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FoodBytes! by Rabobank

Kiwi agtech entrepreneur’s “incredibly valuable” experience with
Rabobank’s FoodBytes! in global pitch competition

Regen CEO Bridgit Hawkins encourages NZ startups to apply for Rabobank’s FoodBytes! Pitch 2021

Friday 30 April 2021 – New Zealand scientist and entrepreneur, Bridgit Hawkins, is encouraging Kiwi startups to apply for Rabobank’s global virtual pitch competition, FoodBytes!, after the experience played an instrumental role in driving both professional and personal development for her and her company.

FoodBytes! Pitch is an annual multi-week programme helping food and agriculture startups from throughout the world validate and grow their businesses, and their impact, through global industry exposure, tailored mentorship sessions, connection with corporates and investors, pitch refinement, industry awareness and recognition.

Bridgit Hawkins is the CEO of Regen, a Wellington-based agtech business that provides up-to-the-minute monitoring, insights and recommendations to help farmers optimise their irrigation and effluent management practices, saving them time and money while reducing runoff into waterways.

“Farmers need to know what state their soil is in to know whether it’s time to irrigate effluent or put it in a pond. We were able to apply technology to inform this process at a stage when the technology was quite new,” she says. “This began my journey as an entrepreneur starting from scratch, not only with the purpose of making money but also delivering on the outcomes I intended when I started.”

Regen CEO Bridgit Hawkins

Regen CEO Bridgit Hawkins

Ms. Hawkins says the Regen vision is to enable rivers to sparkle and farmers to stand tall. “We want farmers to feel proud of being farmers and to have the confidence to know they’re managing irrigation and effluent well and contributing to more sustainable food production.”

In 2017, Regen was selected as one of just 20 startups worldwide to pitch to investors as part of FoodBytes!, an international programme from Rabobank that drives connections and collaboration between startups, corporate leaders, investors and farmers to implement solutions to food system challenges. Since then, Regen has gone from strength to strength and, in September 2020, it was acquired by CropX, a global soil sensing and agricultural analytics leader.

Ms. Hawkins said participating in FoodBytes! was a transformative experience.

“As an entrepreneur, you spend a lot of time on the capital-raising circuit,” she says. “FoodBytes! was the most well-structured programme and the most focused on helping me – as the founder and driver of a business – to be successful.”

“There was considerable wraparound support, including workshops, coaching and mentorship, pitch refinement and advice on market opportunities, which was incredibly valuable. Not to mention the networks and introductions, including meetings with senior people at Rabobank and other corporates. It’s usually very difficult to make those kinds of connections.”

“If you have international ambitions, what you can learn and understand in New Zealand is constrained by our small ecosystem. As a participant in FoodBytes!, there was so much to learn from the greater breadth of businesses and technology, all at different stages in the market. This helped me refine my own pathway and the objectives I wished to achieve while helping me see where I fit in the pool of potential investees.”

Ms. Hawkins concluded with one piece of sage advice for startups. “When you need investment money it’s not the right time to start fundraising. It’s too late then.”

Until Sunday 16 May, Kiwi agtech, food tech and consumer food and beverage startups are invited to apply for selection to present at the FoodBytes! global virtual pitch competition in November.

Nathalie Gibson, Head of Innovation, Knowledge & Networks, who is leading the search for startups across Australasia, including New Zealand, said, “We’re scouting for startups with validated business models, demonstrated commercial traction, a robust, diverse team and a cross-industry collaborative mindset, and that have the potential to drive meaningful and sustainable change throughout the food value chain.”

Rabobank is seeking startups ranging from seed to Series B that are working on innovative food and agriculture product or technology with a demonstrated product market fit in the following areas, which are aligned with corporate and investor member priorities:

  • Sustainable supply chains: blockchain / traceability, livestock management, animal feed efficiency, meat processing automation, byproduct upcycling, commodities processing, shelf-life extension, clean food processing
  • Improved resource management: carbon sequestration & reduction, precision irrigation, food loss mitigation, sustainable packaging, manufacturing robotics, on-farm automation, ag biotechnology, precision ag & AI, indoor farming
  • Next frontier of nutrition: functional ingredients (ie. aging, mental clarity, performance, immunity), food biotechnology/fermentation, cellular agriculture, grain & sugar alternatives, meal prep/home cooking simplification, personalised nutrition, consumer wearables & data gathering

This year’s applicants will be vying for a coveted spot among the class of 45 startups – made up of 15 companies in each of three sectors: agtech, food tech and consumer food and beverage. Following an in-depth mentoring and coaching program, 15 of the 45 will be chosen to present at the platform’s live-streamed public competition on Wednesday 10 November. At the finale, one startup in each sector will be crowned a winner and walk away with prizes. Following FoodBytes! Pitch participation, all 45 startups will have access to the FoodBytes! network of more than 350 alumni entrepreneurs for connections and guidance to help drive their businesses forward.

New Zealand startups interested in FoodBytes! Pitch 2021 can visit to learn more and apply by Sunday 16 May. Finalists will be announced on Wednesday 8 September.

New Zealand corporates, investors and farmers interested in learning more about joining the FoodBytes! community, please email

About Rabobank F&A Innovation

Rabobank is a leading global food and agriculture bank providing sector expertise, strategic counsel and tailored financial solutions to clients across the entire food value chain. Rabobank’s Food & Agriculture Innovation team supports the bank’s global mission of Growing a Better World Together – helping to turn today’s promising ideas into impactful solutions for a sustainable food supply. Through the FoodBytes! food and agriculture innovation platform, Rabobank has built one of the most valuable networks for corporates, investors and startups pioneering sustainable ways to feed the planet.

FoodBytes! drives collaboration between startups, large food, ag companies and investors through two complementary programmes: FoodBytes! Pitch and FoodBytes! Pilot. To learn more, visit or follow FoodBytes! on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Media Inquiries

For media information, or interviews, please contact Nicola McConnell, Marvellous Marketing, or 027 218 8120.