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AgTasker wins Westpac Innovation Challenge $40k cash prize


22 September 2015

Westpac Group announced Ella Shannon from AgTasker as the winner of the second Westpac Innovation Challenge.

The Challenge which was launched in June asked entrepreneurs to develop new concepts and ideas that would give Australian agribusinesses a competitive and sustainable edge. 

AgTasker has won a $40,000 cash prize and a six-month placement in the BlueChilli accelerator program to develop an online marketplace helping farming businesses to access much need short term labour in a quick, transparent and cost effective in the future.

"Our second Innovation Challenge has focussed on the Agricultural industry - the backbone of the Australian economy - which has shown exceptional resilience and growth during a period of immense change," said Westpac Head of Digital Business Banking, Kalpana Gee.

"AgTasker has the potential to completely change the way Agribusinesses access short term labour not just from Australia but overseas markets."

"We need to stay connected to our customers' businesses in order to continue improving the way we service them. By investing in the start-ups shaping and influencing Australian industries we are able to be there every step of the way for our customers in the rapidly changing, digital economy."

Minister for Agriculture, The Hon. Barnaby Joyce said it was great to see the long history of innovation in Australian agriculture continue. The high calibre of new innovations across a number of industries that has come through the Westpac Innovation Challenge is a credit to the people involved and encouraging for the future of Australian agriculture. As one of the five pillars of the economy, it is important that business recognise and support Australian agriculture so it can continue to be a global leader, a major employer and a driver of the economy.

Westpac's National Manager Agribusiness, Steve Hannan, praised the high standard of the five finalists' innovative ideas.

"The response and passion from the start-up community has been phenomenal. We received more than 130 impressive applications and the top five ideas have shown us revolutionary ways in which we can use new and innovative solutions to help our agribusiness customers" said Steve.

"Australia's agricultural sector is a world leader when it comes to research and development and I've seen this first hand from customers. We have a strong history of agricultural and food R&D that has fostered cutting-edge farming techniques, technologies and a sophisticated use of biotechnology.

"Through the Innovation Challenge we have uncovered entrepreneurs that will add value to the long term sustainability of the industry. These ideas contribute to making Australia a world leader in agricultural services and present an opportunity to export these services and skills to overseas markets."

Mick Keogh, Executive Director, Australian Farm Institute and member of the Innovation Challenge judging panel agreed.

"It has been extremely encouraging to hear the finalists pitch their innovative concepts throughout this Challenge. The Australian agriculture sector relies on innovation to ensure it remains a global leader. The Westpac Innovation Challenge provides the perfect forum to support such ideas and make a tangible difference to the industry."

The winner was selected by an expert panel of judges including:

  • Stephen Hannan, National Manager, Agribusiness, Commercial Banking
  • Harry Wendt, General Manager, Digital, Customer & Business Services
  • Kalpana Gee, Head of Business Digital, Customer & Business Services
  • Ian Hill, Head of Innovation
  • Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, Founder and CEO, BlueChilli
  • Danny Gilligan, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Reinventure Group
  • Mick Keogh, Executive Director, Australian Farm Institute


Finalist Case Studies

1. Cameron Clark – FarmChem

The NSW Dairy Innovation group questions current farm practices and debates ideas associated with increasing resource use efficiency through investigating opportunities in current, emerging or potential technology.

We’ve discovered that farmers need help tracking and managing the chemicals on their properties. Farmers purchase herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals but currently have very poor manual methods of recording use by dates and usage amounts. There is also a lack of individualised advice in determining best practice for use or timing of application.

Our app scans the purchased chemical drum barcode, automatically displays and provides warning related to the use by, collates the amount of chemical used and is linked to product safety, weather data related to best practice application. The app also facilitates easy and timely repurchase of chemicals that are running out.

This business idea was generated by the potential market. ‘FarmChem’ removes the manual process of data entry, automatically collates data on use, reduces on-farm risk benefiting farmer health (insurance benefit).

2. David Gregory – Livestock Connect

Growing up on a property in rural NSW. I attended an agricultural high-school before going on to study business and specifically eCommerce.

We’re developing an online marketplace for the livestock industry, which enables farmers to connect with livestock agents and abattoirs for live, up to date pricing and availability when selling their stock. This significantly improves the current sales process, which is still relying on a weekly or monthly price list that is distributed via fax or email from every individual abattoir.

Seeing how needlessly difficult and slow the sales process was, inspired me to create a new solution. In a networked world, it made perfect sense to take livestock sales online.

Combining live pricing, availability, transportation and sales feedback into a simple online framework, addresses a significant hole in the current marketplace. It ultimately saves time, money and increases yields.

3. Bertram Ostendorf – Drones for Grapevines

Currently, virus detection for viticulture is a lab-based process costing $100 per grapevine. Our technology uses a combination of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, also called drones), optical instruments and biochemistry to allow early detection of virus infections of individual grapevines at scales of square kilometres in order to prevent yield loss and disease spread.

We are an interdisciplinary team of researchers from agriculture, environmental, and spatial disciplines working together on the Waite Campus of Adelaide University. Recent advancements in fields are allowing us to combines our state-of-the-art knowledge of biochemical conditions in plant leaves, how viruses alter these and how this can be optically sensed to build a detection system for virus infected grapevines that is much faster and more effective.

With the decreasing size and cost of drones and their increased use in land management, the timing is perfect to take our innovative solution to market.

4. Ella Shannon – AgTasker

Sourcing good help for all range of farming and farming business management jobs has always been a major problem in Agriculture and one that is holding back the future productivity of our industry. AgTasker is an online marketplace helps farming businesses to access much need short term labour in a quick, transparent and cost effective way. There is also a reviewing and profiling system which allows farmers to gain comfort that they have got the right person for the job.
Ella Shannon has extensive experience in Agriculture having worked across the industry from farming to funding. AgTasker has a strong suite of advisors bringing knowledge from family and corporate farming, regional communities, human resource management and funds management.

5. Glenn Vassallo & David Rubie– Smart Shepherd

Smart Shepherd was born from a chance meeting of its co-founders at a technical conference. David Rubie has been working in genetics for the last 10 years with a high profile amongst sheep stud service providers. Glenn Vassallo is an IoT (Internet of Things) and smart devices thought leader. They realised their different areas of expertise could combine to create a livestock monitoring system to overcome the current cost and logistical challenges of individual animal monitoring.

Smart Shepherd extends the Internet of Things to livestock. The Smart Shepherd connected monitoring system will be less intrusive, cheaper and lead into new areas of animal welfare research. It will dramatically reduce stock losses and increase genetic performance in the livestock industry.