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.

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.

AGMARDT General Manager stepping down

Malcolm Nitschke, General Manager of leading food and fibres sector funder AGMARDT has announced he is stepping down after nearly nine years in the role.

AGMARDT (Agriculture and Marketing Research and Development Trust) is an independent, not-for-profit charitable trust with more than 30 years’ experience funding and fostering innovation, research and leadership capability in Aotearoa New Zealand’s food and fibres sector.

“I feel it’s timely for me to step down now and make way for new leadership in an orderly way,“ says Malcolm who has extensive background in agribusiness senior management and governance as well as owning a cropping and beef fattening farm and a grain trading business.

“AGMARDT is in a strong position, with development of a new strategy and direction designed to help drive a better future for food and fibres in New Zealand. This provides a great platform and opportunities for a new leader to continue our aspiration of making transformational change to the sector.”

Malcolm says he is looking forward to putting more time into his other business, primary sector governance as well as recreational interests.

AGMARDT Chairman Richard Green says the Board is thrilled with the significant contribution Malcolm has made to AGMARDT’s role as a funder in a sector that faces some big challenges and opportunities.

“He’s brought extensive agribusiness acumen, a real-world grasp of the challenges and a genuine passion and vision for the sector.

“We’re disappointed to lose his steady hand, but Malcolm is leaving AGMARDT in great shape for the future.”

Malcolm will officially step down in August.

The position is currently being advertised:  Click here


Richard Green, Chairman

Malcolm Nitschke, General Manager

06 323 8766                           www.agmardt.org.nz

AGMARDT Associate Board Member opportunity

Leading food and fibres sector funder AGMARDT is inviting applications for an Associate Board Member to join the Board of Trustees.

AGMARDT (Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust) is an independent, not-for-profit charitable trust with more than 30 years’ experience funding and fostering innovation, research and leadership capability in Aotearoa New Zealand’s food and fibres sector.

“Agribusiness is pivotal to New Zealand’s economic and environmental wellbeing,” says AGMARDT Chairman Richard Green.

“The future success of our food and fibres sector relies on building strong leadership, management and governance capabilities now,” says Richard.

“At AGMARDT, as future shapers with an eye on the big trends that will influence our sector, we are focused on supporting the next generation of leaders to succeed and help accelerate positive change.

“The Associate Board Member position, a rare opportunity in agribusiness for talented individuals and emerging leaders to experience and observe governance first-hand in an innovative agribusiness environment.

“We’re inviting emerging leaders and talented individuals to apply for this position.”

The Associate Board Member position is for an 18-month term. The Associate gets to attend regular Board meetings and participate fully in discussions and develop their own Governance Development programme in conjunction with the Board.

“The position provides a direct pathway to governance roles. We hope that once the Associate has completed their term, they should be able to hit the ground running in whatever future governance role they choose to take on.”

For Taranaki dairy farmer Liam O’Sullivan, who completed his term as Associate Trustee on 30 September 2020, the role has provided invaluable learning and opened new doors.

“Nothing beats an active role for accelerating development and this role has definitely provided that for me,” says Liam, who has a background in agri-banking, a BA in Agriculture, Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Studies and is a graduate of the Fonterra Governance Development Programme.

“The support of the other Trustees has significantly enhanced the value I have taken from the interactions around the board table. And a real highlight has been the exposure to innovation, people development and in-market connections that AGMARDT supports.”

The role also gave Liam the opportunity to attend the International Horticultural Immersion Programme in Europe, a two-week executive education immersion programme with a whole-of-value chain focus, incorporating themes of collaborative innovation and capacity building.

“The trip gave me an appreciation for the great natural advantages we have in New Zealand as food producers, our need to continue to be better than the rest of the world in terms of our quality assurance and food safety, and to focus on value add pathways for products.

“The full supply chains across the agriculture and horticultural sectors is where I see my future contributions in governance.”

The AGMARDT Associate Board Member online application form is available at  https://applications.agmardt.org.nz/

Applications close on Monday 8 March.



Richard Green, Chairman

Malcolm Nitschke, General Manager

06 323 8766


Primary Industries Good Employer Awards

Media Release from MPI:

Entries are open for the 2021 Primary Industries Good Employer Awards, says Ministry for Primary Industries’ director of investment, skills and performance, Cheyne Gillooly.

The awards, run by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust (AGMARDT), celebrate primary sector employers who demonstrate exceptional employment practices.

“The Primary Industries Good Employer Awards provide the opportunity to recognise and celebrate outstanding employers who put their staff at the heart of their operations,” says Mr Gillooly.

“We’re on the lookout for employers who go above and beyond by creating productive, safe, supportive, and healthy work environments for their people.”

“2020 was a difficult year for many employers and employees, and this is an opportunity to celebrate the extensive work executed by so many people to keep businesses going.”

The awards are open to all food and fibres sector employers and the businesses that service them. Entries open today and close at 5pm on 5 February 2021.

Mr Gillooly says good employers are key to attracting, developing, and retaining the skills New Zealand’s food and fibres sector needs now, and in the future.

“Our Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Potential Roadmap sets goals of employing 10 percent more Kiwis from all walks of life in the primary sector by 2030, and 10,000 more New Zealanders in the primary sector workforce over the next 4 years.

“It also sets the goal of lifting the value of our food and fibre exports by an additional $44 billion over the next 10 years.

