11 December 2023

SVG Ventures | THRIVE nurtures growth in the Australian agritech ecosystem

In July 2022, SVG Ventures | THRIVE launched in Australia with a bold ambition: to grow the agritech ecosystem in Australia and New Zealand.

The US innovation investor has made a huge impact in the year since it set up in Victoria. It launched its flagship THRIVE APAC Accelerator Program, with 10 Australian startups in the first cohort. In December 2023, SVG Ventures | THRIVE announced it would be investing in Pairtree Intelligence, an agricultural data aggregator from the first cohort. Australian agritech companies Pairtree, Swan Systems and Cherrp were also among the 25 finalists in the THRIVE Global Impact Challenge.

SVG Venture | THRIVE is also working with large corporates and industry bodies such as Dairy Australia to find and adopt new agritech. It is hosting Demo Days, networking dinners and meetups to build connections across the Australian and APAC agritech ecosystem. It is exploring commercialisation opportunities with research institutes and universities such as La Trobe University, who is a foundation partner in Australia.

‘We’ve been able to achieve a lot in the first 12 months and are pleased to see the response of the agritech ecosystem to our approach,’ says Michael Macolino, Managing Director (APAC), SVG Ventures | THRIVE. ‘That’s due in part to the support from Austrade and Invest Victoria. They’ve always been there when we needed help, and we really appreciate it.’

Victoria: a leading destination for agritech investment

SVG Ventures | THRIVE is an investment, technology and advisory firm that partners with organisations on strategy, innovation and global expansion. It invests in early-stage agritech and foodtech companies.

Victoria first came to SVG Ventures | THRIVE’s attention in 2019. Austrade had invited founder and CEO John Harnett to EvokeAg, Asia-Pacific’s premier agrifood tech event. The visit gave him a chance to assess the maturity of the Victorian agritech ecosystem and meet startups, corporates and other players in the ecosystem. Soon, SVG Ventures | THRIVE was making plans to set up in Australia.

‘We have three critical components of the puzzle in Victoria,’ says Macolino. ‘Our multinational corporate partners have headquarters here. There is a pipeline of pre-seed companies that we could support and feed into our program. The research community is doing leading-edge work with commercialisation potential.’

SVG Ventures | THRIVE was also keen to showcase the APAC region’s agritech capabilities.

‘Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia all have their own ecosystems, and no single market dominates,’ says Macolino. ‘There was a need to integrate the ecosystems, develop their individual capabilities and promote the APAC region to the world.’

SVG Ventures | THRIVE has built its business in Australia around collaborating with local organisations to grow the agritech ecosystem in Australia. It does this through its flagship THRIVE APAC Accelerator Program, Corporate Innovation program, partnerships and events.

Turbocharging APAC startups

The THRIVE APAC Accelerator Program targets early-stage agrifood tech startups in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia. The program opened in October 2022 and attracted 94 applications from across APAC. Ten startups – all Australian – were chosen to participate.

‘We’re looking for companies that are a good fit for our corporate clients,’ says Macolino. ‘They need to be ready to scale their operations and go global in 18 months. Agribusiness corporates find it hard to engage with a startup that’s still in the early stages of growth. It’s why we’re working hard to lift the maturity of companies in the ecosystem.’

The 12-week program comprised workshops, one-on-one mentoring, peer discussion forums and pitch coaching. It kicked off with a 5-day immersion in Silicon Valley, where participants met 30 startups from the US, Canada, Israel and Brazil in the THRIVE Global program. They networked with THRIVE corporate partners at the World AgriTech conference. They also enjoyed a social program that helped the founders connect, visiting Google, Muir Woods and Stanford University.

The APAC cohort also attended a go-to-market workshop at Austrade’s Landing Pad in San Francisco. Hosted by Austrade and Invest Victoria, the workshop provided participants with an overview of the US market, including consultative advice from Exit Velocity and other US market Austrade experts. The cohort was advised on US market readiness and provided guidance and the insight necessary to scale healthily in preparation for a prospective US market entry.

‘The accelerator program delivered some great outcomes,’ says Macolino. ‘Three startups – Xsights, PostHarvest and Pairtree – secured external funding post program. LYRO Robotics was accepted into the NEOM City of the Future robotics program. Gaia Project placed in the top 3 in NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge. It was fantastic to see them succeed.’

A group of people take a team photo standing in front of a promotional banner


Supporting corporates to transform their business

SVG Ventures | THRIVE’s Corporate Innovation Program supports large agribusinesses to transform their operations through technology.

‘If we’re going to move the agriculture sector towards more sustainable practices, we need to support large organisations to change,’ says Macolino. ‘The best way to get smaller agribusinesses to adopt new technology is for them to see the larger organisations using it.’

The program works with corporate partners to find new technology they can trial on a commercial scale. It also provides startups with access to farms at a scale that is meaningful. SVG Ventures | THRIVE will be working with Dairy Australia and Agriculture Victoria to undertake on-farm agritech trials in 2024. SVG Ventures | THRIVE also works with corporate partners to find investment or acquisition opportunities.

Among SVG Ventures | THRIVE’s 45 corporate partners is Dairy Australia. The 2 first worked together on the 2022 Global Impact Challenge, looking for technology to reduce and offset methane emissions in the dairy industry. In November 2023, SVG Ventures | THRIVE and Dairy Australia announced a 2-year partnership. The partnership is focused on advancing agritech sector engagement and investment to drive sustainability and efficiency outcomes for the Australian dairy sector.

‘Dairy Australia wants to be more active in the agrifood tech ecosystem,’ says Macolino. ‘We will help them understand which companies they should interact with, and importantly, what they want to get out of the interaction.

‘We are in discussions with agribusinesses across Australia and New Zealand to join the THRIVE corporate network,’ adds Macolino. ‘We want to grow our pool of mentors and pitch judges to give startups access to the best in the business.’

Demo Days, meetups and networking dinners

SVG Ventures | THRIVE is an active participant in the Australian agritech ecosystem. It organises events that bring together startups, corporates, researchers and other interested parties.

Together with La Trobe University, Agriculture Victoria and AgriFutures, SVG Ventures | THRIVE hosted the THRIVE Demo Day at La Trobe’s campus. The attendees, comprising startups, investors, researchers, industry and government, heard from experts on scaling agritech globally and growing the local ecosystem. The THRIVE Accelerator APAC cohort also attended a dinner with angel investors and industry contacts.

Smaller-scale events include meetups and 10-person dinners that bring together investors and startups. Macolino is a co-organiser of the 2,000-strong South Australian Agritech meetup group. ‘It’s a low-barrier way to meet people in the agritech and other industries. Someone in mining or defence might have a technology that can be applied to agriculture.’

How Austrade helped

Austrade has been supporting SVG Ventures | THRIVE since 2020, providing insights and information on:

  • the local agtech and foodtech industries, including startups and research organisations
  • Australian food and agribusiness trends
  • doing business in Australia
  • tax incentives and other government support.

Austrade is also a partner in the THRIVE Global Impact Challenge. The initiative is a worldwide search for startups that are advancing a net-zero future for agriculture. Austrade has also introduced SVG Ventures | THRIVE to key players in the Australian agritech ecosystem and promoted the SVG Investment Fund to prospective investors.

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