Innovation Showcase (2023)

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Innovation Showcase - event program

Welcome to the Innovation Showcase! Our aim is to unite innovators in Victorian agriculture across multiple sectors;  from farming, university research, to start-ups focusing on new climate resilience technologies.

This event at Deakin University's Waurn Ponds, is funded by the Vic Hub and Agriculture Victoria.

Event Agenda
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11:00am –Networking Morning Tea

(Registrations in the lobby and morning tea in the lounge area. We then move to the Barrabool restaurant to begin the event)

EVENT MC: Kirsten Diprose, Knowledge Broker, Vic Drought and Innovation Hub

11:30am - Welcome to Country

Ashleigh Skinner, Wadawurrung Traditional Owner

11:45 am - Vic Hub Welcome

Sabine Tausz-Posch, Associate Director (Agriculture Innovation) at the Victoria Drought and Innovation Hub

11: 55am – Key Note Speaker or Q and A - Cathy McGowan – Chair of AgriFutures

12:10pm – 12:50 pm – Innovation Showcase

Hear from university and researcher groups who will bring their latest projects to life ... from innovations in pest detection to digital agriculture.


  • Dr Jessica Henneken, Researcher, Agriculture Victoria: 'Monitoring hive health'
  • Dr Sabine Tausz-Posch, Vic Hub Innovation Director: ‘Agrivoltaics: Integrating solar panels into existing crop production systems’
  • Sophie Hanna, Livestock Project Officer, Riverine Plains, 'Maximising the utilisation of electronic identification tags’
  • Dr Rob Faggian, Climate Adaptation, Deakin University

12:50 pm – 1:50 pm- Networking Lunch

1:50 pm - Panel and Live Podcast Recording: "Building Innovation Teams - Getting Agriculture Research Out into the World"

How do we better get new research to farmers... to start-ups for commercialisation.. or to Ag industry bodies to build on, distribute and use? Should we be incorporating a diversity of skills and building teams from the beginning of research? How can universities and industry better share knowledge and skills?

Hosted by: Kirsten Diprose, Innovation Ag podcast host and Vic Hub Knowledge Broker


  • Natalie Collard – Chief Executive, Food and Fibre Great South Coast
  • Simon Falkiner - Farmer and Director at Falkiner Ag
  • Prof. Colin Barrow – lead at Deakin University's Bio Factory and Director for the Centre for Chemistry and Biotechnology.
  • Sam Brown - Chief Executive, Agricultural Innovation Australia

2:25pm - Launch Vic Update - a brief upate on agtech opportunities by Josh Lipscombe, Community Programs Lead, Launch Vic

2:30pm– Pitch Comp: “Powering Climate Resilient Food and Ag” - SPONSORED BY AGRICULTURE VICTORIA

Co-Ordinated and hosted by Emma Coath, Managing Director of RocketSeeder

Watch food and agtech startup teams battle it out in this rapid-fire pitch competition!

Welcome Address:  Stephen Baud, Program Manager Agriculture Technologies, Agriculture Victoria

  • James Diamond, AirAgri
  • Sam Jewel, Urth
  • Simon Mildren, HiveKeepers
  • Garry Rosewarne, Agriculture Victoria
  • Nick Seymour, Farmo
  • Tina Funder, ALT Leather
  • Simon Burt, LB Agtech
  • Andrew Inglis, Cellysis


  • Ben Baghurst, Farmers2Founders
  • Maxie Juang, SproutX
  • Michael Macolino, SVG Ventures
  • Phoebe Norman, Beanstalk

3:15pm – Wrap and Networking

3:30pm - Finish

Keynote - Cathy McGowan AO
AgriFutures Chair, Cathy McGowan

Chair of Agrifutures

Cathy is an experienced company director with an extensive career in business, agricultural research, development, extension and politics.

As a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program, Cathy committed to the vision of a “prosperous caring rural Australia alive with opportunities for everyone”.  She believes Agrifutures Australia is the premier national organisation for delivering on her commitment, particularly helping build a nation with effective rural policies based on prosperous and caring industries.

Prior to her role at AgriFutures Australia, her career highlights include representing the rural electorate of Indi in Parliament from 2013- 2019, president of the peak national organisation Australian Women in Agriculture, Chair of national Regional Women’s Advisory Council and a community representative at the 4th Ministerial meeting of the WTO in Doha.

Cathy lives in the Indigo Valley, Dudwroa & Dhargal country where the community groups play a vital role enhancing sustainability within the Murray Darling system.


