From the Silicon Valley to South America, Sarah Nolet has never seen anything more exciting than the boom of the Australian ag-tech industry in the past half decade.
She’s only been in the country for six years, but in that time Sarah Nolet has been instrumental in the transforming Australia’s footing in the international Agtech industry.
The daughter of two chemical engineers who moved into the investment and entrepreneurial space in America’s Silicon Valley, Sarah grew up having regular dinner table conversations about team leadership, technology and management practices.
“I’ve just spent a lot of time with people who were older than me and had really adult relationships, even as a kid,” she said.
When she was 12, her father bought a hobby farm and it was there that dinner table conversations began to move into an agricultural setting, talking business with her Dad as they laid irrigation pipes together.
Despite this, Sarah never considered a career in agriculture. She left home at 17 and, after a couple of years spent dipping her feet into the tech industry, went to South America.
“Initially I went so that I could get outside and go backpacking in Argentina and just kind of be in the mountains and figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but I ended up living on this little farm.”
“I was harvesting tomatoes and thinking about how machines could do that better, and about how they were reading their books, and did they know the cost of production, and were they thinking about technology adoption. I just went down this rabbit hole.”
Before long she was doing their books and the business was incorporating more production technology into its day-to-day.
“It just got my mind going around why things are the way they are in agriculture and what could change them.”
Back in the US, Sarah jumped into her studies, completing a Masters Degree in what was essentially an exploration into the future of ag-tech.
“I took agribusiness classes at Harvard and sustainability and supply chain classes at MIT and used the benefit of having an MIT email address to email absolutely everyone I could to understand what the heck was going on in this space,” she said.
Despite all of her intensive research efforts, when her partner was offered a job in Australia, it never crossed Sarah’s mind that the land down under would soon become one of the world’s leading agtech industries.
“Honestly, I had no idea about Australian agriculture. I wish I could say I looked on the map and picked the best country to be doing this in and it was Australia and I chose to move here. That was not true. I got lucky.”
It wasn’t just luck, though. Sarah arrived in Australia and worked hard to put herself into the space; she started sending some messages.
Matthew Pryor, the co-founder of water usage technology company Observant, was one of the people she messaged.
“I just reached out to him on LinkedIn and said ‘hey, I just moved here. I’ve been working in the ag-tech space, I’m really keen to understand what’s going on in Australia.’ And he was so nice and just was like, yeah, here’s my mobile, call me.”
Today, the two are co-partners of AgThentic, a firm that combines technology entrepreneurs with government, investors and corporates to create the next big agricultural innovations.
“One day we might be talking to a farmer, and later that day talking to the CEO of a billion dollar company, and later that day an entrepreneur, and then back to someone else who’s working on it on a farm.”
And, as she says, there is really no better time to be in the industry as the Morrison Government announces commitments to achieve a technology-driven net-zero. For Sarah, solving the climate crisis is not just an abstract concern – it’s her job.
Listen to Sarah’s episode below or on your favourite podcast platform!