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Posted: 13 June 2017
The latest news from New Zealand's start-up sector

Over the last couple of months, we have seen some fantastic ideas validated, businesses built, capital raised, some fast fails, priceless learning, and good times all around – congratulations to all of you!

With a number of our accelerators beginning to wrap up, we would like to extend a huge thank you to our partner organisations who passionately deliver such amazing programmes to New Zealand start-ups.

And what’s next? As we approach the end of the first half of the year, we are excited about what is coming up for the second half. Keep your eyes peeled for some big announcements later in June.

First exit for Lightning Lab

Lots of buzz around the first successful exit from Lightning Lab 2013 programme in Wellington. Publons has been acquired by Clarivate Analytics - a strategic partner for the company. Publons provides a platform that gives academics credit for the peer review work they do, and whose mission is to "speed up science through the power of peer review". An awesome outcome for the founders, and for the angel investors to see a return in just 4 years time. A great example that shows the value that our accelerator programmes provide for passionate and driven kiwi entrepreneurs.  

Sprout agritech muster day

Sprout agtech muster day

Sprout Agritech Accelerator held its muster day on 21 April at Fonterra HQ in Auckland. Seven teams pitched at muster day: Ceratech, Ectosolutions, Elastic Green, FTek, Knowby, Pinpoint Diagnostics, and Tribal.  

Sprout fills a gap for entrepreneurs with great ideas to disrupt the agri sector. In its second year, it is continuing to gain recognition as an internationally recognised agritech accelerator program. We will be working alongside the Sprout team to ensure the start-ups have a transition plan for life after the accelerator. See the end of programme report for more info. Bring on year three of Sprout!

KFA wraps up

KFA wraps up

Demo Day for the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator (KFA), co-funded by Callaghan Innovation and run by Creative HQ, was hosted on 19 May on Wellington’s waterfront. Seven teams completing the accelerator pitched to a full theatre of investors, advisors, and entrepreneurs: Wicket, Liberac, National Account Registry, Sharesies, Accounting Pod, Teddy, and Flatfish.

Representing Callaghan Innovation, Vic Crone was a guest speaker alongside Paul Brock (Kiwibank CEO), and Chris Teeling (Xero, Head of Group Strategic Initiatives and Ventures).

Some of the start-ups who presented at demo day are maintaining good press coverage (Sharesies), and will be working towards securing funding from investors.

This event marks the ending of the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator, and the teams will be wrapping up and planning the next steps on their journey. Again, we will be working with Creative HQ to assist these startups. 

Lightning Lab Electric to kick off

Lightning Lab Electric has announced the four ventures that will be participating in its energy sector accelerator programme on 12 June, wrapping up with a Demo Day on September 7: Polyanio, emhTrade, Mitton Electric, and Ampli. These four ventures “represent the enormous scope of the energy industry” and will “assist in developing innovative solutions to meet the sector’s changes and bring disruptive concepts to market”, says Programme Director Brett Holland. Our Energy and Environment Sector Team was part of the selection committee and will be a specialist advisor available to the teams throughout the duration of the programme. Touch base with the team if you would like to know more or be involved. All the best to the startups.

Electric Innovation Challenge winner

A precursor to the accelerator, Lightning Lab Electric’s Innovation Challenge called for innovative ideas in electricity and sustainable energy, and resulted in emhLab winning the top prize of $20,000. The team is now one of the four participating ventures to build its electricity innovation solutions using market validation and product development approaches trialled by companies such as Google, IDEO, and Tesla.

FLUX hosts international trio

FLUX hosts international trio

The Flux companies were lucky enough to host special guests Dom Price, Edith Yeung, and Peter Dingle on their premises on 4 April. This was a great chance for the teams to hear from some serious international innovators. Meanwhile, the teams are cracking on at an incredible pace, hurtling toward demo day on June 29. We have also seen an amazing achievement with one FLUX company closing a massive capital raise while still in incubation! Congratulations Miriana Lowrie and 1-Centre.

Bill Reichert visits from the US

Bill Reichert visits from the US

Callaghan Innovation and AUT partnered to bring Bill Reichert, Managing Director at Garage Technology Ventures and AUT Entrepreneur in Residence, to New Zealand in May. Bill, who has more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur and operating executive, shared insights about the US venture capital landscape and met start-ups from the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator, Flux, Creative HQ, Bizdojo, and Astrolab. 

