According to Cicada GrowLab, an agriculture and food technology growth program, solving real-world problems of pollution and extreme weather are being turned into highly profitable and lucrative opportunities for businesses and start-ups.
Product innovations from its recent graduates include fully biodegradable food packaging made from crustacean shells, waste used to feed high-protein bugs that offer an alternative feed source for livestock for drought-ravaged farmers, and a modular hydroponic system that enables farmers to grow food indoors.
“The excitement around the program resides in the fact that every one of its participants is tackling an urgent problem in desperate need of remedy today if we are to secure a brighter tomorrow,” said GrowLab program manager George Peppou.
“From cutting-edge AI that monitors animal health, smart plough technology that helps farmers manage their seeding process for optimal yield, and high-tech soil moisture monitoring technology, our participants are building advanced science-based technologies that could transform farming practices across Australia and beyond.
“They’re finding new ways to feed our growing population and maintain our position as a major agricultural producer and importer, even as we face critical shortages of arable land as the world’s driest continent.
“They are also fixing real environmental problems – like the biodegradable food packaging that could end the Coles and Woolworths plastic woes for good.”
According to Mr Peppou, traditionally the most difficult problem faced by researchers and inventors has not been in solving real-world problems, but in getting their innovations to market.
“This is what industry-focused accelerator programs such as GrowLab excel at doing,” he said.
Mr Peppou noted that last year, GrowLab enabled six new businesses to get off the ground with $2.5 million in investment funding raised, creating 24 jobs.
Growth accelerator programs have been given renewed impetus in Australia in 2018, after Cicada Innovations was declared the world’s best business incubator.