Manawatu Agtech Start-Up Koru Diagnostics Raises $900k Seed Investment

A Palmerston North-based start-up company, Koru Diagnostics, has had impressive success with its first funding round.

Koru, which is developing cost-effective laboratory and rapid farmside tests, was substantially oversubscribed when it closed its seed funding round recently with close to a million dollars.

CEO, Rhys McKinlay, is very happy with the outcome. “We raised over $900k, mostly from angel investors, which will give us a commercialisation runway through until late 2019. These funds will be directed towards product development and commercial scale-up, protecting our IP and securing new commercial partnerships,” he says.

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A cow-whispering fitbit

The big farming news of the year so far has been an outbreak of the Mycoplasma bovis disease in cows, which forced the Government to come up with an $886 million eradication plan last month. But as this month’s Fieldays event showed, it’s not all bad news in our farming sector. When it comes to farm technology – or “agritech” as it’s known – New Zealand is a global leader.

A new report by Callaghan Innovation claims that “New Zealand is seen as one of four locations to watch for agritech solutions alongside Silicon Valley, Boston, and Amsterdam.”

I reached out to several agritech experts to find out why New Zealand is so well regarded internationally. Okay, we have a deep history of agriculture in this country. But it requires more than a pair of gumboots and the clichéd “number 8 wire” attitude to create advanced farming technology.

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BioLumic raises US$5M for UV crop enhancement system

BioLumic has raised US$5 million in funding to help deal with growing global demand for increased agricultural crop yields using short-duration ultra-violet treatments rather than genetic modification or chemicals.

The Palmerston North-based company, creator of the world’s first crop-yield enhancement system using UV light, attracted funding from Silicon Valley agritech investor Finistere Ventures, the Radicle Growth acceleration fund whose investors include Finistere, Rabobank’s recently-launched global Food & Agri Innovation Fund and existing investors from across New Zealand. Finistere has previously backed Israeli agritech company CropX, which licensed research from New Zealand’s Landcare Research.

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Major trends in agtech for 2018

The disruption over the last decade in the retail food value chain gained momentum in 2017 with the IPO of Blue Apron, and acquisitions such as Bai Brands ($1.7 billion), Sir Kensington Condiments and Whole Foods by Amazon ($13.7 billion). This wave of disruption is being paralleled in the agricultural value chain, driven by increasing land turnover and altered land use, renewed focus on sustainability and, as in retail, changing consumer preference.

A continued slump in commodity prices has seen “Big Ag” facing declining margins and prompted a wave of consolidation to get cost efficiency, as well as a search for new innovation over the last three years. As key products in seed and chemistry have come off patent, the change imperative for the Big 6 has only strengthened. Coincidentally, the agtech investment landscape has exploded over the last decade, from a niche, opportunistic clade of the venture capital investment class, to a legitimate asset class attracting focused and generalist funds with dedicated agtech investment allocations.

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Christchurch agritech company CropLogic launches prospectus

Christchurch agritech company CropLogic’s​ long-awaited plans are coming to fruition with the launch of a prospectus to raise A$8 million (NZ$8.45m)

Chief executive Jamie Cairns will lead a roadshow presentation in New Zealand and Australia over the next fortnight.

CropLogic helps improve crop yields by combining research and technology with field support teams to provide
accurate advice to growers.

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Christchurch agri-tech company CropLogic launches prospectus

Christchurch company CropLogic’s​ long-awaited plans are coming to fruition with the launch of a prospectus to raise A$8 million (NZ$8.45m)

Chief executive Jamie Cairns will lead a roadshow presentation in New Zealand and Australia over the next fortnight.

CropLogic helps improve crop yields by combining research and technology with field support teams to provide accurate advice to growers.

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Global domination predicted for Rockit

Rockit apples could become a staple snack worldwide, says Rockit Global chairman John Loughlin.

The company was named ExportNZ Hawke’s Bay’s ASB Exporter of the Year last week, also winning won the Napier Port Industry Trail Blazer Award.

“We have a little apple with huge sweet taste that stores and never fails to impress people as a snack experience and a great fruit experience,” he said.

He said New Zealand was responsible for what was probably the greatest modern innovation in fruit, the gold Kiwifruit.

“Our ambition is to put Rockit apples right up there with them.”

He gave tribute to the vision and drive of founder Phil Alison to establish the product and the contribution of angel investors and the Rockit team in Havelock North. The investors contributed “enormously” with strategy, marketing, growing and the intellectual property aspects of the business.

“We have had a great team of people that have been through a lot and contributed enormously from orchard to pack house to market.

International partners were also growing the apple variety which Rockit Global wished to market on their behalf.
“We are not finished yet. This has the potential to be something really special and it is fantastic to be recognised so early in our journey.”

Few in Hawke’s Bay have a track record such as Mr Loughlin, giving weight to his prediction that Rockit is a global game changer. Food industry companies dominate his extensive governorship record. Chairmanships include Zespri Group, EastPack, Firstlight Foods, Allied Farmers and Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers.

