As Australia’s agribusiness sector pushes towards its $100b output goal, individual producers could be increasing their returns by 250% or even more – but only by closing the massive gap between those with problems, solutions and commercialisation capacity, according to Dr Christine Pitt from farm innovation accelerator Farmers2Founders (F2F).
Dr Pitt says the Australian innovation framework has evolved with an unfortunate disconnect between researchers, corporates with R&D capacity, and frontline agriculture. While the essential elements for driving innovation are all there, they are not coming together.
“There’s a big gap between those who experience the problems in agriculture, those who have the ideas that can solve those problems, and those who can turn those ideas into real, commercial solutions, and it is costing the industry billions,” she says.
According to Dr Pitt, solutions get developed where there is no real problem; ideas fall by the wayside because no one knows what to do with them; investors and industry bodies are frustrated; and producers are missing out on immeasurable opportunity.
The solution, she says, is to bring all the parties together in the early stages of problem identification and solution creation, and keeping the producer at the centre of the equation, to make sure the value of their ideas is not lost.
Matchmaking through Muster
“What has become clear to us is that those on each side of the agri problem solving equation just don’t know each other,” Dr Pitt says. “They’re not exposed to each other, and they can’t find each other.”
Coming into its third year of operation, F2F’s program structure has been overhauled to focus on the top of the innovation funnel, through a broad matchmaking service called The Muster that brings together problem holders and problem solvers. This includes individuals, organisations and business from in and outside agriculture, recognising that good solutions could come from any sector.
From there, the program offers a range of pathways from initial discussion to commercial solution. It’s the first time there has been a start-to-finish program focused primarily on keeping producers at the centre of industry innovation.
“People don’t know what they don’t know. What was missing was an opportunity for unpressured ideas sharing between producers, tech developers, RDCs, research bodies, corporates and anyone else who might have a role to play in progressing the industry,” Dr Pitt says.
F2F has already guided many producers to success through innovation, problem solving and value adding. Success stories include a wine grower who has developed new technology that not only solves a real problem in their own business – but has raised significant investment capital (in the millions) to enable them to successfully commercialise the technology with other producers, and a lentil producer who found a way to turn downgraded grains into a high value product by milling them into flour.
“These are great results, but we want to find far greater scale, to ensure more farmers, and more of industry, can achieve the same results,” Dr Pitt says.
F2F’s Muster is a virtual marketplace for problem solvers and problem holders to share ideas, look for opportunities and begin to workshop possible solutions. From this broad starting point, F2F can then guide the most promising ideas through its development and accelerator programs.
“This approach gets all the right people in the room, virtually speaking, right at the start, and then provides a clear ‘what’s next’ to keep things moving. It means we can make a bigger difference to industry and get to outcomes faster.”
To share an idea or problem, or see what others have shared and how you might get involved, visit https://www.farmers2founders.com/the-muster