Innovation Hub Showcase Speakers

University and researcher groups, associated with the Vic Drought and Innovation Hub, brought their latest projects to life ... from innovations in pest detection to agrivoltaics.

Dr Jessica Henneken: 'Monitoring Hive Health"
Dr Jessi Henneken (1)

Talk outline:

Monitoring our hives is critical in safeguarding the health of our honeybees. In this presentation Dr Jessica Henneken will share the key findings from a project investigating two hive health monitoring systems: environmental DNA (eDNA) surveillance and traceability devices.


Jessi is a research scientist with Agriculture Victoria Research (AVR). Her interest in agricultural science was sparked when she completed an Australian Postgraduate Research internship with AVR in 2017. Jessi is currently working on two projects: a detection study on grapevine phylloxera and the Smart Hives project. Jessi is passionate about working with growers and beekeepers who understand the importance of research and generously share their years of experience and knowledge. She finds it rewarding to know agricultural research not only helps growers protect their produce but ensures communities have access to safe and healthy food. She is excited about AVR’s research in integrated pest management, which aims to develop more sustainable and environmentally friendly crop protection practices. 


Dr Sabine Tausz - 'Agrivoltaics: Integrating solar panels into existing crop production systems’

Talk Outline:

The Australian agricultural sector is pursuing the ambitious goals of becoming a $100 billion industry by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, all in the face of mounting challenges such as climate change, including droughts, and the demand for social licence and environmental credentials. To reach these goals, transformational innovations at the ‘food, energy and water nexus’ will be required that go beyond incremental change and are distinctively different to our traditional approach. International studies have demonstrated that ‘agrivoltaics’, where food and energy are co-generated on the same area of land rather than competing for land, can boost agricultural productivity, land and water use efficiencies, and improve soil health. This presentation will introduce a recently launched pilot project investigating the potential benefits and risks of ‘agrivoltaics’ for Australian conditions using a vineyard as a model system.


Before joining the Victoria Drought and Innovation Hub as Associate Director (Agricultural Innovation) at the University of Melbourne’s Dookie Campus in July 2022, Sabine held several academic positions including at The University of Melbourne (from 2008 to 2017), the University of Birmingham (UK, from 2017 to 2018) and CQUniversity (from 2019 to 2021). With a background in plant science, Sabine is particularly interested in the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of plant production systems. In her research she focuses on plant responses to changing environments to accelerate our understanding how the environment impacts ecosystem services and goods. Sabine has published over 60 peer reviewed papers including journal articles, book chapters and conference papers, and, as a keen teacher she has also coordinated and taught 25 subjects into diplomas, undergraduate and masters degrees at Australian and overseas universities.

Dr Rob Faggian - 'Adapting to Climate Change in Victoria'
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Adapting to Climate Change in Victoria


Dr. Robert Faggian, an Associate Professor of Climate Change Adaptation at Deakin University, is a recognized expert in the field of climate change adaptation. With a strong background in biology and agricultural science, his work focuses on developing practical strategies to respond to the challenges of climate change, with a particular emphasis on sustainable regional development. He has led numerous successful local and international research projects on climate adaptation, water management, and agricultural production, and published extensively on his findings. Dr. Faggian is an engaging and informative speaker who is dedicated to sharing his expertise with the public. 



Sophie Hanna 'Maximising the utilisation of electronic identification tags’
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Talk Outline:

Sophie will share the outcomes of the field day Riverine Plains held on the 15th of June which aimed to bring livestock producers, industry advisers and technology providers together to advance adoption of the technology. She will also mention the webinar and tools Riverine Plains are able to deliver through the Agricultural Innovation Hubs Program.”


Sophie is the Livestock Project Officer at Riverine Plains, a farming systems group in northeast Victoria and southeast NSW, and is passionate about maximising agriculture productivity and sustainability. Having grown up on a beef cattle farm in the Upper Murray, Sophie studied a Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, where she honed her particular interest in soil science. Sophie started at Riverine Plains in January this year and is enjoying working with farmers and industry professionals to advance production systems.”


Panel: "Building Innovation Teams - Getting Agriculture Research Out into the World"

How do we better get new research to farmers... to start-ups for commercialisation.. or to Ag industry bodies to build on, distribute and use? Should we be incorporating a diversity of skills and building teams from the beginning of research? How can universities and industry better share knowledge and skills?

Hosted by: Kirsten Diprose, Innovation Ag podcast host and Vic Hub Knowledge Broker

This panel will also be presented as a live podcast recording for the Innovation Ag podcast!

