With a deft pivot around a global pandemic, the fourth annual AgTech Hackathon successfully completed its first ‘AgTech
Hackathon Lite’ - a virtual version of their popular annual event. This quickfire competition takes participants through
an ideation process before producing an innovative idea to solve challenges faced by the Food and Fibre sector.
Proving innovation doesn’t quit in the face of a nationwide lockdown, the winning team was announced on Friday, scoring
themselves $1000 and an answer to the Zespri horticulture challenge.
While many people are using spare isolation time to to perfect their sourdough starters and TikTok dances, Beta Team - a
Manawatu based team, developed Bugkilla, an all-in-one product which attracts, monitors and eradicates BMSB
and provides real-time monitoring and eradication of bug infestations for fruit growers and horticulturists.
“Every one of the final four ideas were high quality and could be taken to market pretty much straight away,” says event
judge Cheyne Gillooly from Ministry of Primary Industries. “That’s impressive considering they didn’t have easy access
to their usual resources, the types of challenge and the environment that we're in.”
Participants had a short amount of time to research their chosen Food and Fibre Sector challenge, build a team, work
alongside industry mentors, develop and enter an idea before taking on two rounds of judging. The first round allowed
challenge mentors to select their top entry while the final winner was chosen by AgTech Hackathon judges who are all
experts in innovation, primary industries and talent development.
Mentors were also excited to be involved in something outside the status quo to support others and solve challenges
their industries face on a daily basis.
“I've never been involved in a virtual Hackathon before, so I had reservations about not being able to mentor teams
face-to-face, but the organisation, structure and support from AgTech Hackathon made it easy and very inclusive,” says
mentor and challenger Mark Graham, Innovation Leader Orchard Technology of Zespri International.
“And all going well, I'm very excited to be in a position where I can then work with one of the teams to develop their
solution further as part of a Zespri funded project.”
Event Manager, Johnelle Hosking is excited for the future of the event and the growing interest from around the country.
“This event has always been an exciting, positive, creative space with a lot of adrenaline. This year, even though we
were virtual, there was still a constant flow of engagement and such a positive buzz. It was inspiring to see
individuals read the guidelines, take their own initiative, get stuck in and work together from their homes.
“In the end 119 people participated and we received 13 entries from around the country. This is over double the amount
we would regularly receive.”
With strategic partnerships and leading support from NZ AgriFood Week, this Manawatu-based event works to attract much
needed talent and networks to fulfill the estimated 50 thousand jobs that will be needed in the Food and Fibre sector by