Message from the Executive Officer – Julia Andrews
It is exciting times here in Central West NSW with the launch of the new Global Ag-Tech Ecosystem (GATE) hub in Orange this month – a collaborative research and technology site specifically designed to cultivate and develop ag-tech ideas.
The Orange Agricultural Institute will be redeveloped to accommodate the new Ag-tech accelerator SparkLabs Cultiv8 which will be funded by Asian venture capital giant SparkLabs and supported by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
Scheduled to commence in February 2018, the aim is for eight Ag-tech start-ups to receive an initial $100,000 investment from the SparkLabs Cultiv8 program. As the GATE prospectus indicates on its front cover, this concept is about taking ideas through to investment and commercialisation – bringing research, entrepreneurs and industry customers closer together.
A particularly interesting aspect of GATE is that it includes the connection of 25 surrounding farms to a LoRAWAN communications network which is designed to allow low-powered devices to communicate with Internet-connected applications over long range wireless connections.
As reported in The Australian Financial Review , “no telcos need to be involved, and low power requirements mean sensors can typically transmit on the network for at least three years using a single AAA battery.’
It seems that these ag-tech developments have the potential to increase agricultural productivity despite ongoing issues with telecommunications infrastructure and mobile black spots which we are currently working on across the region.
In our Value Adding to Agriculture in Central West NSW report published last year, RDA Central West made the key observation that Central West NSW was particularly well placed to be an innovation hub for research and application of biotechnology in agriculture due to the region’s significant diversity of high agricultural produce, proximity to markets, the attractiveness of the region to higher skilled workers and the existing industry confidence in the region and synergies such as the NSW DPI and Charles Sturt University.
For the same reasons, we believe there is also huge potential for ag tech research and investment in Central West NSW, and the launch of GATE shows that industry and investors share that confidence in the region.