this through providing start-ups that are committed to solving problems across the food value chain access to seamless growth and opportunity.

Sprout also provides opportunities for industry partners to collaborate with new agri/food-tech ventures and build their own innovation skills.

With the increasing number and calibre of start-ups wanting access to the accelerator, in 2021 AGMARDT increased our investment as part of supporting Sprout to increase its intake. For the first time in 2021, Sprout has taken on two individual cohorts, with a total of 21 companies spread across the year.

“This is a huge and exciting effort and AGMARDT is a big part of it,” says Sprout CEO Gil Meron.

“AGMARDT brings much more than money. It brings invaluable insight, experience and vision to the table. Together we can work to build businesses from raw opportunities. Sprout is a great way to test entrepreneurs, to see if their aspirations are high enough, and identify any gaps in their vision and execution.”

A great example is Sprout alumni Scentian Bio, a company spun out of Plant & Food Research that is commercialising technology harnessing the powerful smell receptors from insects to deliver a sensor solution – with multiple applications in product development and production.

Through Sprout, Scentian Bio has raised $1 million in capital and secured a partnership with US-based tech-bio infrastructure company Cardea Bio.

Since 2015, multiple start-ups have benefited from the accelerator, gaining access to local, national and international capital, mentoring and expertise whilst providing opportunities for industry partners to collaborate with new agri/food     tech ventures and to broaden their own innovation skills.

Another is Ārepa, Auckland based ‘smart drink’ manufacturer that has signed a distribution deal with Coles supermarket in Australia, with revenue predicted to increase from $2 million to $6 million – and looking to raise further capital in 2021.

“When these companies graduate from Sprout, we can direct them to AGMARDT knowing they are good candidates for grants to further advance them and become ‘investment ready’.”

To stimulate companies to move faster, Sprout has become one of Callaghan Innovations four technology incubators and will be able to make 40 x $1 million investments in start-ups over the next seven years.

AGMARDT is proud to support this investment activity as part of Sprout’s partner network including Fonterra, Zespri, Gallagher, LIC, PGG Wrightson, Callaghan Innovation CEDA and recent recruits US-based Finistere Ventures and Israel-based OurCrowd that will help companies to access overseas markets and increase exports.

Applying Supercritical UV technology to the dairy sector

AGMARDT funding is helping take a revolutionary new UV treatment technology to the dairy sector where it has potential to significantly reduce biosecurity risk and improve animal well-being.

Super critical UV (SCUV) is a patented technology designed at Massey University. SCUV is a potentially simple and cost-effective solution for rapidly disinfecting low clarity liquids like industrial effluent, juice, wine, and milk for which standard UV treatment is not normally considered feasible due to these liquids’ low ‘UV transmissivity’ (UVT).

SCUV is also potentially a cost-effective way to enhance the shelf life of products and treat them far more cheaply than other methods like pasteurisation – without high temperatures that impact nutrition and flavour.

Led by Professor Andy Shilton, who has a PhD in Environmental Engineering and more than 25 years’ experience working in solutions for water and wastewater treatment, Massey has already developed a market-ready industrial scale SCUV system.

Now Professor Shilton and his team are testing a prototype for the dairy industry – where SCUV has multiple potential benefits including reducing the biosecurity risks from waste milk and effluent.

Professor Shilton says farmers are particularly interested in the ability of SCUV to lift the quality of milk fed to calves by reducing potential disease spread, especially if the waste milk derives from multiple farms.

From talking to stakeholders a prototype has been refined and has been tested on milk spiked with E.Coli and Bacillus cereus spores and was shown to be effective and fit for purpose for the next stage of long term rigorous testing.

Professor Shilton says without AGMARDT funding this critical stage of the work wouldn’t have been possible.

“While we had been able to undertake preliminary testing that indicated potential, without this AGMARDT funding the young Bio/Chem Research Engineer that we had trained in this area would have had to be laid off and work on applying Supercritical UV technology to the dairy sector would have ceased.

“This funding gave us the opportunity to continue and enabled us to secure co-funding from Fonterra to apply for a second stage of AGMARDT funding that will allow longer-term testing including on-farm trials.”

This work will build a rigorous data set to allow practical proof of concept and economic feasibility analysis.

“Ultimately this work has the potential to provide a significant reduction of biosecurity risk, improvement in animal well-being and lift in profitability across New Zealand’s dairy sector.”

AGMARDT appoints new general manager

AGMARDT has appointed global marketer Lee-Ann Marsh as its new general manager.

Marsh joins AGMARDT following four-and-a-half years at Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ). She replaces Malcolm Nitschke.

Specialising in innovation and consumer insights, Marsh began her career in Toronto before moving to London in 2006, where she worked with blue chip clients across fast-moving consumer packaged goods (FMCG), healthcare and technology.

She moved to New Zealand at the end of 2010, working for Fonterra and Nestlé prior to joining B+LNZ as global market innovation manager in 2017.

“AGMARDT has a unique place in the food and fibre innovation ecosystem,” Lee-Ann, who starts the Auckland-based role on August 23, said.

“It enables innovative individuals and groups to access funding to support the development of early transformative ideas. We want to encourage those who may not view themselves as innovators or leaders to step forward and give things a go.

“AGMARDT is also a fantastic connector, and as someone who loves to see the big picture and connect the dots, I’m looking forward to stepping into a role that will enable me to do that in new ways.

“AGMARDT not only has a positive impact on individuals and the food and fibre sectors, but also the prosperity of Aotearoa and the globe. This is really exciting and I’m privileged to now be a part of that.

“While I know I have some pretty big gumboots to fill, the strong platform that Malcolm and the trustees past and present have created for AGMARDT over the past eight years has given me a strong foundation to build on. AGMARDT has always been an innovative and agile organisation and I aim to carry on this legacy.”

Marsh says she is looking forward to connecting with NZ agribusinesses and research organisations, and learning more about the unique challenges and opportunities, including those for aquaculture and horticulture.

“I’m also keen to expand AGMARDT’s networks to other groups, such as Māori agribusiness, and those outside the traditional agri sector who are passionate about people and the planet and looking for ways to solve some of the big problems we face today in terms of climate, health and nutrition. I believe in every challenge there is an opportunity,” she said.

She is also interested in bringing her consumer lens to her new role.

“After years of working in consumer insights, it’s now second nature for me to ask what consumer segment needs or problems can we solve for. I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge and insights with the food and fibre sectors to support stronger consumer-centricity and connection to key markets,” she said.

Meanwhile, Nick Pyke will be taking over as chair of AGMARDT from September, replacing Richard Green.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor says the organisation will be recruiting for the global market innovation role shortly.

“Lee-Ann leaves with our best wishes. She can take a lot of credit for the progress B+LNZ has made in the market development space over the past few years,” he said.