Dianna grew up in Regional Australia in Wagga Wagga and ran away to join the navy to drive warships and had her sights on never returning to regional Australia. However when she did return, and fell in love with a farmer she began the journey of reinventing herself in a regional context.
She became involved in a number of new projects aligned to entrepreneurship and innovation to support in accelerating regional business.
The launch of Regional PitchFest came out of identifying a gap in the scene of entrepreneurship to recognise the talent in our regions and to put these great examples in front of people to tell that story and be that megafone back to the metro areas.
TS: Tell us about your call to adventure joining Bridge Hub and launching the Regional Pitch Fest
DS: Pitch Fest happened first. I had seen this opportunity in the regions to ensure that regional businesses, startups and people working in that space were seen and highlighted and also supported. I created the original Pitch Fest as a platform and a megaphone for those stories and I was really fortunate that Australia Post came on board and backed my programme. We did 87 events across every state and territory in a very short timeframe, which was a lot of fun, but also really eye opening in terms of what was happening in our regional areas back in 2017. Four years later I reflect on how much has actually changed.
That drive for me really came from ensuring that my kids – when they maybe return to a regional area – or others like me who return or who move to the regions, have an opportunity and examples of others succeeding and come to know that they can do the same thing with Bridge Hub.
Through that innovation space I was really fortunate to meet two extraordinary founders – Craig Shapiro and Grant Fuzi – who asked me to come and work in the Bridge Hub team. Bridge Hub is really about the whole-of-life cycle innovation hub for agriculture and food technology, which is based in Wagga in the Riverina, with an office in Sydney and really strong linkages into Israel.
That whole experience has allowed me to understand on a global level, the opportunity for Australian agritech, and also understanding other ecosystems, how they work and what we can learn from them.
TS: So you work a lot with agri food technology organisations. How are you seeing Australian businesses really adding value to the world?
DS: I think we're really on the cusp of something exciting in agrifood, agritech in Australia. There seems to be momentum building towards this great opportunity to commercialise research that's under way. There is so much depth to the research being done in the agri food space in Australia, but there has always been a barrier for us is commercialising that research.
So I think the opportunity for business here and how that can transform Australia and our economy is to really take that research and commercialise it and be an absolute, sort of, provider of technology and technology solutions in the agri food space, not just here in Australia, but on a global stage.
TS: What's the key message that you are super passionate about that you are advocating and championing for?
DS: It's really about rethinking the regions and rethinking the role of investment in the regions and how that can help propel us on a national and global scale. I'm always passionate about our regional areas, and I see the opportunities. It's about demystifying some of the conversations and the dialogue about what's happening in regional Australia and the opportunity that regional Australia holds – not just as somewhere nice to live with an easier lifestyle and livability, but as a major contributor to the nation's economy.
TS: What are some of the ways that you are actively challenging the status quo in your world?
DS: I think by being very annoying, and always speaking up for the regions, being a voice and, I guess, not being afraid to ensure that the voice is heard. Also, bringing people together and connecting dots is important and also shifting the culture of competitiveness within Australia and the Tall Poppy Syndrome and all of those attitudes of ‘She'll be right mate’ and ‘Don't worry about it’ and channelling that towards growing the pie, rather than fighting over the slice and bringing the right people together around a table to achieve a much greater impact.
TS: How do regional organisations really activate global connectivity?
DS: I've seen a lot of businesses struggle with making new relationships, and building a network on a global scale, when you can't actually meet people, or attend events and conferences, and have that visibility. It feels like a lot of countries have turned back inwards, so trying to make these connections is quite difficult.
One of the areas we work within Bridge Hub is our landing pad, which is where we work with offshore technologies and companies to come to Australia, test trial proof of concept and then start having that stuff in use by producers, by the whole supply chain. That's become really difficult on a number of levels, because people can't travel.
I think the way businesses can do this is really through existing networks, and then trying to get those warm leads globally. But we've also got to have faith that the problems that we're solving in our businesses are problems that people are facing globally as well. So if we are solving a global problem, there is always a global market. So to businesses, I would say, it's about coming back to really looking at the problem you're solving and if there is a global market for that then having those relationships and expanding globally through organisations that already have established and warm relationships is really important.
Interested in learning more? Listen to Dianna Somerville's complete interview on the TradeSquare podcast TSQ, here.