As New Zealand’s leading agritech and foodtech accelerator and investment firm, Sprout Agritech is supporting agriculture and food technologies with an ecosystem that allows them to develop right here at home – but look globally for opportunities and growth.
“We are unlike other companies developing in this space, and this comes down to our three key strengths,” explains Warren Bebb, Investment Manager for Sprout Agritech.
“Our capability is extensive; on the investment side we’ve been there, done that as entrepreneurs or working in companies in the food and agriculture industry. So we understand the challenges they face.
“Secondly, we’re well connected in the New Zealand and international ecosystem of food tech and agritech, with an exclusive partner network that helps us to operate both locally and globally. And thirdly, capital. We’re not just about the initial capital raising, but will also help further down the line for future rounds of investment.”
And a lot of this work begins right at the startup stage of development, through Sprout’s twice yearly Accelerator. Applications for the next intake close Tuesday 24th January 2023, after which a number of businesses will be chosen for the twelve week Accelerator where they are paired with a mentor, spend time validating their market and building their business.
“We’re so lucky to have a wider partner network who generously provide our entrepreneurs with broad expertise and knowledge they would struggle to find elsewhere,” says Chelsea Hirst, the Accelerator Manager at Sprout.
“A big focus during the twelve weeks is also on ensuring they understand what their core value proposition is, which involves getting out and engaging with their market. We like to encourage this as early as possible as it is a big part of validating their product or business. Along the way, there is a focus on developing their pitch to communicate their business plan and be prepared for potential investment opportunities.
Fast tracking awareness and the skills required to build a business, Sprout’s Accelerator aims to support startups to reach key milestones, in a shorter space of time, and with the potential for greater success than if they were to go it alone – especially within the areas of specialisation that Sprout provides.
“The Accelerator allows us to really work with founders to identify the areas they need the most help with. Through two fast-paced Underground events, weekly workshops and mentor sessions, we assess the opportunity alongside them, working closely together. We want them to achieve just as much as they do,” adds Hirst.
So where do these founders come from? All walks of life, says Hirst. Some entrepreneurs start out at Universities, in the lab, or working within the agricultural or food tech industries. What they have in common is they all realised there was a problem that there wasn’t a solution for – so they started developing something themselves. And that’s the kind of initiative Sprout is looking for.
“We love working with people who want to change the world, by making a positive impact. And while they may think they aren’t ready to talk to anyone about their idea, we still encourage them to do so – because it’s actually never too early to get feedback as it allows you to continue to define and develop. It’s always a good idea to put yourself on our radar,” says Hirst.
Significant capital raising is another tool Sprout is fully equipped to assist with. With investment partners who have a base in New Zealand, but are internationally-focused, they choose to invest via Sprout because of their ability to take things to the world, opening up markets through their connections and links to other investors.
“We have the technology already here in New Zealand, so our strategic advantage is the network behind us here at Sprout. And we’re absolutely passionate about helping to build and grow world-leading agritech and food tech startups.” says Bebb.
“New Zealand has been a great developer of new technologies, however we aren’t always the best at taking them global, as often our humility puts us in the position of ‘well, I’ve solved my own problem, but that doesn’t mean everyone else would be interested in it’. So it’s our job to fill that gap and to offer the capability to grow, funding companies to become successful on the world stage.”
A quick glance at their portfolio proves they have already done just that for so many companies in the agricultural and food tech space. Notable mentions range from Scentian Bio (a device which mimics insect odourant receptors for the flavour and fragrance market), to MenuAid (solving the ‘what’s for dinner?’ problem using a cloud-based AI foodtech platform), ProTag (a smart eat tag sensor which transmits crucial health and location data to dairy farmers in seconds) and the ‘brain’ drink Ārepa.
“It’s definitely a broad space, including things such as digital solutions, physical products, veterinary technologies, biotech and agricultural applications, which could be anything from breeding right through to post food production and ecommerce platforms. Over the past five years, Sprout alumni have raised $35 million in investment,” says Bebb.
But he is also quick to point out that Sprout doesn’t just measure its accomplishments through those they have helped on their journey, also praising those who dedicate their time and energy to supporting the businesses.
“Alongside the portfolio of companies we have worked with, we’d also like to celebrate our partner and mentor network. And we’re always on the lookout for committed, passionate and smart people to join us.”
Story by Erin Harrison. In partnership with Sprout.