Natalie Collard, Food and Fibre Great South Coast

Natalie Collard is the CEO for Food and Fibre Great South Coast.  She is a highly-regarded advocate for regional Australia, agriculture, renewable energy, innovation and women’s leadership.

In 2013, Natalie was awarded Telstra Business Woman of the Year - Victoria (Community and Government) and NAB Women’s Agenda Emerging Leader Award national finalist in recognition of the business and industry transformation she led as CEO of Australian Dairy Farmers Ltd. In July 2018, Natalie was awarded Woman in Renewables of the Year by the International Global Solar + Energy Storage Organising Committee for her work as Chair of Women in Renewables (Australia) and EGM Industry Development at the Clean Energy Council.

Natalie’s other career highlights include managing Rural Affairs for the National Farmers’ Federation, leading Telstra’s Corporate Affairs for Victoria and Tasmania, managing an emergency post-September 11 arms control meeting of 32 countries in Paris, and speaking at the United Nations in Geneva on biological weapons. She has managed $1.2bn in corporate contracts and, as Defence’s lead negotiator on security treaties, negotiated seven bilateral agreements, including Australia’s first treaty with an organisation, NATO.

Her board experience includes the Australian Government’s Council of Australian Latin American Relations (COALAR), Landcare Australia Ltd, Agsafe Ltd and the Victorian Government Agriculture Energy Investment Plan (AEIP) Independent Advisory Council. Natalie has been a Business Mentor for APEC Women’s programs and a Board Advisor to Women in Renewables Asia.



Simon Falkiner, Farmer and Director, Falkiner Ag
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Simon is the Director at Falkiner Ag where he works with a small team to provide cutting edge advice and assistance in the fields of:

• Soil Health – cover cropping and sub soil amelioration including the use of both chemical and organic amendments and the role of compost.
• Livestock Production - rumen function and grazing management.
• Brand Development – production, marketing and client servicing.
• Feed Gap Manipulation – Cover and Pasture Cropping, grazing crops and pastures in crop sequencing.
• Animal reproduction - Cattle AI, ET and IVF
• Carbon Farming - manipulating farming systems to ensure productivity is maintained whilst minimising carbon footprint implications.
• Landcare – managing natural resources in a fragile social, rural and economic environment.

Prof. Colin Barrow, BioFactory at Deakin University
Prof. Barrow

Professor Colin Barrow has a Ph.D. in marine natural products chemistry from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and an MBA from Penn State in the USA. He heads the multi-million-dollar Innovative Bioprocessing Technologies research program within the Marine and Bioproducts Cooperative Research Centre (MB-CRC) and is Deputy Director of the ARC-funded Industry Transformation Training Centre (IITC) for Green Chemistry in Manufacturing. His innovative work in organic recycling also has been recognised by the State Government: he was recently appointed to lead the new Deakin BioFactory at the University’s Waurn Ponds campus – part of a $16.4 million Circular Economy Accelerator-Organics (CEA-O) project in partnership with the Victorian Government, 20 industry partners, Monash University and RMIT University. He also serves on the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Advisory Committee on Complementary Medicines, where he provides expert advice to the Australian Government Department of Health on the safety, efficacy and manufacturing quality of complementary medicines.

He has approximately 130 peer-reviewed publications and several patents. His current research is primarily in two areas: Omega-3 biotechnology and amyloid fibres and nanomaterials. His current research group at Deakin University has 5 post-doctoral fellows, 1 research associate  and 14 PhD students and he collaborates with a variety of research groups in India, China, New Zealand, Ireland and Canada.



Sam Brown, Agricultural Innovation Australia

Chief Executive Officer, Agricultural Innovation Australia

Born and raised on a mixed farming operation in the Riverina of New South Wales, Sam has a deep appreciation of the issues and challenges faced by the agricultural sector.

Sam graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science. He worked for six years across a range of divisions and regulatory authorities within the now Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, where he gained exposure to both federal and state legislative development and policy issues across a range of controversial issues including; single desk reform, equine influenza and industry structural adjustment programs.

As CEO of LiveCorp for nine years, Sam led the delivery of research, development, and extension services, as well as raised the international profile of Australia’s livestock export industry. During his time at LiveCorp, he successfully engaged, developed, and managed a network of domestic and international commercial and diplomatic relationships.

He has extensive experience in strategy development, research and project design, corporate affairs, crisis management and stakeholder extension and adoption planning.



Agtech Pitch Comp: “Powering Climate Resilient Food and Ag”


 Food and agtech startup teams battled it out in this rapid-fire pitch competition. Each early-stage startup had 3 minutes to pitch their innovation aimed at improving climate resilience in food and agriculture.


