National Winner | Innovator category
Sarah Nolet is the CEO at AgThentic, CEO at Farmers2Founers and General Partner at Tenacious Ventures. Sarah is a 2020 Growth Awards National Winner in the Innovator category. Read on to learn more about Sarah.
What’s the one thing you have done in your career you are most proud of?
After coming to Australia about five years ago, where I didn’t know anyone, I founded AgThentic and have been working in the agtech space to help make sure more technology is developed and commercialized that can help farmers be more profitable and sustainable. But capital was still a gap, so I’m really proud to have achieved first close for Tenacious Ventures, our venture capital fund that invests in agri-food tech startups, at just over $20 million.
I am really proud of raising the money, but even more proud to make our first four investments and put that money to work. We have and will continue to back companies that help agriculture transition to a carbon neutral, climate change resilient future.
Along the way, working with innovative Australian farmers and entrepreneurs has been really rewarding, and it’s been great to see our vision come together and do what we set out to do.
How will you share what you learn with others in the industry?
The strength of my network is essentially how I have achieved what I have in agriculture so far. We have a podcast that has 6,000 listeners per month; a regular newsletter; and we’re active on social media and in writing articles and content that we push out. The exposure through this Syngenta process would be disseminated through those channels, through my voice and as I continue to share my learnings and insights.
There could also be a mutually beneficial relationship with the other people I would meet through this process, and I think that knowledge transfer goes in all directions- we will learn from each other and bring new perspectives to each other’s work across agriculture, from venture capitalists one day to farmers the next.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity in the next 12 months?
For us, it’s continuing to make real what we set out to do the fund, Tenacious Ventures. It’s being able to back remarkable entrepreneurs transforming agriculture, and increase the amount of technology and innovation that is available to farmers both here and overseas.
There is an additional opportunity to promote Australian agricultural innovation and agtech on a global stage. For the past five years, we’ve been focussing on what was happening overseas and how we could catch up. All the while, there were great things happening in Australia – so now is our opportunity to show we are punching well above our weight. It’s a chance to say, look what our innovative farmers, researchers, and entrepreneurs are doing to create and commercialize innovations that can help the agriculture industry here and overseas.
What is the biggest barrier to achieving success in the next 12 months?
At a systemic level, one of the biggest challenges for innovation in agriculture is that it requires coordination across multiple sectors and industries- not just states and commodity organisations, but it involves energy and innovation, for example. We are not always great at these collaborations, but they’re critical.
We need a shift in mindset so people are more willing to work across these boundaries to drive innovation and support adoption. It is not easy to do that, and it is certainly one of the challenges, but also one of the opportunities, as it brings new perspectives, skill sets, and people who think about things differently into the industry.
What is the biggest challenge Australian Ag has to overcome in the next 10 years?
Climate is the biggest challenge, and that spans a range of things. In Australia, we are clearly facing challenges and the rest of the world is starting to look to us on subjects like drought and bushfires.
There’s an opportunity for Australian farmers to say this is what it looks like - here’s how we are dealing with it, and here is how we are innovating to meet these challenges. We can’t overstate the pressure these challenges are putting on the system and that is why it is so exciting to be in the innovation space where we can be creating solutions to help farmers address those challenges and thrive. With the changing climate, there are new opportunities being created; whether that is new genetics and practices, carbon credits or ecosystem service payments, direct to consumer opportunities, or new value chains to fit in premiums and more alignment with consumers. Australia can be a global leader in these innovations, and that’s really exciting.