SPROUTX PROVIDES THE SEED FOR AGTECH STARTUPS

SPROUTX PROVIDES THE SEED FOR AGTECH STARTUPS

AGTECH innovation fund SproutX has opened applications for its first accelerator round, backed by $10 million from the venture capital fund it has set up in partnership with Artesian Venture Partners and industry superannuation fund Hostplus.

This follows the SproutX pre-accelerator program, held in late 2016, where 110 startups and entrepreneurs developed and commercialised their ideas.

The 2017 new program will accept the 10 best agtech teams to further develop their product or service and test it in the market, wtih the aim of transforming Australia's $60 billion agricultural industry.

Each startup team will receive $40,000 in capital, mentoring from industry experts, office space for six months, and the opportunity to distribute their products nationally through SproutX's corporate partners including Ruralco.

The teams will also gain access to potential follow-on angel and later-stage venture capital funding from the SproutX Venture Capital Fund. The fund will also provide follow-on funding for chosen startups, expediting funding rounds and reducing pressure on startup founders to spend time away from their core focus of growing their business.

SproutX Venture Capital Fund investment manager, Artesian Venture Partners, has received strong interest from investors to participate in the fund to support and foster Australia's role in agricultural innovation globally. Artesian recently announced an $85 million investment from retail industry superannuation fund Hostplus, a portion of which will be deployed into the fund.

"Australia has a competitive advantage in agriculture, including brand recognition, world-leading research, diverse climatic regions and a history of agricultural innovation," said Tim Heasley, Chief Operating Officer of Artesian.

"Australia is perfectly positioned to benefit from growing demand from Asian markets. Global food demand is forecast to increase 70 per cent by 2050, and the growing middle class of China and India will consume both a greater amount and greater variety of food.

"Artesian has seen strong interest from domestic and international high net worth, institutional and corporate investors in accessing a pipeline of the best Australian agtech startups."

SproutX Accelerator Director, Andrew Lai (pictured), says the Australian program will differ from agtech incubators in other markets.

"Along with providing seed capital and mentoring, our unique value proposition is an opportunity for startups to distribute their product or service," he says.

"Nowhere in the world would you find an accelerator program that has teamed up with big institutions like Ruralco and Findex who can give Agtech startups immediate access to customers. Four of our pre-accelerator startup participants are already undergoing in-store trials with Ruralco, Australia's largest provider of agricultural products."

The SproutX Accelerator will run regular workshops from its co-working space in Melbourne, however startup participants will be able to work from anywhere in Australia, ensuring they are close to their existing and potential customers.

Business News Australia

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