Wintec INNES48 – A start-up competition 

From 28-30 April, teams with big ideas gathered together for a sleepless weekend ideating, validating, and working on their pitches. This was a fantastic event run at the amazing Wintec campus in Hamilton and co-hosted by our incubator partner SODA Inc. You can see a livestream of the pitches here

R9 Accelerator 3+ Demo Day

R9 accelearator 3+ demo day

On 8 June the R9 Accelerator 3+ programme culminated with a demo day where the teams pitched their solutions to a panel of experts – and an enthusiastic audience who got to vote for their favourite team. myTrove got the most votes, winning the People's Choice Award.

Procurement for June 2017 - June 2019

We are making fantastic progress with our procurement for Founder Incubators, General Accelerators, and Maori Accelerator with contract negotiations close to wrapping up. Announcement of successful providers will begin during June – we will also be launching a marketing campaign, so keep an eye out! We’ll have some FAQs for staff available around this time too.

Upcoming events

(Date TBC) FLUX Bus Tour
29 June 2017 FLUX/The Icehouse Demo Day
7 September 2017 Lightning Lab Electric Demo Day

 
Is your start-up related event missing from the list? Email Start-Up Team to get it added in the next issue

Posted: 09 June 2017
The final in a blog post series by Business Innovation Advisor Nicky Molloy, following her recent agritech adventures in San Francisco.

In April I was privileged to join a delegation of businesses from New Zealand and around the world to see first hand San Francisco’s agritech industry in action. Special thanks to the Silicon Valley Forum for hosting the Seeds of Our Future AgTech Immersion Program 2017. Thanks also to NZTE, which funded the Kiwi contingent that was ably led James Wilde from NZTE, Peter Wren-Hilton from Wharf 42, and joined by Bridget Unsworth from NZVIF.

So how does NZ rate as a leader of innovation in agribusiness? In this blog series, I’ve shared some of the learnings from this trip and where NZ sits on the innovation spectrum.

Part 4 (final): Developing an innovation ecosystem around agritech in Salinas, California

Salinas is a strongly focused agriculture centre in California and with an 80-year history of growing iceburg lettuce. With large key industries moving out a number of years ago, it needed to reconsider its regional strategy to look at how it could develop an ecosystem that supports agriculture. A  collaborative effort between local government, education providers, businesses and community support agencies, this public private partnership is bringing agricultural and technology together, leveraging the region’s strengths with the aim of providing growth, developing well paid jobs, and producing a healthier environment as a result.

Key points are:

  • The local government doesn’t provide funding but acts as a convenor to clear the way for other support networks to do what they do best 
  • Education hubs such as Hartnell College work closely with businesses to understand the skill levels needed and how to support these with training modules. The College developed a computer science degree that could be completed in 3 years with businesses providing funding and internships. Examples of courses include basic applied technology degrees that cover business, computing and agricultural science through to mechanics, welding and soft skill development
  • Community projects where children as young as 4 are taught to code. About 600 students between the ages of 8 and 17 will be taken through the coding programme in the first year. This programme is free
  • The Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology, launched in December 2015, houses start-ups including two NZ companies http://farming2020.nz/video-gallery/
  • Salinas will host, for the third year, the Forbes AgTech Summit 
  • The THRIVE Accelerator program connects the expertise of tech companies to knowledge of agricultural companies, investors, and entrepreneurs

New Zealand Home of Innovation in Agribusiness

There are fantastic initiatives happening in this city that are benefiting the whole community. What a great showcase.

Our final day included a day at Plug and Play in Silicon Valley with presentations by agritech leaders from Brazil, Israel, France, Chile, Denmark, Mexico, China, Columbia, Spain, Canada and Japan. New Zealand’s presentation, led by James Wilde from NZTE and supported by Dr Cather Simpson (Engender Technologies), Tim Cutfield (Agrigate) and Paul Whiston (LIC Automation) was a standout!

Our agritech discussions have continued - through the Farming 2020 event in May and with next week’s Fieldays. There you'll find Callaghan Innovation in the Innovations LAB, where businesses can access a free innovation knowledge bank. We'll also be launching our inaugural Award for Partnership and Collaboration, and our co-partnership of the Business & International Centre (a networking hub for international buyers and media) will see our Chief Technology Officer Dr Chris Hartshorn deliver several seminars that will explore how technology will change the future of agritech businesses - and our world. 

