Amanda Gilbertson is a Scout for Agtech Accelerator, Sprout. When she was five her parents bought a pipfruit orchard outside of Hastings. She grew up with the smell of diesel and apples, playing with her sister in the ditch outside the spray shed. Surrounded by chickens, ducks cats and dogs.
Amanda started Law at University but then swapped into Environmental Science, since then she has always liked entomology. She had planned to complete a PhD in grass grubs, but the obligatory OE got in the way and
when she returned she worked for ENZA in Market Access. "This was back when every country had a paper based system for their residue information and they would post you an update to inform you of any changes."
Amanda remembers she was possibly the fourth person at ENZA to get the internet as she could show that some countries were now publishing in this ‘new online way’. She loved the energy and the professionalism of the people but it was a difficult time during deregulation and so came the opportunity to move to Wellington to work for the Pork Industry Board. Pig kill numbers were quite a change but she also got to work on great projects like Biosecurity, an application for a temporary safeguard action against the importation of pork meat, an antibiotic resistance working group and organisation of a tour to Asia to explore exporting.
It was at this time Amanda also was accepted into to the Kelloggs Rural Leadership Programme. These people she had only just met then organised her Hens party in Christchurch, which was another very valuable reason to attend. Her husband Roger and herself did some great overseas travel before she took on the responsibility of nappies and parenting of a couple of baby boys. Amanda did manage to fit in part-time work for MAF to help run the Plants Market Access Council so she still got to interact with the main players in the Horticultural industry. "Exporting horticultural products is increasingly complicated and has come a long way from testing for a few pesticide residues."
A move to the beautiful Bay of Plenty was on the cards when Amanda's husband started with Zespri and they are still there in Tauranga. The weather and the people are much closer to her Hawkes Bay roots than Wellington was. More part time work with Callaghan Innovation kickstarted Amanda's second ‘career’ as she discovered she really enjoyed the intersection of science, business and innovation. She helped a number of local companies get funding for projects such as Horticultural robots and automatic boat loaders.
Amanda then spent two years as the Business Development Manager for WNT Ventures, a Technology Focussed Incubator in Tauranga. She travelled around New Zealand talking to people in Universities, Research Institutes,
and entrepreneurs about their great ideas. She was trying to find technologies that could be commercialised, and turned into a successful company. The technologies she looked at ranged from medical devices to ion beams, but the ones she enjoyed were the Agtech opportunities. Here she learnt lots about cows through my interaction with Livestock Improvement Company and is where they started a company called HelixID alongside them.
Most recently Amanda has settled back into contracting part time – this time with the Agtech Accelerator Sprout. Every year Sprout identifies eight start-ups and provides them with a cash investment (in return for equity), $50,000 in-kind services made up of training and mentoring in all areas of business growth, four MBA style block courses based around the country and access to a national and international investor group. "I love the founder-focus and female friendly team and their genuine desire to help Agtech companies reach their potential."
You have such a vast amount of experience Amanda and you sound as though you really understand what innovation in the industry looks like. To have a vision for what the primary industries looks like in upcoming years is a real skill and the people around you are lucky to be working with such a forward thinking AgWomen.