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Women’s Day role model advocates calculated risk

Calculated risk is a vital ingredient for success and women often have their own way of tackling it, according to prominent agritech entrepreneur Emma Weston.

Ms Weston was the keynote speaker at an International Women’s Day luncheon in Armidale today and is living testament to the benefits of taking a punt and seizing opportunity.

The former lawyer and chickpea farmer turned digital innovator is one of the founding directors of rapidly growing agritech company AgriDigital, which is using new technologies to create a secure supply chain from farmers all the way through to consumers.

Nearly 300 people from the Armidale region attended today’s luncheon, held by Council at the Armidale City Bowling Club and supported by the University of New England and Regional Australia Bank.

The audience heard how Ms Weston and her fellow directors took AgriDigital from a germ of an idea to a company which has so far traded nearly six million tonnes of grain and cotton and is tapping into a market worth billions of dollars.

She attributes much of her success to her ability to recognise and seize an opportunity, which often meant going out on a limb.

“I’m a good risk taker … I’m good at sniffing out an opportunity and I’m good at throwing myself into the way of opportunity,” Ms Weston said.

“We should all get comfortable about taking risk. Women are often not seen as risk takers and I think we are – we just don’t necessarily look at it in the same way as our male compatriots.

 “Know the risk, know what your appetite is and then go for it.”

Ms Weston said her experience showed there were three essential ingredients for career success: risk, the ability to sell yourself and your commodity, and surrounding yourself with a good team.

“Find your tribe. We all need supporters. We can’t do it alone,” she said.

“Building a community, plus respecting and valuing diversity is really where success comes from.”

AgriDigital is at the forefront of digitising the agricultural industry, using online systems and digital currency to better link each level of the agricultural production and supply chain.

She said while agriculture is the least digitised industry in the world, “by a long way”, its increased use of technology was opening many global opportunities for new markets.

The Sydney-based AgriDigital currently has a team of about 50 people but is averaging one new team member every fortnight and, while its next big step is an office in the US, it is also focused on expanding into Australian regional areas.

Ms Weston said regional areas had a wealth of skilled and innovative people and had the “ultimate black book” of connections within the farming industry.

She was joined by several influential local women in a panel discussion as part of today’s luncheon, including Council Chief Executive Officer Susan Law, Regional Australia Bank Director Kate James, TAFE Digital General Manager Megan Aitken, UNE Discovery - School of Science and Technology Program Leader Dr Kirsti Abbott.

Ms Law said the event had been a great success in bringing together talented women in the Armidale region and beyond, to share ideas and experiences and inspire the next generation.

Students from each of the Armidale secondary schools attended the luncheon and were involved in a leaders forum with Ms Weston and Dr Abbott earlier in the day.

The luncheon’s Master of Ceremony, UNE Smart Region Incubator Director Lou Conway, said it was wonderful to bring the community together to celebrate International Women’s Day.

“Emma and the other speakers really highlighted the potential for building global tech businesses operating out of Australia, and the tremendous opportunities for regional Australia to be at the centre of these emerging industries,” Ms Conway said.