New ag innovation leader sees sector ready to launch


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Headshot of Harriet Mellish smiling to the camera, outside in a pink button up top.

New ag innovation leader sees sector ready to launch

When it comes to innovation and technology in the agrifood sector, Australia is on the edge of immense opportunity despite a global downturn in investment in startups and scale-ups last year.

That’s according to the new General Manager of AgriFutures Global Innovation Networks, Harriet Mellish.

The Global Innovation Networks is a new focus area under AgriFutures Australia’s Research and Innovation Strategic Plan 2022-2027.

Its goal is to build producer capability to adopt technology and innovation, while fostering a thriving agrifood tech and innovation ecosystem and positioning Australia as a global leader in the sector.

As she drives this ambitious strategy across the Networks, Ms Mellish doesn’t see the size of the Australian agrifood tech and innovation ecosystem as an impediment to its potential.

“We really have an opportunity to punch above our weight by virtue of our research and development and agricultural landscape,” she said.

“Our food and fibre producing systems are unique because they are entirely unsubsidised, which has driven producers and businesses to be highly innovative and forward thinking, and also fostered a really robust and well supported network of R&D corporations.”

Speaking recently on return from Singapore International Agrifood Week, where she represented AgriFutures Australia in launching the 2022 AgFunder Asia-Pacific agrifoodtech investment report, Ms Mellish said the fundamentals for the Australian agrifood tech and innovation landscape remained strong compared to other regions.

“Globally we may have seen a downturn in investment in agrifood technology and innovation in 2022, but Australia outperformed its counterparts in the Asia-Pacific region,” Ms Mellish said.

“The level of interest in, and awareness of, Australia’s burgeoning agrifood tech and innovation scene amongst delegates from the Asia Pacific, Europe and the United States is really high.”

The AgFunder report shows that while down on previous years, Australian agrifoodtech startups were able to raise a significant US$317 million in 2022 with a similar number of deals closing and investment increasing in sectors like bioenergy and biomaterials, farm robotics, and mechanisation.

“This is something that excites me in my role with the Global Innovation Networks within AgriFutures, as it shows that there’s such vibrancy and growth potential for Australia’s agrifood tech ecosystem,” Ms Mellish said.

Ms Mellish joined AgriFutures in July this year, having previously held several leadership positions at Coles Supermarkets across their fresh food commercial team.

She is passionate about the integral nature of food and food production, and is excited to be working with such a broad and wide-reaching organisation as AgriFutures.

“Ultimately, the goal is that alongside being recognised as the agriculture powerhouse we are, Australia is seen as a global leader in the agrifood tech and innovative solutions that support that food production cycle from end to end,” Ms Mellish said.

AgriFutures Global Innovation Networks encompasses the evokeAG. event, growAG. platform and AgriFutures Producer Technology Uptake Program.

Asia Pacific’s premier agrifood tech event, evokeAG. 2024 will be held in Perth on 20 – 21 February. The two-day event brings together farmers, startups, scientists and global business and industry leaders to elevate the food tech and innovation conversation and connect the agrifood tech innovation community.

AgriFutures growAG. platform builds on this connection by showcasing Australia’s agrifood innovation system enabling investors, corporates, startups and industry to connect and identify opportunities for partnership, collaboration and investment in an online environment.

Taking agrifood technology and innovations to the paddock is done through AgriFutures Producer Technology Uptake Program (PTUP). To-date, the program has connected with 59 producer groups and 1,800 producers to test and trial agrifood technology on farm and address barriers to adoption through training, network events, forums and field days. In 2023, PTUP provided various tech adoption grants of up to the value of $100,000 to help producers and groups looking to take up agrifood tech in their businesses.

Jenny Archdall
Senior Account Manager, Dentsu
M: 0429 368 226

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