What Makes a Thriving Agrifood Innovation Ecosystem? | Future Agro Challenge

What Makes a Thriving Agrifood Innovation Ecosystem?

All over the world, there has been a lot of conversation and work done around creating agrifood innovation ecosystems, now the focus is shifting toward what makes a top functioning one.


Let’s start with what an innovation ecosystem actually is:


An “innovation ecosystem” is the term used to describe the various players, stakeholders, and community members that are critical for innovation.  In terms of an agrifood ecosystem, this includes farm businesses, government, research and development corporations, agripreneurs/startups, consumers and the broader community, universities and value chain partners.  Each plays a significant role in creating value in the larger ecosystem by transforming new ideas into reality through support and investment.  It is essential that all components know and respect their roles within the system, if we can align all players, we can fast track innovation.


What then does an agrifood ecosystem need to thrive?


Here are five key factors that are necessary to lower the barriers to getting started and accelerate the turning of agrifood ideas into reality:


  1. We need a mechanism that enables collaboration, a clear pathway for the ecosystem to connect and interact with each other.
  2. Education is essential for all components of the ecosystem to understand the bigger picture, and what their role is.
  3. An agricultural ecosystem must have a clearly defined culture of:

– transparency and generosity 

– embracing failure and learning

– celebrating, highlighting and sharing the stories of success

– embracing creativity and trying new things

– inclusive and diverse

  1. Long term commitment to the agrifood innovation ecosystem development – it takes time to build!  There must be continual activities and events that engage the whole system.
  2. Must be led by agripreneurs and innovators – they need to be the driving lifeblood of the ecosystem.


The overarching crucial component of a successful agricultural ecosystem is TRUST.  This is the enabler of collaboration and trust is built through consistency, integrity, benevolence and the ability of all involved to perform their part and be able to be relied upon to deliver what they say they will.


If we can build a global agrifood innovation ecosystem, it will yield results of increased expertise, increased job growth, increased diversification, and a faster rate of investment over time in solving the food and agiculture challenges of the world.  


About the Contributor:

Jessica Fealy is the co-founder of the Future Agro Challenge Australia, sits on the board of the Australian Agritech Association and has extensive experience working in the regional startup and innovation space.  Jess farms with her husband and four children at Blue Sky Produce, a family owned  mango, lime and avocado orchard located in Mareeba, Far North Queensland.  Jess is an experienced Chartered Accountant and Community Engagement practitioner and is the founder of Back Paddock Business, which provides business and communications support to rural enterprises. She is a Board Director with Northern Gulf Resource Management Group and also sits on the Agrifutures Australia Advisory Panel, and the Regional Economies Centre of Excellence Advisory Panel.  Jess