Name: Jessica Fealy
Organisation: Future Agro Challenge Australia
I first got involved with the Future Agro Challenge in Australia in 2016 through Startup Tablelands where I was working as a volunteer driving team member with the community group who are passionate about enabling Innovation & Entrepreneurship in rural & remote communities.
My husband and I farm on our generational family farm, Blue Sky Produce (we grow avocados, mangoes and limes) with our four kids in Far North Queensland, Australia. We are intricately connected to the process of producing food and very aware that the agriculture industry around the globe is changing rapidly. We believe that it is vital for farmers, who are the grassroots of the food industry to be at the forefront of leading the change in the food systems of the future.
I love that the Future Agro Challenge is committed to ensuring that all of the ‘pieces of the puzzle’ involved in food production are part of the solution to ‘revolutionizing the world’s menu’. I was drawn to the concept of being able to host an agricultural innovation pitch competition out of a capital city, and right on a farm, in the heart of one of the biggest and best food-producing regions in the world, here on the Atherton Tablelands. So it was really an easy choice to be involved with an awesome team of people in co-founding the first Australian Future Agro Challenge competition and ensuring that the ‘ag’ in ‘agtech’ comes first when thinking about agricultural innovation!
The hardest thing about building an agrifood innovation ecosystem is bringing people on the journey of understanding what agripreneurship is all about and why it is so important to build an ecosystem around agripreneurs to support them to bring great ideas to reality. In a practical sense, building an ecosystem in regional Australia has also been difficult due to the large distances people often have to travel to attend events and connecting with tech experts can also be a challenge.
The problem FAC solves in our community is the lack of awareness around how quickly the agrifood industry in Australia is changing. By hosting the Future Agro Challenge in our rural community we are able to bring some of the best ag innovators in Australia right to our doorstep to show our farmers and innovators in our community, what is happening in the rest of Australia. In addition, we can showcase our region and talented agricultural industry to a global network. There is a lot of value and power in a network like FAC for those wanting to learn and take advantage of agricultural innovation for the benefit of their farming operation or business.
I’ve learned that ag innovation requires huge amounts of collaboration and trust! Also, there is a difference between an ag innovator ie a farmer or person who comes up with an idea and an agripreneur, ie the business or person who then markets and sells the idea. Ag innovators and Agripreneurs have completely different skill sets and both are necessary to bring a solution to a problem to life; however, it is sometimes difficult for those involved to understand the different skills that each needs to bring.
When asked if there is an achievement or contribution I am most proud of, I have to say it is hard to beat our 2018 FAC Australia winners, AgUnity, going over to the global competition and taking out the title of Global Agripreneurs of the Year!!! However, I think I am really just most proud of our team having a crack at doing something different and new, because we believed so passionately in wanting to ensure our farming community was part of the global network and conversation happening around agricultural innovation. I am really proud of working so hard to lower the barriers and challenges to those who have awesome ideas in our region, to enable them to access a global market, create jobs and awesome opportunities for local people while developing a culture of being some of the best agriculturalists in the world.
Some words of wisdom to share:
“Nothing great is easy.”
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
“It’s not I can’t, it’s how can I?”
We mobilize local communities to create agro innovation hubs globally
We facilitate the sharing of ideas and resources to achieve a bigger goal
We support you so that you can make a positive impact in the world