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Wine, tourism and… tech? South Australia wants to disrupt its flagship industry

SOURCE: Maja Petric/Unsplash
South Australian aims to attract startups from around Australia and the world with the goal of making it the global hub for grape and wine tech businesses.

Wine and tourism: an age-old combination that has economically powered large swathes of California’s valleys, stretches of French countryside, and pockets of Australia’s southerly states.

Wine regions are a huge draw for tourists, wherever they happen to be in the world, bringing in tour bus after tour bus of teetering vino enthusiasts to regions that otherwise may not have proven so popular.

On first impressions, tech becoming a partner in this dynamic duo may not seem like an obvious connection. But like any other industry in the world right now, wine is going through somewhat of a tech revolution.

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The South Australian government wants to ride this tech wave and make their state the home of innovation in the sector.

“Foment – SA’s Wine and Tourism Tech Revolution,” as the new initiative is called, will be run out of the Tonsley Innovation Hub in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, and is a collaboration between Hydra ConsultingFlinders University’s New Venture Institute and Wine Industry Suppliers Australia (WISA).

The programme aims to attract startups from around Australia and the world with the goal of making South Australia the global hub for grape and wine tech businesses. It also aims bring South Australian experiences to the world and global capability to the state by attracting tourism tech startups.

Vineyards in the Barossa Valley of South Australia, a top winemaking region of the country. Source: Troy Wegman / Shutterstock

“The Foment programme is designed to benefit South Australia’s wine and wine tourism industries by helping to embrace technology to enhance their global capability and competitiveness,” explained Premier Steven Marshall while touring the 17th Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference (AWITC) in Adelaide last week.

The wine industry is a major driver in the state’s economy and a huge part of South Australia’s global identity. Over 50 percent of all Australian wine is made using grapes from the region and the value of the state’s exports reached an impressive AU$1.79 billion (US$1.23 billion). That’s more than double the value it was just eight years ago.

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With figures like that, you may wonder why they are so keen to get tech involved and shake up the system. But officials recognise the significant benefit a new style of thinking can bring to this already booming business.

“Foment is exciting as it focuses on businesses that bring in disruptive technologies and add value to our wine and tourism sectors,” said Minister Tim Whetstone in a statement.

“The wine industry in South Australia is the shining light of our food and beverage sector and investing in this intensive programme will only assist to provide a platform for new ideas.”