As consumers facing rising prices and empty supermarket shelves, we’ve all experienced firsthand the impact that events such as war, extreme weather and the COVID-19 pandemic have had on our food supply chain.

Food security is a global challenge that Agri-food technology and innovation seeks to solve and one of the reasons Agri-food is a priority sector for Breakthrough Victoria to invest in.

It was also a key theme at the EvokeAg 2023 conference in Adelaide that I was fortunate to attend in February with Breakthrough Victoria’s Associate Director, Early Stage Investments, Yoshi Matsumoto.

Down to Earth – theme of EvokeAg 2023

Delegates heard from government, industry, research organisations, tech companies and farmers about how we can use technology to produce enough nutritious food to feed a growing world population while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to a changing climate.

It was an opportunity to engage in industry-wide discussions and meet exhibitors in Startup Alley, who are driving innovation and developing the kinds of technology Breakthrough Victoria is looking to invest in.

Victoria is Australia’s second largest producer of food and fibre products, contributing 25 per cent of gross value of agricultural production in 2020-21 and employing around 150,000 people across primary production and food and beverage manufacturing.

There are huge opportunities to harness our research and innovation capacity to improve the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of the sector.

Keynote speaker Scott Amyx, Managing Partner at Astor Perkins, compared space science and technology with agriculture to emphasise the importance of taking inspiration and gaining fresh perspective from distant domains.

What's to come within the Agri-food sector

For me, this resonated with Breakthrough Victoria’s multi-sector focus. As the company’s newest sector specialist, I look forward to cross-disciplinary collaboration with the Directors of Breakthrough Victoria’s other priority sectors, which include advanced manufacturing, clean economy, digital technologies and health and life sciences.

Australia is already known for innovative climate-adaptive agriculture, so we are well placed to take advantage of industry investment trends around decarbonisation, climate resilience and adaptation.

In addition, Victoria’s significant food research infrastructure can help us achieve better nutrition and reduce food waste, contributing to a circular economy and creating new markets.

Finally, while this focus on technology is important, we must always remember that people are key to adoption. The best technologies are useful and address real problems as well as delivering social and other benefits.

About the author

Dr Madeline Mitchell is Breakthrough Victoria’s Director, Agri-food.

Madeline is a scientist with extensive experience working in sustainable agriculture – from plant biotechnology to valuing natural capital. An award-winning science communicator and advocate for diversity and inclusion in STEMM, Madeline leads portfolio management of Breakthrough Victoria’s Agri-food investments.

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