Guy Coleman is a Precision Weed Control Scientist at the University of Sydney and an aspiring roboticist/machine learning enthusiast. He is also an Australian TFF Ambassador, part of the Ag Institute Australia NSW Division Committee and until recently their Vice Chair. Guy is also the Founder of AgriEducate where he writes to re-engage urban Australia with agriculture.

The AgriFood Tech Pitching Competition calls on Oceania’s agtech startups to submit their projects. What is the competition about?

The AgriFood Tech Pitching Competition is an exciting event for which Thought For Food and the Ag Institute Australia are joining forces, creating a vision on the local, regional and global level in agriculture and sustainability. We are calling on startups of any stage in Oceania to submit their ag and foodtech ideas, joining the competition for a chance to win a life-changing experience through TFF’s global programs, developing global connections and winning a cash prize. The collaboration between the AIA and TFF gives participating teams some exciting acceleration opportunities from both local and global networks.

What happens after the applications close?

Once applications close on September 4th (apply here) we’ll judge each startup on how they are addressing a problem, their innovation and potential for impact. Out of this tough process, 10 finalist teams will be selected to pitch in front of investors, students, startups, corporates and industry representatives on September 25th at Cicada Innovations, a leading hub of agtech in the heart of Sydney.

Winning teams will gain premium access to the TFF Digital Labs, a digital startup accelerator platform to be launched on October 16, as well as tickets and a chance to pitch at the next TFF Summit, TFF’s global flagship event bringing together up to 500 industry leaders, next-gen changemakers, media and investors. On the night, the teams will be judged by AIA and TFF reps on their local and global thinking, innovative solutions, implementation & scalability, uniqueness and team capabilities. It’s an awesome event to be a part of, with incredible potential to help provide Australian startups a global vision.

Can you tell us more about yourself and your roles at TFF and AIA?

At the moment, I am part of the AIA NSW Division Committee and was until recently the Vice Chair of the AIA Nationally. In my role, I help promote agriculture amongst young people and create events that seek to develop young professionals. I am also an Australian TFF Ambassador where I work closely together with the Oceania Ambassador Team and the Regional Coordinator Brittany Dahl to increase TFF’s presence and impact in our region.

How would you describe the current state of agtech in Oceania?

The agtech and foodtech space in Oceania, and especially Australia, is going through a period of growth. We see many new tech-driven ideas creating some pretty neat solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing food production in Australia and around the world. Even so, the ag and foodtech space is still pretty young here in Australia and with the current deal flow only amounting to around 25 million AUD in 2017-18. The ground-up innovation approach driven by startups is turning the classical top-down innovation from large government and research institutions on its head, particularly in the food and agriculture sector. Today, smaller startups are being recognized and are changing our perception of food and agriculture.

What do you consider some of the trending areas in food and ag innovation?

Big trends in the industry around the world are definitely alternative proteins such insect-based products, and lab-grown food and drinks (we’ve recently come across a lab-grown Whiskey produced in San Francisco). Another trend area I see is around data science: we have stacks of data and are generating more every second, so how do we generate relevant solutions from existing data? And how to interpret this data in the right way that actually leads to on-farm change?

Do you see any untapped areas which hold big potential for the future?

Personally, I am excited to see a makertech movement in agriculture. Lots of other industries are benefiting from the “maker” revolution, where people have the tools they need to innovate. How can this be done in agriculture? Farmers are the original innovators and makers, so how do we enabled them to continue to do this in the agtech space, with robotics and machine learning? There are lots of new embedded platforms like the Jetson Nano and Raspberry Pi that are helping this happen.

The pitching event in September will take place at Cicada Innovations who are known as the home of deeptech innovations. What do we need to consider for machines and humans to collaboratively innovate our food systems?

I am sure that deeptech will drive lots of new solutions in the food and agriculture industry. Still, tech by itself is worthless if we don’t make it relevant and applicable for the actual farmer and other stakeholders across the whole value chain. We have to think about how robots, machines and drones interact with the farmers and how they continue to be useful tools to get a biological, plant growing job done. I think what we need are ground-up, farmer-driven innovations which also take into account the diversity, culture and regional differences that define what we call food today.

Thank you, Guy! You can get in touch with Guy on LinkedIn or Twitter, and follow AgriEducate on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

AgriFood Tech Pitching Competition

Apply with your startup!

Are you based in Oceania and poised to innovate the food system with a tech solution? Apply by Wednesday, September 4th for an opportunity to pitch your startup for a chance at prizes and national and international exposure.