1 December 2022

Growing opportunities in Australian agtech and foodtech industry

Australia – ranked 12th in the world as an agricultural exporter and one of the top producers of sheep, beef and wheat – has long been renowned for its quality produce and pioneering record in farming practices and food production.

Now global demand is increasing for Australia’s clean, green and safe food products, especially in the country’s fastest-growing export region of Asia, where rising populations and incomes are generating new opportunities for high-value agricultural producers.

Driving the growth of Australia’s agriculture sector is the next generation of technology-led innovations – robotics for automated harvesters, Internet of Things remote sensors that provide real-time data to improve crop yield, and software technology for food traceability, to name just a few.

Agtech is not only delivering a more profitable, efficient and environmentally friendly local industry, but also generating flow-on benefits to international partners and markets around the world. And it’s helping peak body the National Farmers' Federation achieve its goal to grow the value of Australian agriculture to A$100 billion by 2030.

A farmer using future digital technology to assist with farming concept

A 2022 research report by independent organisation Standards Australia says Australia has a “robust and collaborative” agtech ecosystem, comprising hundreds of agtech and foodtech startups – plus accelerators, incubators, university and research institutions and supportive government incentives.

“The collaborative nature of Australia’s agtech ecosystem is evident with government and businesses coming together to use innovative technology to help Australia reach its net zero goal and meet the industry’s ambitious farmgate output target,” notes the report.

Attendees at this week’s Future of Food Summit 2022, in the Queensland capital of Brisbane, are working to drive smart, sustainable food systems that capitalise on Australia’s unique strengths and give producers a competitive edge in key target markets.

One of the sub-sectors in the spotlight is alternative plant-based protein – a thriving market forecast to be worth more than US$161 billion globally by 2030.

Australia has a variety of quality and safe raw materials for alternative plant protein manufacturers, says summit speaker Cheryl Stanilewicz, Director – Investment, Agribusiness & Food Centre of Excellence at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade).

Already the top global producer of lupins and the largest exporter of oats in the Asian region, Australia has the capacity to almost double its production of pulses, Stanilewicz will tell the summit. A further growth opportunity is the potential for value-add to locally produced commodities through to finished product and export.

With significant support for plant protein R&D from all levels of government around Australia, international businesses and investors are tapping into the opportunities in this space.

In South Australia, for example, Canadian food supplier AGT Food and Ingredients Inc. is co-investing with Australian Plant Proteins and Thomas Foods International in a A$378 million project to build three new plant protein manufacturing facilities, as well as working with the South Australian Research and Development Institute to establish a R&D hub.

Danish plant-based food brand Naturli Foods has built a facility in Sydney to manufacture alternative meat goods in a joint venture with Australian food distributor Botany Group.

More broadly, United States agrifood innovation investor SVG Ventures | THRIVE is launching a A$75 million venture fund in Melbourne that will target agtech firms across Australia and New Zealand. The Silicon Valley company also plans to partner with the Australian Food Innovation Centre at Victoria’s La Trobe University.

“We are excited to embark on our ANZ journey from Victoria,” says SVG founder and CEO John Hartnett. “It is a large agricultural market, home to world-leading research organisations and a central location to capture agtech success.”

Australia’s national science agency CSIRO – a key player in agricultural R&D – this year released a roadmap outlining the technology-led growth opportunities for Australia to become a global leader in high-quality, value-added protein.

“We estimate this is nearly an additional A$13 billion market opportunity that will complement – not compete with – our traditional animal protein industries,” says CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall in the investment blueprint.

The Australian Government’s October Budget 2022–23 allocated significant funding for major agriculture initiatives, including investments in sustainability, bolstering Australia’s biosecurity system and increased funding for traceability initiatives.

The government also allocated A$500 million new funding to the agriculture sector through the National Reconstruction Fund, A$111.3 billion to stimulate regional manufacturing – including funding to expand food manufacturing capability across Australia – and $1.1 billion to increase connectivity in regional and rural Australia.

To find out more about the exciting initiatives, R&D incentives and opportunities in Australia’s agrifood technology sector, visit our agrifood tech industry page.

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