CRDC-supported innovator Anastasia Volkova of Regrow Ag kneeling in a cotton field.
CRDC-supported innovator Anastasia Volkova of Regrow Ag.

Making it to the top: supporting start-up innovation


CRDC-supported startup founder Anastasia Volkova has come in at number one in The Australian newspaper's inaugural edition of The List: 100 Innovators.

CRDC has been partnering with Anastasia and her start-up FluroSat (now Regrow Ag) since 2017, when it supported her through a series of start-up workshops allowing her to incubate and grow the project.

Since then, she’s gone on to secure millions in investment to further develop the state-of-the-art remote sensing technology that allows farmers to measure crop health ‘from the air’. With the acquisition of Dagan’s soil modelling capability and combining it with FluroSat to create Regrow, there is an enhanced focus on sustainable agriculture by using scientifically vetted crop and soil models, connectivity to farm management platforms and terabytes of satellite imagery to support equitable ecosystem markets and programs.

Anastasia says to go far and achieve big things, you can’t go alone, you need partners.

“CRDC and start-up incubator X-Lab have been invaluable in connecting us with government officials and other ag organisations which has led us to where we are today,” Anastasia said.

“We have attracted numerous partners along our journey and some of them have been supportive ever since, some have only stayed a certain time.

“This is inevitable and a good founder should seek to always have a long-term perspective of any partnership in mind to pick the right partners along the way.”

Of being named number one in The Australian’s Top 100 Innovators list, Anastasia said consideration of the judging panel made the honour even greater. The panel included former Netflix chief marketer Jackie Lee-Joe, Engineers Australia chief engineer Jane MacMaster, Cicada Innovations CEO Sally-Ann Williams, Atlassian work futurist Dominic Price and UTS innovation advisor Roy Green, among others.

“I’m glad that I didn’t actually know they were evaluating me as an innovator on that list, so I was simply focused on my work and hoping to make the biggest impact I can with it,” Anastasia said. 

“After finding out about the ranking, I felt honoured to be included and inspired by other innovators on the list!”

We hear the word ‘innovative’ used a lot – so how does Australia’s top innovator describe what this word means and how it’s evolving?

“I think of innovation as the creation of something where there was nothing - market, solution, product - anything can be innovative if it solves a problem or offers opportunities that haven’t been offered before,” Anastasia said.

“At the very beginning I thought of innovation as a product or service that does something nothing else is capable of.  I realised quite quickly though that such innovative products require even more extraordinary business models and distribution channels. 

“You can’t launch innovation without an ecosystem for it to go to market with.”

Anastasia is no stranger to the start-up community, so with this experience, she shares her advice for those starting out. 

“My journey began long time ago, when I met some early start-up founders. They came from very different walks of life and ran very different, often unexpected businesses. 

“I loved that they identified and were solving a problem that no one has solved yet, and they could choose their path as to how to achieve their goal, how to find or develop a solution. 

“I took the opportunity to learn from these founders by working alongside them in their businesses to learn ‘the start-up kitchen’ and how to operate one. 

“My advice therefore to those starting out and wanting to learn how to develop a business is to find a way to make that learning a job. For me it was extremely satisfying!”

The Australian says the Top 100 list celebrates and highlights the future-focused leaders, ingenuity and products that are ‘set to make Australia an innovation nation’. The list covers categories including energy, technology, education, medicine, agriculture, food, sport and the arts.

The list is curated and edited by The Australian’s technology editor David Swan who said with a backdrop of the pandemic, a lot of Australian start-ups are now worth more than a billion dollars. A couple of years ago, there were only one or two, now there are over 20. 

“It feels like a real moment in time for innovation in Australia,” he said.

When asked what they were looking for and what disqualified people from the list, David said they were looking for the unique.

“I think that there are a lot of copycat ideas around. We wanted to highlight the fresh sort of underdog companies who were the new kids on the block.”