AHK Event Report: Agriculture 4.0 – Linking start-ups to global corporations

On September 3, 2019, we welcomed members and guest of the chamber to our Luncheon Forum on Agriculture 4.0, kindly hosted by our Premium Partner EY. Tina Thoms, Membership Director, welcomed the over 70 guests on behalf of the German Chamber before handing over to Rolf Drohn, Director Tax Policy Centre and German Business Network Leader at EY. Rolf outlined how digital agriculture will transform every aspect of the agricultural value chain as well as the way farmers farm. We then heard from Malia Forner, partner at EY for government and investment incentives, about the importance of seizing this age of disruption through collaboration. EY plays a big part in incubating start-ups to support Australia’s bold vision of raising the farmgate output to 100 billion dollars by 2030.

Malia then handed over to the moderator, Karen Caston, Senior Investment Specialist Agribusiness and Food at Austrade. Karen introduced the topic by outlining that Agriculture 4.0 is the next stage in the agricultural life cycle, featuring biotechnology, smart farming, ‘precision for decision’ agriculture, robotics, sensing technology, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, biosecurity and food quality surveillance.

On the panel were Joerg Ellmanns, Chairman and Managing Director at Bayer Australia and New Zealand and Managing Director of Bayer CropScience, Sarah Nolet, founder of consultancy AgThentic and partner of Australian firm Tenacious Ventures as well as Peter Rindt, General Manager Business Development at Robert Bosch Australia.

Joerg, who joined Bayer over 30 years ago, explained the company’s history of innovation in agriculture, and also talked about the recent acquisition of Monsanto. Peter Rindt summarised how Robert Bosch has also invested in agtech, both globally and here in Australia. Australia for him is the perfect testing ground because of the biodiversity and different climate zones found in the country. Sarah Nolet described the role of AgThentic as bringing together governments, start-up companies, and users, in this case, farmers. In her view, to improve the survival rate of start-ups, they need a better understanding of agriculture.

From Bayer’s perspective, Australia needs a more unified approach to regulating technologies to make Australia a more attractive space to invest. He would like Australia to send a clear message that it welcomes investment. Sarah and Joerg pointed out that in our modern society there is a fundamental misconception and lack of appreciation for food and its production. While the ‘beyond meat’ movement is finding its place in the market, Joerg believes that the story of food and farming needs to be told differently. Peter recognises a strong consumer-driven demand for fresh, nutritious and local food. A Q&A session concluded the event.

We wish to express our thanks to Bayer for their initiative and engagement, and to the moderator and panellists for their invaluable contributions. We extend our thanks to EY for graciously hosting the event, and for their continued support. A special thanks to all members, participants, and guests who made this event highly successful.