We have recently completed our second social innovation lab, Actions for NSW Agriculture, with Flourish, a pitching and cross-sector networking event.

Actions for NSW Agriculture was a 10 month social innovation lab which fostered innovation in the agricultural sector. With a remit to help shape the future of agriculture, the initiative has been led by the Australian Futures Project with major funding from the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and additional support from Wilson Fletcher, NSW Department of Primary Industries and Incitec Pivot.

The project built the understanding, connections, and capabilities of a diverse group of sixty Australians to identify, test, and develop solutions for some of agriculture’s greatest challenges. In particular, how to:

  • Foster a culture of innovation
  • Increase capital investment
  • Improve the level of community trust in the industry
  • Make farming systems more sustainable and profitable
  • Attract the best and brightest to agriculture

This exciting social lab culminated on 28 April 2016 in Sydney at Flourish, an event where the participants, having formed into teams over the 10 month process, had the opportunity to pitch their solutions to government, philanthropy, investors and industry for support. Flourish was about celebrating outcomes and cross-sector networking, as well as getting funding for the best ideas for a flourishing Australian future. The event was generously sponsored by Incitec Pivot and PwC.

Guests heard from eleven teams, each pitching a solution based on months of investigation and development. They were:

  1. Yogurt Tree – professional development of teachers and careers advisers
  2. Festival of Failure – a one day event creating a new innovation culture for Australian agriculture
  3. Eat, care, connect – a digital community platform which connects people with their food and agriculture
  4. Rural Business Development Hub – facilitating new and existing rural businesses to access investment
  5. Grassland Grain – a new production and food sector for Australia
  6. Adventive – a new agridata start-up driving investment and innovation in agriculture
  7. Follow the Farmer – films creating on farm impact by leveraging the leaders in sustainable agriculture
  8. Silicon Gully – the Centre for Farmer Initiated Innovation
  9. Cowra Energy and Fertilisers – a project to create thermal energy, electricity and fertiliser from waste and agricultural by-products
  10. Australian Centre for Food Integrity – an organisation building trust in agriculture and our modern food system
  11. Visit My Farm – a web and mobile app that connects farmers with people who wish to book a unique agricultural experience on a farm

Participants and attendees were also given the opportunity to network throughout the event with many guests offering various forms of support to the teams to bring their ideas to life including: financial, in-kind and referrals.

Australian Futures Project would like to thank the steering committee, and all the participants and supporters for making Actions for NSW Agriculture and Flourish such a success. We’d also like to thank the keynote speakers for this event:

  • Simon Atkinson, President, Dyno Nobel Asia Pacific and Global Technology; COO, Incitec Pivot
  • The Hon Niall Blair MLC, Minister for Primary Industries
  • Joseph Carrozzi, ‎Managing Partner, PwC Sydney
  • Tim Fairfax AC, Chairman, Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation

Want more? Listen to 2GB Radio’s interview with Tim Bennett, one of the Co-Founders of Adventive, an innovation arising from the Actions for NSW Agriculture initiative.

Next steps: Over the next few months, Australian Futures Project will be evaluating the outcomes of this initiative and exploring where we might apply this process to other wicked problems. If you’re interested in discussing this with us, please get in touch with Dr Fiona McKenzie (fiona@australianfutures.org).