Ag-tech focus at Incubator’s Armidale launch

Published 06 March 2017

About 130 people, a cross-section of “town and gown”, attended the opening of the new UNE SMART Region Incubator in the UNE Business School on March 2.

Tech entrepreneaur (and homesick Delungra farm boy) Simon Blyth gave a demonstration of the Incubator’s connectivity by speaking to the audience live via Skype from Sydney.

Mr Blyth’s own LX Group now employs former Apple and Dell engineers and taps a global market for its quick-connect sensor ecosystem. He spoke fondly of his own career-defining days building his first start-up in a Sydney business incubator, where he spent many nights on the floor in a sleeping bag.

“Most startups begin with a low asset base,” he told UNE.

“I started off with $750 I earned contract header driving with my Dad. That won’t get you far these days in a capital city. In the country, you need much less capital to survive on while you build your business. That’s a real advantage for startups building their enterprise through the UNE Incubator.”

Mr Blyth’s key message was that the SMART Region Incubator’s focus on agricultural technologies could not be more timely.

“Agriculture is hot,” he said. “Years ago the buzz in the technology was about fin-tech or med-tech, but now it’s all about agriculture.”

A lot of tech firms are circling around ag-tech, but Mr Blyth observed that they are all city based. Proximity to the consumers in the ag-tech market will be a huge advantage for UNE’s startup, Mr Blyth predicted.

“It’s really important to be close to your customers, not only so you can have conversations about what you are doing, but so they can come back to you with ideas. That ability for bi-directional exchange is vital.”

Also at the launch, Northern Tablelands MP, Adam Marshall, spoke of the incubator’s potential to contribute to the growing business capability in the region. A similar refrain came from Dr Ian Tiley, administrator of Armidale Regional Council, who earned his PhD through the UNE Business School.

The UNE SMART Region Incubator, funded as part of the NSW Government’s $12 million Building Business Innovation Program, will enable startups and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) to make connections internationally as part of a regional innovation ecosystem.

The university will provide an analytical platform for SMEs and entrepreneurs to access the latest research data generated by the UNE SMART Farm and Centre for Agribusiness, to help accelerate and commercialise new business models.

Part of the incubator’s development has been a full refit of a section of the UNE Business School, to provide offices and shared spaces that support information exchange and creativity among startups working in the facility.

For more, visit the UNE SMART Region Incubator website.