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Waikato Uni launches agtech seed fund

The New Zealand university has launched a fund to invest into agriculture technology in the country, funding projects such as forestry automation and biomaterials.

The University of Waikato is using its fully funded commercial arm WaikatoLink to invest into agriculture technology and has launched the Agri-tech Seed Fund to support the sector in New Zealand.

The university will fund the new initiative in the first instance, but later Waikato will look for investment from private and institutional investors as well as corporates, according to Duncan Mackintosh, chief executive of WaikatoLink.

The fund’s impetus to supporting the industry at large is what sets it apart from other funds in the sector, he added.

“If a potentially feasible idea is generated from the initial engagement, funds can be applied to confirm interest, carry out early proof-of-concept development and de-risk the idea,” he told Agri Investor. “Industry engagement allows us to become aware of specific problems for which businesses are seeking solutions. These connections results in greater practical relevance of new ideas and ultimately greater uptake by industry.”

The seed fund has no size limit and plans to make investments ranging from NZ$5,000 ($4,400; €3,200) to NZ$30,000 in size. It will invest into a range of different projects, such as sensors, forestry automation and biomaterials.

One example of a previous investee company is Aduro Biopolymers, which develops biopolymers for agriculture and other sectors. Aduro was developed out of a University of Waikato spin-out company, Novatein.

“The launch of these initiatives is an opportunity to increase engagement between business and researchers. Industry engagement allows us to become aware of specific problems for which businesses are seeking solutions. These connections result in greater practical relevance of new ideas and ultimately greater uptake by industry,” said Mackintosh.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding agri-tech in New Zealand due to its relevance to the economy, natural strengths and many companies operating successfully internationally,” he said. “With a wide range of opportunities to explore and the University’s deep expertise in agri-tech and agribusiness, industries are enthusiastic about the opportunity to work closely with the University.”