Cicada Spotlight: John Ridley from Converte

Get to know John Ridley, Founder & CEO at Converte and Cicada Innovations' alumni and speaker with The Grains Challenge Program. 

John is an Environmental Scientist with more than 30 years of experience in environmental management across three continents. He brings a wealth of knowledge to The Grains Challenge Program, specialising in biological systems, sustainable resource management and managing carbon. John leverages his extensive background as part of the Elevate program,  offering valuable insights to scientists and engineers, that help them unlock the potential of their technologies within the agricultural industry.

How has the Cicada Innovations Fast-Start program helped shape your business? 

The Cicada Fast Start program has been brilliant for Converte. The program has broadened our understanding of the wider agricultural ecosystem and facilitated critical connections with major corporations.

As a founder, this really helps you understand your business's wider environment and its place in the ecosystem. Cicada Fast Start provided us with dedicated agricultural experts who offered tailored advice and ongoing support to explore how Converte's solutions can contribute to the overall agriculture ecosystem.

The meetings with GRDC were particularly beneficial, as they provided a valuable benchmark for our technology.  If you can satisfy GRDC that you have a good offering for the agriculture space, then that really sets you up to be a player in the industry. 

Do you have any insights or expertise about the deep tech industry that you think start-ups should know? 

That’s a great question! I think it is important to understand the whole structure of the industry. Understanding the industry structure is paramount for successful entry. This requires identifying key players within the ecosystem and your potential role of where you fit in the industry. 

Secondly, it's crucial to define your unique value proposition. What differentiates you? This could be your data, intellectual property, or the specific technology you offer.

Identifying key influencers is also essential, as they can significantly impact your company's trajectory. Cicada Innovations' Fast Start program excels in this area. By connecting you with industry leaders, the program empowers you to build valuable relationships and accelerate your company's growth.

What are Converte’s current industry challenges?

Like many agribusinesses, Converte faces many challenges on the path to growth. Daily weather fluctuations, on-the-ground farmer access, and many unpredictable variables create a complex operating environment.

Our current primary obstacles include capital acquisition, securing critical customer relationships, and scaling the business effectively. Furthermore, obtaining access to influential individuals who can shape our direction is critical.

One strategy we've employed to overcome these challenges is actively seeking support and mentoring from groups like Cicada Innovations, the New South Wales Government, and overseas development programs. So far, we have participated in programs offered by the NSW government and initiatives in the Middle East, India, and the UK, which have been instrumental.

This has helped further develop our outlook and allowed us to see the agriculture industry from both a domestic and international perspective. This broader engagement allows us to see Converte's role within the ecosystem and refine our value proposition accordingly. 

Overall, you have to reach out to those groups that can help you, so don’t be afraid to travel. You know, go overseas, talk to people, and you learn so much about your business. Travelling and forging connections abroad offers invaluable insights for agribusinesses, fostering a deeper understanding of their unique position and potential.

The Grains Challenge Program:

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Cicada Innovations are on a mission to find and help innovators translate deep tech solutions into commercial impact, all for the grains industry.

Find out more about our Grains Challenge Program Here.