Growing Our Region

Accelerating food production and delivery from the Manawatū – A Q&A session with Sprout

If you are involved in the agritech sector, chances are you would have heard of Sprout. Sprout’s focus is on accelerating the future of food production and delivery and the best part is that they are based right here in the Manawatū. 
Right now they are scouting the globe for disruptive products or technologies, searching for entrepreneurs to invest in.
Recently we asked Chelsea Millar of Sprout a series of questions to gain a better insight into what they are about.

Who or what is Sprout?
Sprout is a Manawatū based accelerator whose focus is 


James and Mark Currie of FTEK
on accelerating the future of food production and delivery. We are a tailor made accelerator for each company selected, focusing on three core areas that enable scalable growth:

  • High margin business plans
  • Distribution
  • Execution advice from experienced entrepreneurs

Why was Sprout set up and how long has it been running?
Sprout was established in 2015 by co-founders Dean Tilyard and James Bell-Booth. Today we have a team of seven who work alongside an advisory group who bring a wealth of experience and expertise in agritech and entrepreneurship. 
James Bell-Booth, Sprout co-founder explains why Sprout was founded, “Sprout was founded because never before has the world’s food and farming sectors needed more innovation than right now.  With the world’s population exploding and farmers needing to do more with less, we wanted to apply our 15 years of experience in turning agritech science and ideas into businesses, to companies all around New Zealand and even the world.”
We designed the accelerator’s elements by studying the journeys of successful agritech start-up companies. The team has taken the key learning’s from these companies, other start-up inventors, entrepreneurs, investors and employees, and designed a world-leading accelerator in the agritech sector.
What is Sprout’s vision?
We back bold agritech businesses and entrepreneurs who MOVE FAST, THINK BIG and are committed to building solutions for problems that reach from farm to fork.
How do companies apply to the accelerator?
During the months of August to November we scout New Zealand and the globe for disruptive products or technologies. Entrepreneurs can then register via our website. We then pick up the phone and have a chat to determine if what we offer fits what they’re trying to achieve. If the fit’s right, we then ask them to formally apply for the accelerator. This is when they share their vision, more detail around their markets, team and product or business solution.


Marty Fry and Nick Eaton of Ceratech
Who selects successful applicants?
A Selection Committee made up of Sprout team members, partners, and investors.
What happens if a company is successful in their application? How are they supported and for how long?
Sprout is an eight month long process; two months of mentoring and six months in the accelerator. Weekly advisory calls start in January, where companies will be supported in breaking down goals to achievable milestones. 
These conversations are tailor made to each company, so they get the best support possible to kick start their acceleration. We’ll help them understand how to prioritise weekly activities to create maximum value, while conserving cash and managing execution risk.
All advisory and support is delivered remotely by entrepreneurs who have already started and exited their business, successfully creating exponential return for founders and shareholders. They can call their advisor for anything, from IP and development, to commercialisation and contacts. Advisors will push entrepreneurs, to push themselves.
From January to May the accelerator includes four MBA style Underground events. Each Underground event brings together the 8-12 selected companies to workshop their business with guest experts and the wider Sprout network, on topics from market entry strategy, pricing and sales, to governance and capital raising.
The accelerator then culminates at the Sprout Partners Summit. This is where eight months of acceleration will pay off as you present your company and team to the Sprout network, agritech leaders and investors, and secure your future with channel partnerships and distribution and investment opportunities.
Do you select all 12 companies at once or can a company apply at any time?
We select them all at once.
What are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is staying relevant to our customers. Are we offering the right solution? Who are our customers? We need to ensure we have a strong understanding of the agritech ecosystem, so we can evolve and change as our customers’ needs evolve. We can’t be everything to everyone, so ensuring we have a clear customer segment and vision to accelerate them is essential to our success.
What do you see as the benefits of being based in Manawatū?
You only need to look at where we’re located and see we are in an AgriTech Hub of our own. We’re surrounded by agritech brilliance. This AgriTech Hub is home to over 2500 scientists in agrifood & agritech innovation, $500 million in annual research and development investment and Sprout. The hub includes labs, trial farms, food R&D facilities, workshops and innovation spaces.
How do you think Sprout will benefit the wider Manawatū-Whanganui region? Now and into the future?
It will bring the region global attention, not only from entrepreneurs but from investors too. With a strong focus on talent attraction and development we will see the number of agritech companies wanting to have a presence within the agritech hub, which is an exciting prospect for the region now and into the future.

If you know someone who should register with Sprout, there is still time, so get in touch today.