Deals are being done, connections are being made, and we will watch with interest over the next 12 months for the benefits that these bring to NZ.

Callaghan Innovation is a New Zealand government innovation agency that works with Kiwi companies to accelerate commercialisation of their new technology ideas.  Our specialised agritech team supports businesses through the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency and profitability

Posted: 24 May 2017
Part 3 of a blog post series by Business Innovation Advisor Nicky Molloy, following her recent agritech adventures in San Francisco.

In April I was privileged to join a delegation of businesses from New Zealand and around the world to see first hand San Francisco’s agritech industry in action. Special thanks to the Silicon Valley Forum for hosting the Seeds of Our Future AgTech Immersion Program 2017. Thanks also to NZTE, which funded the Kiwi contingent that was ably led James Wilde from NZTE, Peter Wren-Hilton from Wharf 42, and joined by Bridget Unsworth from NZVIF.

So how does NZ rate as a leader of innovation in agribusiness? In this blog series, I’ll be sharing some of the learnings from this trip and where NZ sits on the innovation spectrum.

Part 3: What is driving Big Data, Robotics and IoT in agritech

Across the US, traditional family agriculture businesses are changing as the next generation chooses other career paths. Despite increasingly higher wages to attract workers, farm jobs are being ignored by Americans and there is a heavy reliance on foreign workers. Issues of farmers having to plough crops into the ground due to labour shortages and reducing the amount of land they crop are driving the development of robotics and automation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_i62juq8Euk

However out of adversity can come opportunity; technology is also providing solutions to improving yield, efficiency and profitability while ensuring this is done sustainably. Integrated technologies where machines are smarter and can work across multiple crops are the next innovation, along with  data capture tools to assist with decision-making on farms. 

Some examples of farming innovations are:

  • Climate FieldView (bought by Monsanto in 2013 for $930 million) has built a platform to help farmers sustainably increase their productivity with digital tools that collect and analyse field data, measure performance, monitor nitrogen, and build tailored seeding prescriptions  
  • Plant Tape provides an automated transplanting system and is touted as a fast, efficient, less labour-intensive solution that eliminates a number or issues with fragility when replanting seedlings
  • Blue River Technology is an engineering tech company building the next generation of agriculture equipment that reduces chemicals and saves costs. Its machines apply chemicals only where needed ie to the weeds and not to the crop or soil
  • Trace Genomics provides microbial evaluation for soil health and disease management. A winner out of the Thrive Accelerator it combines genomics, bioscience, data and machine learning to provide farmers with insights

So what does the future of farming look like? Big data, robotics and the IoT all feature along with the ability to take outdoor farming indoors. Take a look here: https://futurism.com/world-first-robot-run-farm-harvest-30000-heads-lettuce-daily/

Part of the challenge in NZ is that we have a tendency to focus on local solutions. The US trip gave us an insight into some of the issues outside NZ, the challenges and opportunities that are emerging, and the size of the export opportunity if you get it right.

A number of Kiwi companies are focusing on developing a solution to a single problem. However what we need to do better as an innovation community is collaborate and bring multiple companies together to provide a more integrated solution that has a stronger export appeal. As we innovate, we need to be thinking early on about who we could be working with and who we could be collaborating with.

We have the ability in NZ to work with farmers who have traditionally been early adopters of innovation, but we need to keep a global vision in mind when developing this technology. More on that in my next blog.

Coming next week – Part 4: Developing an Innovation Eco-system around agritech

Callaghan Innovation is a New Zealand government innovation agency that works with Kiwi companies to accelerate commercialisation of their new technology ideas.  Our specialised agritech team supports businesses through the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency and profitability.

Posted: 22 May 2017
Did you know that the metre is defined based on the speed of light? And how can you be sure that there was actually 750ml in that bottle of wine that seemed to empty so quickly?

Metrology - the study of measurement – is critical to the existence of humanity, says Dr Fleur Francois, Director of the Measurement Standards Laboratory at Callaghan Innovation. It’s the reason that your flight from Wellington to Auckland gets you there safely, that new techniques to improve healthcare are continually being developed, and that 500 grams of butter weighs exactly the same in the UK as it does here in NZ. Across continents and cultures, it establishes a common understanding and enables confidence in the measurements that are made during these processes.

