Entrepreneurs take flight (15 August 2018)

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Aspiring entrepreneurs had the chance of a lifetime at the 2018 Cotton Conference, with the opportunity to pitch to an audience of prospective customers within the industry and a panel including none other than Mr Shark Tank himself Steve Baxter.

In all, 12 startups were chosen from a strong pool of applicants to participate.  CRDC and the Cotton Conference provided the successful applicants with complimentary registration and their own booth in Startup Alley – not to mention give the pitch of their lives to Steve, startup expert from X-lab Allen Haroutonian, CRDC board member Liz Alexander and Cotton Australia board member and conference chair Fleur Anderson.

The session was titled “Pitch from the Paddock” and led by Steve, who is also the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur. It was no easy sell, with Steve and the others asking the hard questions.

Stu Adam of Agronomeye was one of the selected participants and said the opportunity had been amazing.

Agronomeye uses a fleet of UAVs and sensors to collect data from fields to create unique workflow solutions for farmers and agronomists to improve the way decisions are made.

“An Agronomeye crew is ready to be deployed Australia-wide to scan any size crop from broad acre to vineyards, identifying problems and expanding potential,” Stu said.

“Our multi spectral sensors are coupled with an onboard processing algorithm to produce immediate results at the point of collection, identifying crop stress, photosynthetic activity, population maps, canopy closure, weed maps  and yield potential.

“We are able to convert data into variable rate maps for precision agriculture, which are immediately useable on-farm.”

Stu has been working alongside landowners, management companies, agribusiness and agronomists to develop his system to minimise costs and maximise yields. He said being at this year’s Conference was a unique opportunity to not only pitch, but have everyone together “in the same room”.

“I think the way forward is becoming more about relationship building – the people I would have to drive around the country to see were all in one place.

“After being around for a few years it’s great to feel like we are becoming a part of the industry rather than an outsider and it’s only events like these that allow us to interact with the broader community in that environment.

“I think there’s a big danger in rushing or forcing technology in ag, at the end of the day the market will always decide who the winners are so in one sense we have ambition just to be alive for the next cotton conference because that means, slowly but surely, we are having a positive impact on those who stand to benefit most from our technology – the grower.”

So what did was the experience like with Steve Baxter during the “Pitch from the Paddock”?

“Pitching to Steve Baxter was great, he’s clearly a bloke who doesn’t pull any punches so I was a bit nervous about getting our message across clearly, but Steve seemed to get it without drama so that certainly gives me a lot of confidence we are on the right track in a business sense.

“The key message for me was ‘If you have a product, the main consideration is what is the economic benefit of using that product and is it easy to use?’”

CRDC Executive Director Bruce Finney said they were very pleased with how this exciting new Conference initiative unfolded.

“As an investor in innovation, digital and disruptive technologies and entrepreneurs, CRDC is constantly on the lookout for innovations that will push the boundaries of Australian cotton.

“This is a great way to showcase the exciting ideas and innovations emerging from the startup community, and to connect cotton growers seeking solutions with businesses who may be able to help.”