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Tech innovators stepping up for Fieldays

05 Dec 16

The 2017 Fieldays Innovation Awards are now open.

The 2017 Fieldays Innovation Awards are designed to celebrate and support New Zealand’s most innovative agricultural inventions, and to showcase emerging products and technology that will lead change in the rural sector.

Applicants showcase their ideas, designs and products at the Fieldays Innovations Centre during next year’s Fieldays, which runs over three days in June.

Fieldays Innovations event manager Gail Hendricks says since its inception 49 years ago, Fieldays has celebrated innovation and the awards are an important platform for showcasing New Zealand agricultural innovation.

“The theme for Fieldays in 2017 is ‘leading change’ and supporting innovation is vital to the future of agriculture in New Zealand,” says Hendricks.

Awards are given across multiple categories and winners will receive thousands of dollars in business support and advice to help get their innovations to market.

“This support is of immense value, giving innovators access to New Zealand’s top intellectual property and commercial lawyers, business advisors, product development and innovation consultants and others,” says Hendricks.

Hendricks says there is always significant public, business and agricultural industry interest in the Fieldays Innovation Awards.

“The Innovations Centre is probably the busiest space at Fieldays and always attracts a lot of attention,” she says.

“Every year, there is always broad media interest and the television breakfast shows broadcast from the Innovations Centre during Fieldays. The place is just buzzing.”

Hendricks says the Innovation Awards are a great opportunity for people to test their products in the market. With 130,684 visitors through the gates in 2016, Fieldays provides an opportunity to talk to future or potential customers and conduct valuable market research.

“Entrants’ products and ideas will get exposure to the people who may use it once it’s in the market, providing on the spot feedback,” says Hendricks.

“Fieldays also gives award entrants exposure to the judges, who are engineers, patent attorneys and people with exposure to the international market. A large number of companies come to see what’s there, to see what the latest thing is to buy or invest in.”

During Fieldays the Innovations Lab, which is located inside the Innovations Centre, will be set up as a dedicated space for award entrants to meet with experts such as lawyers, patent and trademark attorneys, product development consultants and other business experts for free advice and support.

“The idea is that The Lab is a space where innovators can come to thrash out ideas, seek advice or brainstorm,” Hendricks says.

Hendricks says next year will see the return of the Innovations Capital Event, where a select group of innovators are invited to the Innovations Centre to mix and mingle with investors, make contacts, ask questions, “and hopefully find someone who will support their idea or business.”

On average there are around 70 to 80 applicants for the Innovation Awards, and entries typically come from a variety of fields including dairy and dry stock farming, horticulture, information and communication technology, cloud and mobile-based software, animal health and genetics, water and waste management, environment and clean-tech, animal and farm management, farm safety and leading research.

“We get all sorts of people entering the Fieldays Innovation Awards, including farmers, engineers, business people, tinkerers and people in the high-tech sector,” says Hendricks.

“The awards offer a great opportunity for start-up companies. If you are a backyard inventor with a quirky invention for the agricultural community or if you are an established business who wants to put your new idea out there, this is a great way to do it,” she adds.

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