Agtech Passport and METStech Passport: linking Australian and Latin American innovation

07 Mar 2018

Two startup exchange programs are fuelling the commercialisation of technology and ideas between Australia and Latin America (LATAM) in agriculture and mining.

The Agtech Passport and METStech Passport exchange programs were launched in 2017 by Austrade in partnership with the Argentinean and Chilean Governments, and private-sector and non-profit organisations. Both programs are accepting applications from Australian startups looking to break into the large LATAM market. Agtech and METStech Passport are part of Austrade’s ambitious LATAM Passport program, which seeks to capture the momentum and ride the growing “innovation wave” in Latin America.

Shannon Powell, Austrade’s Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner for Andean LATAM, says Latin America and Australia’s mining and agtech industries face similar challenges that can be addressed by innovation.

‘Through the cross-border passport programs, Australian startups will gain access to the enormous markets of Argentina and Chile,’ says Powell. ‘They will create pathways for increased exports of both technological know-how and goods and services.

‘The main aim is to solve industry challenges and develop strong global METS and agtech networks that will benefit Australia’s economy as a whole.’

The agricultural and mining industries play a vital role in the Australian economy as well as the economies of many LATAM nations. Mining accounts for 10.3 per cent of Chile’s GDP and 6.3 per cent of Australia’s. 1 Agriculture accounts for 7.56 per cent of Argentina’s GDP. 2 Likewise in Australia agriculture is booming, with farm production increasing by 8.3 per cent to more than A$63 billion in 2016–17. 3

Agtech Passport

Launched in March 2017, Agtech Passport is a partnership between the SproutX agtech accelerator and NXTP Labs, a LATAM early-stage venture fund. This initiative between Australia and Argentina was facilitated by Austrade, with the support of the Argentinian Government and Qantas. The exchange program will help agtech companies gain international exposure and market entry.

In December 2017, WaterSave, an Australian farm irrigation tech startup, won the first round of the Agtech Passport program and is going to Argentina. WaterSave produces affordable, automated farm irrigation sensor technology, which has enabled power and water consumption to be reduced considerably on farms close to the Great Barrier Reef, resulting in economic and environmental improvements.

The program, which includes a return flight sponsored by Qantas and on-the-ground expenses, will enable WaterSave to pitch to potential customers and investors in Argentina, a market where water management is also an enormous issue for farmers.

From the LATAM side, there were two winners who will immerse themselves in Australia’s agtech startup ecosystem in early 2018:

  • Spacedat (Peru) captures crop data from drones, satellites and high-tech sensors, permitting farmers to make comprehensive harvesting decisions.
  • Rizoma (Uruguay) provides integrated and traceable systems for crops to provide real-time information on parameters that affect production.

The Agtech Passport program is open again in 2018 and SproutX is currently accepting applications.

METStech Passport

Following the success of Agtech Passport, the METStech Passport program was launched in November 2017. This new exchange program will send Australian startups and scaleups to Chile and vice-versa for an immersion in the host country’s METS startup ecosystem.

Austrade facilitated the alliance between METS Ignited and Fundacion Chile, a private Chilean non-profit organisation that fosters innovation.

Applications for the first round of the program will open on 26 April 2018. The winners (two per country) will receive flights and on the ground costs for an immersion program, which includes meeting with customers and potential investors in October 2018. Applications for METStech Passport close on 27 May.

To find out more about the 2018 Agtech Passport and METStech Passport programs, contact Shannon Powell at

1 Chile: 10.3% in 2016 (using provisional 2016 data), source: Central Bank of Chile, Statistical Synthesis of Chile ; Australia: mining GVA 6.3% of GDP, source: 2018 Why Australia Benchmark report – Australia’s GVA by industry
2 Argentina: 7.56% in 2016, source: World Bank, Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)
3 Australia: A$63 billion in 2016–17, ABARES, Snapshot of Australian agriculture reveals record production in 2016-17