By Madeline Mitchell, Director of Agrifood

The United Nations estimates the world population will increase to 9.7 billion people by 2050 . Feeding this growing population will require significant innovations in our agri-food systems to ensure we can produce enough nutritious food while building climate change resilience, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and halting biodiversity loss.

Working in agri-food brings exciting opportunities to build a future full of healthy people on a healthy planet, where nourishing, culturally appropriate food is available for everyone.

Food is the single strongest lever to optimise human health and environmental sustainability, while building a more sustainable food system could deliver up to $10tn of benefits per year . To achieve these outcomes and align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we will need to draw on the experience and expertise of diverse people to collaboratively develop and commercialise innovative solutions.

So, what does this mean for Breakthrough Victoria?

Victoria has current strengths and challenges in agrifood

Victoria is Australia’s largest food exporter and second largest producer of food and fibre products by value. Around 150,000 people across the state are employed in agricultural production and manufacturing, while the sector benefits from strong research and development programs at universities and CSIRO. We also have a growing agri-food tech community of founders, innovators and investors, supported by programs such as Farmers2Founders, RocketSeeder, SproutX, SVG THRIVE, Victorian government agtech grants and the Hugh Victor McKay Fund.

In Victoria, as in other parts of the world, we have seen dramatic changes to food production and availability in recent years due to extreme weather, supply chain disruption and a global pandemic, among other challenges. For example, inputs (e.g. fertilisers, herbicides) have hit record high prices and there was a 20% decrease in horticultural workers from 2019-2022. Longer term issues include climate change, which has cut Australian farm profits by 23% over the past 20 years and is making outdoor farm work less safe.

Victoria is also among the top 10% of global jurisdictions most at risk from the physical impacts of climate change , with flow on effects for food and fibre production and the health and resilience of rural and regional communities.

What could Victoria’s agrifood system look like in the future?

Investment in agri-food technologies has the potential to help farmers and food producers in Victoria and around the world adapt to a changing climate and produce enough nutritious food to feed a growing population while improving the health of ecosystems. As an impact-focused investor, we are supporting our portfolio companies to be part of this shift towards sustainable agri-food systems, aligning their activities with the SDGs of zero hunger, climate action, life on land and life below water.


Smart Paddock produces reusable digital battery-free ear tags for livestock that allow farmers to access real-time data about the health and location of their animals. Future insights will come from further data analysis and integrations with farm management software and other sensors. Producers will be better equipped to manage animal welfare and reproduction as well as respond to emerging trends and regulation around traceability and regenerative grazing practices.

Consumers will be able to enjoy beef products that they know are associated with high animal welfare and sustainable land management practices.


Jupiter Ionics is developing electrochemical cells to produce green ammonia that can be used as a low emissions fertiliser. Currently, conventional ammonia production occurs in large-scale, centralised facilities and is responsible for ~2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In the future, Jupiter Ionics’ modular, scalable systems could provide farmers with a consistent supply of fertiliser and avoid the price volatility and supply chain risks associated with the current Haber Bosch process.

Consumers and food manufacturers will be able to buy low emissions grains and products while regional and rural communities could benefit from using renewable energy to power local production of ammonia for fertiliser and fuel.


Eden Brew is working to create animal-free, precision-fermented milk that will have equivalent taste, nutritional and processing properties to cow’s milk but with a lower land, water and carbon emissions footprint. Eden Brew’s expertise in biotechnology and synthetic biology could attract other companies with similar interests to Victoria, which would complement our existing expertise in food manufacturing and processing and help deliver more safe and nutritious foods for local and international markets.

Animal-free dairy products will help meet the growing demand for protein and allow consumers to choose milk with high nutrition and taste but a lower environmental impact.

Other areas of opportunity

Other investments in innovative technologies could see us using different types of sensing and data analytics to support holistic food and fibre production with benefits for animal welfare, detection of and response to pest and diseases, land management and climate resilience. We will have more solutions to design waste out of our food systems and to make food in ways that require lower inputs, land, water and other resources. Automation, robotics and data-driven decision-making will also have the potential to address current labour issues and workforce shortages.

This will provide skilled job opportunities across a range of areas, both on and off farm, to support the adoption and scaling of these innovative solutions.

What do we need to get there?

It will be important to collaborate widely and build long term relationships to help us support companies throughout their growth. This includes engaging with corporates, government and other (types of) investors both locally and internationally. Together, we can help export our winning technologies to the rest of the world as well as attract great companies to Victoria and Australia to boost our local agri-food systems.

If you have a big idea or innovation in agri-food, please submit your pitch or connect with me on LinkedIn . We are particularly keen to hear from women founders and founders from other underrepresented groups.

Dr Madeline Mitchell is Director, Agri-food and leads portfolio management of Breakthrough Victoria’s agri-food investments. She would like to recognise Indigenous Australians as the first farmers and bakers of bread and to express respect and gratitude for their deep knowledge of and ongoing care for Country.

As a foodie with farming connections, Madeline is passionate about investment, innovation and research to create a sustainable agri-food system. She has collaborated on diverse projects, from synthetic biology to natural capital, with a focus on translating research into social, economic and environmental impact. She has a PhD in plant sciences from the University of Cambridge and held previous roles at CSIRO, Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre and RMIT University.