Judges Choice: Simon Burt and Ray Seungmin Kwon, LB Agtech

People's Choice: Tina Funder, ALT Leather

Pitch Comp Organiser: Emma Coath, Rocket Seeder
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Emma Coath is a highly effective business leader in the agrifood ecosystem, with a career dedicated to identifying and developing innovation for global impact.Using her extensive network and understanding of the agrifood sector, she has a passion for connecting entrepreneurs and researchers with investment and market opportunities.Emma has deep, hands-on experience in government, corporate and non-profit organisations, from working with agrifood producers and agtech startups to international banking and trade, with a keen eye for the commercialisation of ideas and research.

James Diamond, AirAgri
James Diamond

Co-founding AirAgri alongside Paul, James Diamond leverages his technological acumen to spearhead the development of advanced digital tools aimed at empowering rural Australians. Inspired by his own connections to the farming community, James channels his expertise into creating intuitive, reliable, and life-saving technology. His role at AirAgri goes beyond the realms of a traditional Founder; he is committed to driving change, addressing the harsh realities of rural life, and providing solutions that improve wellbeing. By marrying technology with empathy, James is central to AirAgri's mission to foster safety and productivity in Australian agriculture.

Sam Jewel, Urth
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Sam’s life has been connected with Food since her family created the first restaurant chain in Australia in 1965. With the mad cow outbreak in the UK in 1998 research became her focus and she spent the next 10 years attending conferences around the world, eventually writing 3 children's books now in 7 languages on soil as a climate solution since 2006.

Founding Climatefood in 2014. The goal was to help farmers be able to focus on the soil as the key element. She stumbled upon the carbon credit idea at the end of 2005 and bought the first voluntary soil carbon credit that got the Australian Government interested.

She created, after exploring blockchain transparency and coding from 2017 to 2019 for applications in food among other things. In 2018 worked with a Satellite startup UTE in europe for soil carbon measurement for the carbon offset markets but was unsatisfied with the accuracy. 2021 Urth was ready for the advent of NFT strengths as a tool to record the huge body of data needed to verify soil carbon and include biodiversity. Urth is now trading carbon offsets for Australian farmers looking for buyers around the world whilst developing biodiversity tools.

Simon Mildren, Hive Keepers
Simon Mildren

Simon is an enthusiastic entrepreneur and beekeeper and the CEO and Founder of HiveKeepers, an Australian based innovative technology company working with bees.

Simon is a dedicated beekeeper and sees value in carefully fusing technology and bees to solve some of the biggest problems that face our planet. HiveKeepers mission is to create smarter beekeepers and healthier hives for a sustainable future by making ‘hivekeeping’ accessible to anyone, anywhere on the planet!

Simon likes to be involved in any conversation around innovation in agriculture as he sees Australia (and the world) moving into a golden era of modern technology for our species oldest profession.

Simon has a passion for leadership as demonstrated by his extensive career in the Fire Services. As a hands on operational leader within the emergency management sector he is known for his ability to develop a high trust and dependable team environment.

Simon is known for high performance team leadership. He works at every angle to strive for strong, effective and resilient teams that perform next level in everything that they do. This has developed over 20 years of service with Fire Rescue Victoria and previous role as a Counter-Terrorism trainer with the State Emergency Service and fire management responder with Parks Victoria and DELWP.

Garry Rosewarne, Agriculture Victoria
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Dr. Garry Rosewarne is a Research Director at Agriculture Victoria and leads a diverse research portfolio covering grain quality, pulse breeding, agronomy and horticulture production.

He has authored over 50 scientific peer reviewed publications and released numerous crop varieties. He is passionate about pulse production and establishing systems that enable Australia to value-add to these raw commodities.

Nick Seymour, Farmo
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Nick is the founder of Farmo and an agtech entrepreneur, who manages an organic beef cattle property in southern Australia. Nick's focus is assisting the agriculture industry meet the evolving challenges of labour shortage, climate change, bio security and food security.

Farmo provides an innovative range of monitoring and automation technology solutions including the easiest to install water level sensor in the world, the multi award winning "Water Rat".

Tina Funder, ALT Leather
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An award-winning creative director with over 16 years of global advertising experience. A natural problem solver, Tina’s expertise lies in building successful teams to bring exceptional projects to life, including the launch of her own plant-based leather handbag label LOM Australia.

