The Australian agricultural technologies (AgTech) sector has expanded dramatically in recent years, with investment more than doubling between 2016 and 2017. However, an absence of sophisticated capital will impede investment in this sector from experiencing the exponential growth seen globally.
A new report released today by the United States Studies Centre, the first of its kind, analyses the volume, value, and makeup of AgTech investment in Australia. It puts it in the context of the United States and provides insight into both how AgTech is developing as a new sub-industry and as a case study for the broader venture capital market in Australia.
"Unprecedented global investment in AgTech, driven by venture capital, has quintupled from US$309m in 2013 to US$1.5b in 2017," says Silicon Valley-based AgTech specialist and report co-author Spencer Maughan.
"While Australia’s venture capital market has expanded substantially in recent years, Australia sees 50 times less investment in AgTech, on a per capita basis, than the United States which is leading the world in this emerging sector.”
Director of the USSC's Innovation and Entrepreneurship program and co-author of the report, Claire McFarland, says innovation is critical to the future of the Australian economy, as is the continued competitiveness of Australian agriculture.
"The creation of a world-class AgTech sector in Australia is key to ensuring the continued growth of Australian agriculture, which is an important export in Australia," McFarland says.
"Without the support of venture capital firms and other sources of high-value financing, start-ups won’t succeed in accessing the necessary financing to mature, which will stifle future development of the sector. Consequently, the opportunities promised by the development of a world-class AgTech sector will be missed."
- Unlike global investment markets, venture capital firms (VCs) remain relatively absent from the Australian AgTech investment market. Governments and accelerators have been the source of 88% of the investments in 2017.
- These sources of financing have been driving recent growth in Australian AgTech investment which is constituted predominately of investments under A$1 million. Such investments grew to 86% of all AgTech investments in 2017, whereas global markets are seeing an increasing appetite for later stage deals.
- Australia needs incentives to attract AgTech specialist VC firms to investment opportunities in Australia, as a means of driving high-value investments in local AgTech and stimulating sustainable development of this sector.
Source: The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program
Illustration Photo: Eddy Correlation Flux/Surface Energy Balance Measurement System in Darwin, Australia. It includes a complementary net radiometer and soil sensors for estimating the total surface energy balance, as well as a wetness sensor. (credits: ARM Climate Research Facility / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))