The future of food and fibre laid bare on day 2 of evokeAG


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John Harvey, Ethy Levy, Emma Moss and Spencer Maughan

Robots, drones, ‘braindates’ and molecular whiskey brewed in a lab. No, it’s not “The Matrix” but the latest from leaders in agriculture on day two of evokeAG in Melbourne.

Held at the Royal Exhibition Building, the sold out inaugural event powered by AgriFutures Australia had foodies, farmers and agtech aficionados enthralled with the future laid out before them.

The 100 thought-leaders who took to the stage over the two days are renowned for changing the very notions of how we will feed the world’s rapidly growing population. Regarded as ‘disruptors’ for their visionary innovation, the world-leading speakers connected Australian primary producers with global insights in an Australian first.

AgriFutures Australia Managing Director, John Harvey said the event, the first of its kind in the country, exceeded all expectations.

“With 1,200 delegates from 20 countries in the audience, the message was loud and clear – the agricultural sector is crying out for international cohesion. evokeAG delivered on its promise to deliver leading edge farming insights from the best in the world, and the response has been amazing.

“evokeAG has created a new benchmark, and one that will allow our farmers and entrepreneurs the opportunity to take charge and maintain our status as one of the world’s leading agricultural communities, armed with the latest tools and strategies,” said Mr Harvey.

NSW delegate Kellie Crossley said a personal highlight was Tuesday evening’s Festival of Food, where delegates were offered the chance to literally taste the future with an array of offerings geared towards a futuristic sensory experience.

“As a lamb and beef producer I was pretty dubious at the prospect of grasshoppers as an alternative protein, but I have to say it wasn’t too bad. If given a choice I think I’d take the whiskey cocktail though!” said Mrs Crossley.

The foodie theme continued on day 2, with panelists discussing the challenges of introducing consumers to future foods and whether the masses are ready to eat finless fish, chicken-less eggs and molecular beverages.

Leading Australian journalist Jenny Brockie led a robust panel discussion dissecting the future of Australia’s food and fibre industries, with leading voices including Spencer Maughan from Finestre Ventures and Ethy Levy from The Bridge Hub looking hard at how events in our backyard have global implications.

AgThentic’s Sarah Nolet facilitated a spirited dialogue on the new frontiers being explored in alternative farming, asking whether the Australian agtech industry has overpromised and under-delivered.

Agrifood tech pioneer and panellist Olympia Yarger was a strong voice when it came to the challenges of scaling a leading startup.

“There have been a lot of promises from the agtech industry. Obviously some of these will take time to meaningfully manifest. However, ‘delay’ or extended delivery times on magic bullets that are sold at the beginning of a venture, can weaken confidence. Startups need to manage this challenge to meaningfully engage their stakeholders in ways that address this,” said Ms Yarger.

Delegates were awarded fresh insights from international leaders Israel and the Netherlands, with sessions highlighting key lessons in growing local agrifood tech markets. Israel’s Professor Oded Shoseyov and Nitza Kardish offered ideas on how to compete effectively in the sector in the coming years, including ways to accelerate innovation in the agricultural sector. Session members Mark Zwinkels from the World Horti Centre and Priva’s Meiny Prins looked at how European powerhouse the Netherlands has developed disruptive technologies and ecosystems to become the second largest food exporting nation in the world.

AgFunder’s Michael Dean presented the world exclusive ‘2018 Year in Review Agrifood Investment Report’ in the Plenary session. As the most comprehensive report and latest findings into global agrifood technology investment, delegates and industry leaders walked away with plenty of futuristic food for thought.

One of the final presentations of the day proved to be a delegate draw-card, with the announcement of the four Pitch Tent winners from each stream. These included:

Seed Funding | Scott Glover – AgriAce | Merriwa | NSW
Prize included AUD $10,000 + in-kind prizes

Producer Problem (proudly sponsored by KPMG) | Danny Le Feuvre | Australian Bee Services | Ardrossan | South Australia
Prize included AUD $5,000 + in-kind prizes

Investment Ready | Dr Matthew Jones | CertusBio | Wellington | New Zealand
Prize included AUD $20,000 plus in-kind prizes

Austrade / Bridge Hub special prize | Samuel Duncan | FarmLab | Armidale | NSW
Valued at AUD $10,000 – this prize included 1 x place at the Austrade/Bridge Hub Agrifood Tech boot camp to Israel in May 2019

Pitch Tent was tailor-made for the agrifood innovation industry and a prime opportunity for innovators from across the start-up scale to present on stage in front of industry experts – with some fabulous prizes on offer. And, for the first time, our producers were offered a place at the Pitch Tent table, pitching their problems to an audience of startups and world class businesses who were able to provide intelligent, succinct solutions.

“We have had some incredibly dynamic entrants, from those looking to get their start-ups off the line, to those looking to scale their vision globally. It was tough to differentiate as all were standout finalists showcasing brilliant and innovative agtech solutions, each looking at ways to think outside the box when it comes to food and how we grow, package and distribute it,” said Mr Harvey.

In front of a packed audience John Harvey wrapped up the final session of the program thanking delegates and partners for their support. He confirmed that AgriFutures Australia will bring back evokeAG. in 2020.

For full details of the evokeAG 2019 program including key national and international speakers, please head to

Follow us: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @evokeAG and Instagram @evoke_ag

You can use our hashtag: #evokeAG

evokeAG 2019 is proud to partner with the following organisations:
Platinum: Elders
Gold: Westpac and Visy
Strategic: Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Agriculture Victoria, The Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and The NSW Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Silver: Telstra, Yamaha and Syngenta Australia

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