During the 18 months it took to research, design and create LOM, Tina identified gaps in the market in terms of plastic-free leather alternatives, which triggered the quest to develop an Australian-made material that ticks all the boxes. With Australia’s rich agricultural landscape and access to world-class scientific research institutes, Tina decided to dive into the research and development of Alt. Leather.

Alt. Leather is Australia’s first 100% bio-based leather alternative turning waste streams and regenerative plants into a material for application across fashion, footwear, furniture and automotive. Our mission is to develop the most sustainable leather alternative in the world in terms of ingredient inputs, quality, ethical transparent supply chains and end-of-life.

Simon Burt, LB Agtech
Simon Burt LB Agtech

Simon Burt is an esteemed visionary and the founder and CEO of LB Agtech, an abbreviation for Location Based Agricultural Technology. With an unwavering commitment to excellence and a relentless pursuit of innovation, Simon leads with a passionate heart and an unwavering dedication to achieving the highest levels of focus and performance.

Possessing a deep understanding of the mindset and challenges faced by farmers and beekeepers, Simon's unparalleled insights have driven the development of BeeSTAR. This ground-breaking technology directly benefits these industry professionals by providing a complete circle of custody in the global honey and pollination markets through real-time transparency and traceability. As a determined business owner, Simon exemplifies effective collaboration, constantly seeking to uncover the true dynamics within the hive and their implications for global food shortages. His ability to connect the dots and relate them to critical matters of global significance demonstrates his exceptional acumen as a leader and his unwavering commitment to addressing pressing challenges in the agricultural industry.

His tireless efforts and dedication to delivering impactful solutions continue to shape the future of farming and beekeeping, with profound implications for global food security.

Brook Kennedy, Fifth Harvest
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Brook is Co-Founder and CEO of Fifth Harvest.

He has 10+ years of experience managing and operating early-stage technology businesses, with a focus on P&L management, product commercialisation, and marketing.

Brook's has successfully launched products in SaaS and FinTech, creating >$5M in annual recurring revenue for the business he’s worked with. His passion for urban agriculture led him to Fifth Harvest and he is now focused on building a resilient and sustainable food system to feed a growing population.

Pitch Comp - Judges

Meet the Judges, who will decide upon the winner of the Innovation Showcase Pitch Competition!

Thank you to AgriFutures for offering the prize: Two tickets to Evoke Ag in 2024

Dr Ben Baghurst, Farmers2Founders
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General Manager, Farmers2Founders
Ben works within agricultural supply chains to accelerate AgTech development, commercialisation, and adoption. He loves innovating to create impact and has done so for close to 20 years developing and managing large–scale agribusiness, water, carbon, sustainability, and hi-tech sector programs for Government. Ben has a PhD in biology from Flinders University and is naturally collaborative, solutions focussed, likes to inspire, and has a futuristic outlook.
Michael Macolino, SVG Ventures
Michael Macolino Profile

Michael is the Managing Director for the APAC region at SVG Ventures|THRIVE. He launched his first company at 21 and four more across different industries over 15 years. Prior to joining SVG Thrive he led AgriFood Tech at BDO Australia, advising various AgriTech and AgriBusiness stakeholders.

Recognised in the InDaily 40 under 40 awards and his TEDx talk on redesigning the food system, Michael uses his entrepreneurial expertise to help AgriFood Tech startups commercialise and scale their innovations.

Michael is also a co-organiser of the South Australian AgriTech Meetup Group, and Steering committee member for EvokeAg, where he is passionate about growing the AgriFood tech ecosystem.

Phoebe Norman, Beanstalk AgTech
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Phoebe is a Project Manager at Beanstalk AgTech, a leading open innovation consultancy specialising in food, agriculture, and sustainability innovation. Working in collaboration with partners across Australia and Indo-Pacific, we have designed and delivered programs to support scaleups and established businesses to innovate, collaborate and scale for impact. Prior to this she was appointed as head of programming for Global Table; Asia Pacific's largest agribusiness, sustainability and food innovation summit that connected global industry leaders, innovators, startups, policy makers and corporates who are committed to transforming the food industry through innovation, investment, and trade.

Prior to this Phoebe has had over 25 years in corporate marketing management roles and spent 10 years in London leading international teams across three industries: investment banking, law and technology, working all over Europe, UK and the Middle East.

Phoebe is on the Australian Advisory Council for Thankful4Farmers, an organisation that aims to bridge the gap between consumers, brands and agricultural communities and to raise funds to create sustainable transformational impact for the agricultural and food security industries and completed here Masters in Environment and Sustainability at Monash University in 2022.

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