New innovations to fuel the future of NZ’s food, fibre and agritech sector

A range of radical solutions is a step closer to boosting the agricultural sector thanks to the Food, Fibre and Agritech Supernode Challenge. Prize winners were named at the Showcase yesterday.

Clarospec, a tool from AgResearch to measure lamb product quality, was the overall winner in the On-Farm Systems category and took out the Research grand prize.

KarbenFibre, an environmentally friendly battery technology to optimise and reduce the cost of flow batteries using natural fibres was named overall winner in the Value-Added Product category and runner-up in the Research category.

The grand prize in Enterprise was won by Genesmith with its technology using facial recognition on livestock.

Enterprise Runner-up and Top Small Business Award went to Happy Cow Milk Co with its milk factory in a box enabling farmers to become fully compliant milk processors.

A commendation went to MET System for its ‘set and forget’ automated response to weather, designed to eliminate crop yield damage.

The Top Tertiary Award went to Beever, with the Sprout Prize and Out of Canterbury Award going to Lateral.

Judge Alexandra Stuthridge, Commercialisation Manager at KiwiNet, said the quality of entrants and proposed innovation was incredibly high – it was difficult to select the finalists let alone the overall winners.

“The judging panel is really heartened with the calibre of the top 25 participants that went through the accelerator – their potential to deliver transformational change for the food, fibre and agritech industries is amazing. With more and more Kiwi tech bubbling to the fore to underpin our regional and national prosperity, the future is bright.”

Joanna Norris ChristchurchNZ CEO said the Challenge has demonstrated the opportunity for food, fibre and agritech in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

“The sector already accounts for 20 percent of the regional gross domestic product – we’ve got an existing regional strength which we want to foster and grow. It’s new businesses like KarbenFibre and Clarospec who will help to do this by driving bold innovation, creating jobs and reinforcing Christchurch’s reputation as a hub for innovation.”

Mayor Craig Rowley from the Canterbury Mayoral Forum says the Challenge has further cemented Canterbury’s reputation for innovation and collaboration.

“Canterbury is NZ’s largest agricultural region and it’s been fantastic to see the calibre of ideas coming out of the sector. All ten of these finalists’ are worth keeping an eye on over the next year as we see the longer term benefits of the Challenge including the connections, advice and mentorship really start to pay dividends.”

The Food, Fibre and Agritech Challenge is powered by ChristchurchNZ with the support of KiwiNet, AgResearch and the Canterbury Mayoral Forum and delivery partners UC Centre of Entrepreneurship, ThincLab Canterbury and B.Linc Innovation.

About the winners

Clarospec | Founder, Cameron Craigie, AgResearch

Lamb value chains lack routine and objective tools to measure product quality in real-time at industrial scale. Clarospec enables measurement of meat quality information for: feedback to producers to optimise lamb supply, and processors and exporters to differentiate lamb products for key markets where consumer eating experience matters.
Overall winner, On-Farm Systems ($13,000) and Research Grand Prize ($30,000)

KarbenFibre | Founder, Maryam Shojaei, University of Canterbury

Flow batteries are one of the most promising technologies for large scale energy storage due to their long life, simplicity, and flexibility. KarbenFibre utilises the chemistry and texture of natural fibres to produce optimised electrodes that have the potential to reduce the capital cost of flow batteries by 30 percent.
Overall winner, Value-Added Product ($13,000) and Research Runner Up ($15,000)

Genesmith | Founder, Dr Mark Ferguson, neXtgen Agri Ltd

Genesmith is on a mission to deploy facial recognition and machine learning to the global livestock industry. They are starting with kiwi sheep farmers with a focus on unlocking the latent potential in the industry by identifying and selecting the animals that are best suited to the farming system.
Enterprise Grand Prize ($30,000)

Happy Cow Milk | Founder, Glen Herud

Happy Cow Milk Co is developing a milk factory in a box! This internet enabled device will allow farmers to become fully compliant milk processors. This enables farmers to sell their milk directly to their local community using 100% reusable packaging.
Enterprise Runner Up ($15,000) and Top Small Business Award ($5,000)

Lateral | Founder, Lisa Lewis, Ecolibrium Biologicals Ltd

A novel, bacteria-based bioprotectant that controls caterpillar pests in a range of crops. It has a dual mode of action which will improve efficacy and mitigate resistance, as well as being safer for the user, environment and food chain.
Out of Canterbury Award ($5,000) and Sprout Prize (return trip to the Sprout partners’ accelerator selection event)

MET System | Founders, Aidan Smith and Connor Read, Starc Developments

Agricultural output is heavily dependent on favourable weather conditions, too often we see weather spikes decimate yields. The MET (Measure, Evaluate, Trigger) System enables set and forget automation of weather-dependent tasks eliminating the damage caused by unforeseen weather.
Winner Enterprise Commendation ($5,000)

Beever | Founder, James Sunshine

Beever is an application that connects farmers with casual and relief workers. Beever provides a streamlined way for farmers to quickly organise a job at the touch of a button.
Top Tertiary Team Award winner ($2,000)

Source:  University of Canterbury

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog