Victorian-based agtech hub SproutX has partnered with a major seed fund in Latin America to launch an exchange program for startups to collaborate between the regions.
The exchange program is one of the first initiatives of SproutX’s new AgtechPassport initiative, which is aimed at establishing global connections for Australian startups and ventures developing agricultural tech solutions.
“It’s a very strategic alliance for us,” SproutX general manager Sam Tretheway tells StartupSmart.
“Australia is excited about opportunities in Asia [but] the level of sophistication in Latin America and Argentina is very strong.”
Argentina’s vice minister for agriculture Ricardo Negri launched the initiative in Sydney last week with support from Austrade and Qantas.
“Argentina is one of the few countries in the world that has considerable capacity to increase domestic agricultural production, but to be successful we need to rely on technology to transform our industry in a sustainable way. This program provides access to new technologies and new global value chains,” Negri said during the launch.
The exchange program will see the winning team from SproutX’s next accelerator cohort complete a one-week immersion program in a Latin American country of its choice, with flights provided by Qantas.
Tretheway says the winning team will be assisted with a number of key meetings and opportunities for partnerships.
“NXTP Labs will host them [and] we will host a Latin American startup here,” says Tretheway.
The exchange is expected to take part later in the year, with applications now open for SproutX’s six-month accelerator, which offers $40,000 for an 8-10% equity stake to participants and commences in May.
Tretheway says Austrade’s senior trade commissioner in Chile, Shannon Powell, played an “instrumental” role in setting up the partnership with NXTP Labs, which has operations in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay, and is one of Latin America’s most active tech funds.
“[Powell] was a real driving force behind not only seeking us out but finding the right partner for us,” says Tretheway.
The opportunity for agtech startups in Latin America
Tretheway believes Latin America presents a great starting point for Australian agtech ventures planning to go global.
He says the agricultural sector there is more “sophisticated” than markets in Australia and Asia, and is embracing some of the most advanced production technologies that are collecting invaluable data at a massive scale.
“There’s a huge opportunity for our startups to go there and tap into those markets,” says Tretheway.
Argentina alone, he says, is an agricultural “powerhouse” that feeds 400 million people, compared to Australia, which is estimated to feed 90 million.
“They are four times our production,” he says.
Tretheway also believes many of the farmers there are “really early adopters” of technology.
“I would say more so than in Australia,” he says.
While Argentina has traditionally been seen as a competitor to Australia’s agricultural sector, Tretheway says startups have an opportunity to lead the way for a more collaborative future.
“Here we are working together,” he says.
“It’s absolutely no coincidence that we’re united on an agricultural front through technology.”