Callaghan Innovation’s Measurement Standards Laboratory (MSL) is NZ’s official standards body for measurement. The team’s knowledge and expertise around measurement helps businesses with their research and development, to meet regulatory compliance requirements, and to gain access to international markets. Our experts have worked with businesses ranging from food and beverage manufacturers to digital effects companies. 

We were last week honoured to host a senior delegation of Chinese government officials at our Gracefield base, who were visiting to learn more about how New Zealand encourages innovation and the way MSL supports businesses through providing high-quality and traceable measurements. 

China is a key science and innovation partner for NZ, and MSL is exploring opportunities for future collaboration to address emerging technologies. The widespread deployment of electric vehicles, and the creation of wireless power transfer, as examples, will challenge our existing measurement capabilities.

Chinese government officials visit MSL at Gracefield
Dr Fleur Francois (yellow jacket) welcomes the Chinese delegation at MSL’s Gracefield headquarters

May 20 was World Metrology Day and tomorrow, MSL will commemorate the 1875 signing of the Metre Convention at an event in Auckland with our colleagues from the Metrology Society of Australasia.  The Metre Convention provides the basis for a coherent measurement system worldwide that underpins scientific discovery and innovation, industrial manufacturing and international trade, as well as improving quality of life and protecting the environment.

The theme for World Metrology Day 2017 is “Measurements for Transport”.  The economy depends on safe and efficient modes of transport with minimal environmental impact, and this rapidly evolving industry is crucially supported by an astonishing range of measurements. MSL provides, for example, traceable measurements for the aviation industry that ensure planes fly safely.

Across the world, national metrology institutes are continually developing and validating new measurement techniques to support industry needs.  These advances play a central role in bringing new solutions to the transport sector: innovations such as hydrogen fuel cells, electric or driverless vehicles, or new generations of fuel-efficient passenger jets.

Metrology – it makes the world go round, and life a whole lot easier.

Watch this video from the VSL Dutch Metrology Institute to learn more about the importance of measurement infrastructure: 

  • Watch Fleur’s 2-minute video on how rapidly changing science and technology around measurement can help businesses save money, solve R&D challenges, and verify their product and technology claims: How measurement can cut millions out of your expenses
  • You can contact Fleur on Twitter @DrFleurNZ

 

Posted: 18 May 2017
A newly released infographic by Callaghan Innovation breaks through the hype and intrigue around artificial intelligence to raise awareness of the opportunity this extraordinary technology is creating, writes National Network Manager Jonathan Miller

There is a lot of AI action in Aotearoa this year. Yes, Artificial Intelligence is a red-hot topic. Many-a-talk at Tech Week last week featured the topic of AI somewhere in the mix.  Here is a snapshot of some of what is happening within New Zealand this year:

  • The AI Forum is launching its important mission to challenge New Zealand “to seriously and swiftly embrace artificial intelligence (AI) as an extraordinary opportunity and challenge for the country’s future”
  • At the recent Auckland AI Meetup, hundreds of punters attended to hear IBM Watson expert Joshua Carr talk about that platform
  • Minter Ellison and Goat Ventures have launched an NZ$2m joint venture to take AI to the law
  • The exciting Kiwi AI venture Soul Machines (founded by Mark Sagar) has raised US$7.5m in a series A round
  • Leading NZ tech business leaders (such as Rod Drury) have been bullish about the importance of AI in their companies’ future
  • Callaghan Innovation has seen a small host of start-ups with AI-based value propositions launching into the market

Layered on top of all this is a decent dollop of AI-related media hype. Fair enough; there are some intriguing stories based on comments by thought leaders such as Stephen Hawkings and Elon Musk. But the hype, I believe, contributes to some misunderstanding about exactly what AI is - and what you can and cannot do with it.

It’s with this in mind that Callaghan Innovation has released an infographic about AI. It aims to demystify the topic. It does this by differentiating between AI technologies that are ready to be used right now versus AI technologies that will be ready in the future. We want to help give NZ businesses some confidence to engage with the topic of AI and to incorporate it into their R&D strategy.

The real sizzle with AI right now is machine learning and deep learning. We want to help companies take advantage of the amazing innovation that is possible with these technologies and those that become commercially ready in the near future. 

Watch this space for my next blog on Machine Learning. Contact me on Twitter @jonomiller.