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Agtech will be the focus of the second Westpac Innovation Challenge

Thursday, 7 May 2015 | By Broede Carmody

Sydney accelerator BlueChilli is partnering with one of Australia’s big four banks to encourage local entrepreneurs to develop new ideas and solutions for the agricultural sector.


The Westpac Innovation Challenge will award $40,000 to the entrepreneur who develops the “most useful and innovative” digital solution for the bank’s agribusiness customers.


The winner will also receive a six-month placement in Blue Chilli’s accelerator program, which will give them the potential for further investment opportunities.


This is the second time the Westpac Innovation Challenge has run, with last year’s competition focusing on real estate.


BlueChilli founder and chief executive Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin told StartupSmart the innovation challenge was a good opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop a new idea and tap into a large pool of customers.


“When we work with our corporate partners we want to leverage their existing distribution channels and Westpac has strong ties to the agricultural sector,” he says.


“We think this is an exciting area and digital can add a lot of value.”


Eckersley-Maslin says corporates are increasingly looking to startups for innovative solutions and to get ahead of the competition.


“It’s really exciting that we’re seeing the big end of town start to identify innovation that can happen the startup way,” he says.


“We’re looking for ideas that are truly innovative and can use digital to enhance farmers lives and agribusiness – it can be anywhere in the supply chain. We also want people to think about how Westpac can give them an unfair advantage.”


Westpac’s national agribusiness manager, Stephen Hannan, said in a statement he hoped the competition would uncover new ideas that would help farmers and the communities that support them.


“Our customers have told me their biggest focus is ensuring the long-term sustainability of their businesses and the primary industries they work in,” he said.


“We want to connect our agribusiness customers with new and innovative solutions that tackle some of their biggest concerns – new ways to improve productivity, lower costs, foster sustainable farming and manage market fluctuations.”


The Westpac Innovation Challenge is open to Australian residents who have an existing early-stage startup or are developing a new concept. Applications open on 23 June and close on 2 August.


Startups focusing on agricultural technology are tipped to be the solution for feeding the world’s fast growing population, with farmers expected to feed nine billion people by 2050 with even less land than they have now.


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