Onside’s Series A set to launch at evokeAG. 2022 Investor Dinner - evokeAG.

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Onside’s Series A set to launch at evokeAG. 2022 Investor Dinner

New Zealand agritech tool, Onside is helping its users – from farmers to big time corporates – reduce biosecurity risks and save the agricultural industry billions of dollars. With rising adoption in Australia, Onside is ready to scale into the US and will launch its Series A funding round at the evokeAG. 2022 Investor Dinner in June in Sydney.

Ryan Higgs Onside CEO and Co-Founder, Ryan Higgs at Greystone vineyard, New Zealand. Photography by James Munro, Itch.

Scrolling through the online farmer testimonials for the New Zealand agritech smart work app, Onside – there’s one review that sums up its impact perfectly. “We realise we should have always been doing this – it’s common sense,” it reads.

In the past six years the smart work app that originally aimed to cut compliance paperwork on farms through digitised sign-in books, hazard boards and health and safety plans has evolved into a key biosecurity tool, using data-driven algorithms to predict and contain the spread of pests and disease.

Onside has 45,000 users across 14,000 properties and 4,000 rural businesses in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. Onside scaled into Australia in June 2021, setting up base in Adelaide and more recently expanding their team into Sydney and Melbourne. The startup is a key drawcard at the evokeAG. Investor Dinner in Sydney on June 9, 2022 where its Series A capital round will open – set to be the largest raise to launch at the event.

Subscribers to Onside’s app range from everyday farmers to some of agriculture’s biggest household names – Yalumba winemakers, frozen foods giant McCain, and Ingham’s poultry processors – and the startup has proven to be an attractive prospect for investors.

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Liam Burgess and Ryan Higgs in vineyard

Greystone vineyard manager, Liam Burgess speaks with Ryan Higgs

Readiness and response plan for kiwifruit industry

“We’re excited to be working now with the $2 billion NZ kiwifruit sector, where a lot of growers already use our Onside app. We’re providing technology for the whole industry to map their plant pathways so that they have traceability and a more detailed biosecurity readiness and response plan,” said Onside Co-Founder and CEO, Ryan Higgs.

“Biosecurity is an enormous problem globally. Every time there’s a disease outbreak it costs a billion dollars, and our technology can play a big role in providing a solution to that.”

With over 300,000 rural properties in NZ linked by an estimated 100 million annual connections between rural properties, the biosecurity risk and its mechanism to spread is huge – making Onside incredibly valuable in tracking, managing and mitigating incursions.

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Pre-seed and seed rounds fund Australian expansion

Onside has completed pre-seed, seed, and bridging rounds, and Ryan said the response exceeded expectations.

“The startup costs were covered by the three founders, Michael Falconer, Juliet Maclean and I, investing 50% and we each own a third of the company, while the pre-seed round was friends and family connections of ours with an interest in the agri-sector,” Ryan explained.

Despite lockdowns, Onside raised a $2.5 million seed round via Zoom, at Icehouse Ventures showcase event with investment coming from Icehouse Ventures, K1W1, and NZ Growth Capital Partners, plus private investors.

“This gave us the capacity to charge forward with the product and invest in building a revenue team. Our growth was really strong and we were starting to double revenue year-on-year, so late 2021 we did a bridge round to our Series A capital raise, which was primarily raised from existing investors and enabled us to move into the Australian market.”

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Greystone winery shed

Gavin Tate, Greystone winemaker inspects the winery shed with Ryan Higgs.

Pandemic helps drive adoption of digital tools in agriculture

Ryan said he’s been very happy with the response to Onside in Australia, particularly from the viticulture industry. COVID-19 has proven to be an unexpected boom for business, encouraging a massive adoption of digital tools by farmers, contractors and businesses marooned at home due to lockdowns.

Ryan Higgs vineyard

“Covid’s been interesting – in the first NZ lockdown, we tripled the use of the Onside app. It provided a simple digital record of who was coming on and off properties and a way to distribute the information necessary to comply with the lockdown rules and then just get on with the job,” said Ryan.

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“It also saved so much time. One of our major potato growers had employees who would travel five hours for a weekly meeting and the lockdowns forced them to stay home and use Zoom, and they thought, ‘This is pretty good’! And we’ve seen the same thing magnified in Australia because it’s so much bigger. Being forced to use these digital tools has made people more aware of the value they provide for business.”

Liam Burgess in tractor

Greystone vineyard manager, Liam Burgess using the Onside app.

Series A to seek funding for global biosecurity

Its referral-based, go-to-market model has been a success – focusing on creating a network or critical mass of properties and rural contractors using the technology, and referring it to other users.

Ryan Higgs and Liam Burgess use Onside app

The team is hopeful of finding a local partner in the Series A that can connect Onside with the next big market, potentially California in the US or Europe.

“Both those markets look really attractive, so we’d love to find a local fund with the international connections to lead the round. Our aspiration is to run global biosecurity, and in order to do that we need the best brains,” said Ryan.

He met one of Onside’s ‘best brains’, Hautahi Kingi, playing touch rugby at Cornell University in the US, when Ryan was studying for a Masters and PhD in animal science with a focus on mathematical modelling. Hautahi Kingi was recruited to develop Onside’s algorithms and continues to work with the company’s R&D team, while remaining in his day job as a research scientist for Facebook in the US.

Advice for agritech startups – be brave and employ ‘great people’

Ryan Higgs, Onside co-founder

So, what advice would Ryan give to other startups in the agritech space?

“You’ve got to have great people that back your vision, so that if there’s a problem that needs solving, you can solve it. You just really need the confidence to give it a crack,” he said.

And he’s looking forward to ‘giving it a crack’ at the evokeAG. 2022 Investor Dinner in Sydney in June, alongside four other investment-ready startups: Escavox, FarmLab, SwarmFarm Robotics and Zetifi.

RELATED: Testing agritech with farmers first, pays off

“We’re super impressed with evokeAG. they’ve been so supportive of Onside since we launched in Australia and they have an amazing network of everyone from entrepreneurs to investors to companies that they try to connect. We can’t wait to come over and present our case to a room full of investors!”

If you’re interested in Onside’s Series A funding round, please contact Onside via email here.

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