The Entrepreneurs

Sprout offers entrepreneurial accelerator to burgeoning agritech start-ups

  • Written by Danielle Veldre


Australian farm to fork agritech start-ups are being encouraged to come forward for the next cohort of the Sprout Accelerator. 

The Sprout Accelerator benefits agritech & agrifood businesses and entrepreneurs who  have prototypes, proof of concepts or existing revenue but need, extra support to help them grow. 

“We back bold agritech businesses and entrepreneurs who move fast, think big and are committed to building solutions for problems that reach from farm to fork,” Sprout Accelerator co-founder James Bell-Booth said.

 

The six-month accelerator will provide assistance tailored specifically to the successful applicants’ needs, focusing on three key areas that enable scalable growth; high-margin business models, distribution, and execution advice from experienced entrepreneurs.

 

Applications for the 2019 accelerator close on November 23, and 12 agritech start-ups will be selected from Australia and around the world.

Along with access to international business networks, the successful start-ups will also have access to an extensive mentoring program. 

Sprout Accelerator has been operating since 2015 and alumni have gone on to triple their sales, pitch their companies to investors, secure nationwide distribution agreements and see a 300% increase in their customers product yield.                     

Established by Dean Tilyard and James Bell-Booth, Sprout has a team that works alongside an advisory group, bringing a wealth of experience and expertise in agritech and entrepreneurship.

                                                                                                                                    

“Sprout was founded because never before has the world’s food and farming sectors needed more innovation than right now. With the world’s population exploding and farmers needing to do more with less, we wanted to apply our 15 years of experience in turning agritech science and ideas into businesses, to companies all around the world,” Bell-Booth said.

                                                                                                                                   

Steven Ridder, CEO of Teralytics, a New York-based company that is building the world's first wireless NPK soil probe and an analytics platform for best-in-class nutrient management, was recently hosted by Sprout and is a supporter of the accelerator. 

“Being hosted by Sprout gave me insight into how many parts of international agri sectors work, with direct connection to the people that would otherwise have taken me months to find and connect with. Sprout offers true acceleration on a new level that money alone can’t buy,” Ridder said. 

Micropod, an agritech company that produces self-sustainable fresh microgreens, was one of the companies selected for the 2018 accelerator. Founder and CEO Jeffrey Xu says Sprout provided his team the tools they required to become great entrepreneurs and business people. 

“The team of experts we worked with were very genuine and offered candid real-world advice. They made sure we were hitting our milestones and held us accountable. Sprout’s network in the industry is second to none and really opened up many doors for us. We have learned more about start-ups and about ourselves in the past six months than in an entire year before joining Sprout,” Xu said. 

App​ly for the 2019 Sprout Accelerator at https://sproutagritech.com/


The specific primary production areas covered in Sprout’s definition of agritech include: 

  • Agriculture 
  • Horticulture 
  • Forestry
  • Pipfruit 
  • Viticulture
    ● Aquaculture 

 

The most common technology areas that are being utilised to create quantum improvements and therefore large scale business opportunities are: 

  •  The use of sensors and ‘internet of things’ or precision agricultural 
  •  Robotics and automation 
  •  Biotechnology 
  •  Software 
  •  UAVs, their supporting software, hardware and sensing technology 
  •  Big data 
  •  Supply chain and logistics software 


Sprout is being supported and funded by a mix of public and private sector leaders in agritech and start-up investment, including Callaghan Innovation, Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), Massey University, Gallagher Group, Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA), Fonterra, AGMARDT and KPMG. 

The Sprout accelerator was designed by The Factory, a New Zealand-based business incubator. Over the last two years The Factory has helped establish four globally focused agritech start-ups; BioLumic, CalfSMART, CropX and Polybatics, which have raised in excess of $15 million in growth capital from global investors. 

 

CASE STUDY - SPROUT ACCELERATOR 2017 KNOWBY

Grant Rogers is a dairy farmer and vet based in Hobart, Tasmania, and is used to fixing things on the fly.

“On a dairy farm, lots of things break, or breakdown,” he says. 

 

“I thought about writing a manual with step-by-step instructions on how to fix the recurring problems and came to the realisation that no one would read it.”

 

Grant needed a solution with a simple and accessible delivery mechanism, like a mobile phone. He knew he had a good idea, but in his own words, Grant is “good at growing grass and tending to animals”, but he wasn’t well versed in building a business from the ground up.

 

Grant applied for the Sprout Accelerator, and his idea for mobile-responsive software to troubleshoot or explain solutions to common issues in a workplace began to take shape.

 

Knowby was born as a software product for manufacturers to equip their sales channels, field teams and end users with easy to use, mobile first, product support and servicing information.

 

“What being in the Sprout Accelerator taught us was how to hone our pitch to investors, how to set up a business and to test ideas. It challenged us, and it gave us confidence too.” 

 

Grant said one of the greatest benefits for his business was the contacts the Accelerator gave him access to as well as the mentorship which has evolved into long-term relationships.


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