Directorships include Napier Port, AgResearch, New Zealand Meat Producers Board and NZ Lamb Company (North America).
In his executive career he was Richmond’s chief executive for five years, leaving in 2002 before it was taken over by Dunedin-based PPCS (now Silver Fern Farms).

With wife Kathryn, he established Askerne Estate Winery.

Pockit apples are slightly bigger than a golf ball, sweet flavoured with a strong red colour and marketed in plastic tubes. The variety is a product of Plant & Food’s Havelock North-based cross-breeding programme, started by the late Dr Don Mackenzie and developed further by Allan White.

First published in NZ Herald – 4 July 2017

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Robots to rescue booming kiwifruit crop volumes

With SunGold kiwifruit volumes set to double by 2021, chances are that by then growers struggling to find pickers for a timely harvest will be reaching for a robotic solution.

Dr Alistair Scarfe and his colleagues at Robotics Plus based at Te Puna’s Newnham Park Innovation Centre are well down the track developing a robotic kiwifruit picker that should arrive on the market as kiwifruit volumes start to ramp up strongly.

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CropLogic prepares for ASX listing

CropLogic, a Christchurch-based developer of technology, allows farmers to more accurately control inputs such as fertiliser and water by modelling plant growth by gathering field data and making crop prescriptions and management recommendations. The company has already raised just over $1 million including $512,000 via crowdfunding platform Equitise, plans to raise AUD$3 million in an initial public offering and list on the ASX.

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Apple robot up for angel investment

A Tauranga company is ready to take its apple packing robotics offshore and help remove the headache of finding staff to do mundane work.
The automated apple packing machines place apples in trays ‘‘colour up’’ with the stems aligned, using sensors, software and electromechanical technology, and are expected to remove some of the monotonous work that apple packhouses find difficult to staff.

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Robotic apple packing developed by NZ company Robotics Plus ready to go offshore

A Tauranga company is ready to take its apple packing robotics offshore and help remove the headache of finding staff to do mundane work.

The automated apple packing machines place apples in trays “colour up” with the stems aligned, using sensors, software and electromechanical technology, and are expected to remove some of the monotonous work that apple packhouses find difficult to staff.

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CropLogic hires Novus Capital for A$3M IPO prior to ASX list

CropLogic, a Christchurch-based developer of technology that allows farmers to more accurately control inputs such as fertiliser and water, plans to raise A$3 million in an initial public offering and list on the ASX.

The company, which has already raised just over $1 million including $512,000 via crowdfunding platform Equitise, says it hired Sydney-based Novus Capital to lead manage the IPO. CropLogic’s biggest shareholder is Christchurch-based, ASX-listed technology incubator Powerhouse Ventures, with about 43 percent, while government-owned NZVIF Investment holds about 17 percent.

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Tech innovators pitch their wares at agribusiness showcase

Agritech innovators bathed in the spotlight at the latest Agribusiness Showcase near Palmerston North as they pitched their wares to investors looking for the next best and most profitable thing.

The occasion marked the fourth year of the showcase, sponsored by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and the ASB, this year with a focus on 12 companies working on environmental and precision technologies.

“These companies show tenacity and courage, it’s been quite inspirational to work with them,” said NZTE investment leader Quentin Quin.

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NZ tech firm raises funds, wins award

A local agri-technology company is on a high after raising $4.5 million for product development and research and being named the best AG-Tech start up in a Silicon Valley technology competition.

Engender Technologies has worked with two Centres of Research Excellence – the MacDiarmid Institute and the Dodds-Walls Centre – to develop technology to allow dairy farmers to manage the sex make-up of their herds.

It opens the way to a leading position in what’s estimated to be a $3.5 billion market.

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CropLogic Secures New Licence for Global Growth

Precision agriculture firm CropLogic has signed an exclusive agreement with the New Zealand Institute of Plant & Food Research to expand the marketing of its patented technology to corn, wheat, soybean and cotton farmers in the United States.

The technology — developed over 30 years out of Plant & Food Research, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute, and guided and shaped for international markets by IP investor Powerhouse Ventures — enables growers using the firm’s predictive modelling systems to pinpoint the best times to apply nutrients and to conserve precious water for maximum plant yields.

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Chicken chunks made from peas bring in investors

A start up company that makes peas into chicken chunks has already attracted $1.2 million from international angel investors.

Kiwi investors were given the same opportunity after Sunfed Meats founder and chief executive Shama Lee pitched her plant-based chicken product to them at the New Zealand Agribusiness Investment Showcase near Palmerston North. The chicken is made from yellow peas imported from Canada in a process undisclosed for commercial reasons,  and tastes and looks like chicken.

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Agribusiness Investment Showcase connects business to capital

OPINION: New Zealand ticks all the boxes for its potential to produce world leading agricultural technologies – it has an economy built on primary industries and a long history of expertise in agriculture, as well as a culture of innovation.

This is why I see huge potential for New Zealand agritech businesses to grow internationally.

The latest estimates value the agritech sector at around $1.2 billion, and investors are taking notice.

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