The first event of its kind for the region; 2022 AgTech Summit - Growing Smarter in the Mallee was hosted by the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre (MRIC) in partnership with The University of Melbourne. Held at the SuniTAFE Smart Farm in Irymple, just outside of Mildura the Summit ran across two days - on Thursday 5 and Friday 6 May 2022 and included a networking dinner at a nearby venue on the Thursday evening.
In the past, this kind of event would be held in a big hotel conference room, however the benefits of hosting it at SuniTAFE Smart Farm became evident following our first site visit. By running the Summit on a working farm, we had the unique opportunity to offer LIVE demonstrations, practical workshops and farm tours alongside the traditional summit program of speakers and panel discussions. This provided a more compelling reason for people to attend and created a rich and engaging experience for attendees!
Growing Smarter in the Mallee 2022 attracted more than 200 attendees across both days and featured more than forty speakers, including leading industry innovators, growers and peak bodies, agriculture academics, Government ministers and company CEOs.
The Summit delivered a variety of talks, panels, workshops and demonstrations, showcasing the latest developments in agriculture and farming and facilitating collaborations and conversations to help address key challenges and opportunities for the future of the region’s horticulture industry.
Check out the full AgTech Summit program here and read on to find out more:
Better late than never…
Led by Georgia, Lou and Emily, with support from Chloe and several volunteers, the event had been originally planned for November 2021, but was postponed as a result of ongoing uncertainty at the time, putting everything on hold until early February. While this was less than ideal for everyone involved, the extra planning time allowed us to put together a comprehensive sponsorship prospectus and work closely with MRIC to help secure $63,000 in sponsorships for the event!
About the venue:
Established in 1980, SuniTAFE provides vocational training to the Sunraysia community and includes a fully operational 30-hectare horticultural Smart Farm, which is renowned for using the latest technology, automation, innovation and farming practices. It’s both a training facility and a working farm – with real crops and livestock being produced and maintained.
While we were able to use some of the existing farm structures, including the staff room as our event HQ, and four classrooms as workshop spaces, we still had to set up a number of temporary structures including ‘The Big Tent’ marquee where all the speaker sessions happened, a registration tent, 18 trade stalls and a practical demonstration area (with the star pickets personally installed by the JT team!) We were also able to bring two food trucks on site each day as our source of catering.
The best part - > we were able to get the venue for FREE; in return for the exposure and networking opportunities the event would provide. And better still… SuniTAFE Smart Farm had a local AgTech business approach them to run their programs and new technology as a direct result of the Summit.
Dinner with a view…
Sponsored by evokeAG – a digital platform connecting the agri-food innovation community across Asia Pacific, the Summit Dinner was held on the Thursday evening at Willow & Ivie - a stunning private venue, surrounded by picturesque vineyards and manicured gardens.
Despite being just a short 7-minute drive from SuniTAFE and Mildura town centre, we provided a shuttle bus service to pick up and drop off attendees – enabling them to truly relax and enjoy the region’s best assets – great food, wine, and views!
Dinner guests indulged in a 3-course fine dining experience with matching local wines, had the opportunity to mingle and network with fellow Summit attendees, and heard from keynote speaker Matthew Pryor who presented the Tenacious Ventures on Future Forces: AgroFutures report.
No event is ever free of risks and challenges! Aside from delays and changes due to covid, the main challenges of this event included the unique OH&S considerations and requirements surrounding the practical demonstrations and autonomous vehicles and the fact that we had to overcome our fear of small aircrafts in order to conduct site visits!
Being able to see the latest agriculture technology and machinery in action was definitely one of the highlights, with event attendees relishing the opportunity to get up close and personal with GUSS (Global Unmanned Spray System) and the Smart Farm’s autonomous tractor – aka giant farm robots!
The closing session was also incredible – in 30 minutes the panel and audience brainstormed a list of 11 priority areas and issues for the region, which will be presented to local MP’s. We were able to put these up on screen in real-time, using Miro, an online whiteboard platform that created a real sense of teamwork and collaboration.
Considering a regional or destination event?
Contrary to popular belief holding your event in a remote or unique location should not negatively impact the success and attendance of your event – if it’s done right! Give our experienced and passionate team a call for support with everything from site visits and event planning to sponsorship and transport, and much more!