“Our food and fibre products continue to be sought by consumers around the world, and we need to ensure New Zealand has the right workforce to meet this demand.

“Employers play a critical role in showing that the food and fibres sector is a great place to work, and where people can build long-term, rewarding careers.

“The awards are a great way to showcase employers who are creating workplaces that put people first. Having the right environment to nurture and develop workers is critical to the future of our food and fibres sector.”

Additional information

The objectives of the awards are to:

  • highlight good employers and good employment practices across all primary industries
  • provide an incentive to employers in the primary industries to strive for good practice
  • change perceptions about employers in the primary industries.

The awards are open to all food and fibre sector employers and the businesses that provide services to the sector.

There are 4 award categories:

  • Employee Development
  • Safe and Healthy Work Environment
  • Māori Agribusiness
  • The Supreme Award, presented by the Minister of Agriculture.

The Supreme Award recognises regional employers that have invested in improving employment conditions in their region with a focus on promoting diversity within their workplaces.

AGMARDT 2019/20 Annual Report


We are pleased to present the AGMARDT Annual Report for 2019/2020. Without a doubt it has been a year of unprecedented challenge and disruption due to COVID-19.

That said, the global impact of COVID has also shown us just how important agribusiness is to New Zealand’s economy and the health and wellbeing of our communities. And during the year, amidst the turmoil, AGMARDT successfully undertook a strategy review resulting in a new future focused strategy with a clear purpose of ‘igniting a better future for food and fibres in Aotearoa New Zealand’.  This lays the foundations for an exciting year ahead.

COVID obviously impacted some of our grant recipients, and while some projects were not able to endure, through extending milestones and timeframes, the majority were able to continue with the likelihood of delivering positive outcomes.

Meanwhile, we approved $3.6 million in grant funding during the year – a pleasing result given the unprecedented nature of the year, and a step up from $3.1 million in the previous year. Agribusiness innovation grants remain the leading grant type at 55% of grant expenditure.

During the year we also worked on development of a new initiative designed to spur innovation in areas of priority and catalyse a unified and collaborative sector, the Food & Fibres Aotearoa New Zealand Challenge.

And last but definitely not least – in this we showcase some of our fantastic grant recipients, telling the stories of who they are and what they are achieving, from taking engineered socks into the global market and turning wool fibre into filter media to supporting emerging leaders to build their capability through global immersion programmes.

Read our annual report here.

On Farm Story – Mount Albert Grammar School

Just a 10-minute drive from Auckland’s bustling Queen Street lies a farm where our future farmers are being taught. Sonita Chandar (Farmers Weekly) reports.

AGMARDT sponsored this On Farm Story as well as also sponsoring Peter Brice from ASB MAGS Farm at Mount Albert Grammar School.

For more information please go to the full article where there is also a link to the video:


AGMARDT’s response to COVID-19

These are challenging and unprecedented times, but such disruption can also be the trigger for new and exciting opportunities that drive innovation, pursue transformational ideas and foster collaboration throughout the value chain.
AGMARDT is observing the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 and all staff are working from home. However, it is business as usual and although we are working remotely, we are well positioned and committed to providing a seamless service for both new applications and existing grant recipients.
Having difficulty meeting your current grant milestones? Perhaps your application requires changes to accommodate the current restrictions due to COVID-19? Please contact us by email (info@agmardt.org.nz) we are here to help.
We understand that we are all adjusting to new working environments and we encourage everyone to stay safe in the workplace and at home.

AGMARDT Adds Two More Strings to its Bow with Newly Appointed Trustees


The Agricultural and Marketing Research Development Trust, better known as AGMARDT, has announced the appointments of Nick Pyke and Miriana Stephens as Trustees, following the recent retirements of former Chair, Tony Egan and Trustee, Sarah von Dadelszen.

Nick Pyke is a Founder and Director of complimentary rural businesses – Ag Innovate Ltd and Leftfield Innovation Ltd.

A former CEO for the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR), Nick has also worked as a scientist for various Agricultural organisations and held a number of governance and advisory positions across agricultural businesses, farms, industry good and sport organisations.

He says he is thrilled with his appointment and looks forward to being part of an organisation that delivers so much value to New Zealand Agribusiness.

Miriana Stephens has held various governance roles, including 11 years as Director on the board of Wakatū Incorporation – a Nelson based business with around 4,000 shareholders and a $300 million asset base.

She holds a Law Degree, majoring in Commercial Law as well as a Bachelor of Arts in New Zealand History.

Miriana is ready to hit the ground running as part of the AGMARDT team, saying with the many incredible things already happening in the sector the future is really bright.

“The limelight is well and truly on Agriculture these days, so it’s vital the industry continues to move forward and innovate. The key, and where I believe we come in, is in ensuring we support and equip our emerging leaders and innovation ideas so they can reach their potential and futureproof NZ Agribusiness for tomorrow’s world.”

Newly appointed Chair, Richard Green, is delighted with the new appointments, saying their combined skills and experience will bring a lot to the table.

He also acknowledged the contributions of retiring Chair, Tony Egan, and retiring Trustee, Sarah von Dadelszen had made to the Trust and thanked them for their six years of outstanding service.

The full team of Trustees is now Richard Green, Justine Gilliland, Nick Pyke and Miriana Stephens. Over the past 32 years AGMARDT has given out grants in excess of $90 million to over 1,600 applicants.