Jordy Kitschke: cultivating innovation in South Australia

10 July 2023

South Australia has all the attributes to become a world-leading centre of innovation - that’s the experience of Flux Robotics founder Jordy Kitschke.

Raised on a cropping and sheep farm near Jamestown in the state’s mid north, Jordy always knew that he was destined to work on the land.

“Growing up, spending time with family, doing farming things, whether it was in a shearing shed or driving around in a ute or checking crops and driving tractors… it was a pretty amazing way to grow up,” Jordy said.

“You get opportunities to explore and be creative and build things with your hands and break stuff and make mistakes.

“Doing all that stuff on a farm is just such a lucky thing for a kid.

“It’s probably what has enabled (me), someone who’s not a trained engineer, to start a robotics company.”

Flux Robotics was founded after Jordy witnessed how other industries were utilising new technologies, and saw an opportunity to apply these emerging tools to other challenges in farming.

Using artificial intelligence Flux Robotics’ technology delivers pesticides to weeds in a more controlled way than traditional methods – minimising the impact of chemicals on the wider agricultural industry.

“Rather than acting with big blanket applications and activities where a human has to be in the driver’s seat, we can make things smaller, more modular, and much more precise,” Jordy said.

“I really just wanted to bring a new tool to the table that could unlock a new way of thinking.”

For Jordy, there was nowhere else to launch his start-up than in South Australia.

“South Australia has a lot of pretty progressive, innovative farmers who are always looking to improve their production systems, get efficiency gains, (and) nurture their land,” Jordy said.

And according to Jordy, this entrepreneurial spirit is embedded in the culture of South Australian farming.

“We’ve got some of the leading research institutes in agriculture that have been around for a long time – we’ve got more and more engineering and tech talent coming to South Australia looking to work on meaningful problems and agriculture provides such a great platform for them,” he said.

“South Australia is in the “goldilocks” zone of not being too small that there’s not enough resources to make the magic happen, but also not too big that it becomes competitive rather than collaborative.”

This collaborative approach is at the core of ThincLab, the University of Adelaide’s start-up business incubator where Flux Robotics has been based since 2017.

Working alongside other start-ups and guided by mentors, Jordy was able to find support and share valuable experience at critical times through ThincLab.

“You’re surrounded by other people working on things often in very different industries, but people who are on similar journeys and facing similar challenges of trying to build something new,” Jordy said

“You’re often just standing in front of the coffee machine and you’ll be chatting to someone and they help you solve a problem, or you can help them out based on your experience.”

It has been the combination of these South Australian qualities of collaboration and innovation which has made the Flux Robotics journey possible for Jordy.

“For a seed to germinate, you need to have all the right conditions in the environment for it to do so,” he said.

“It’s similar for a start-up, where you’re trying to do something that hasn’t really been done before.

“South Australia has given us an environment where we can germinate.”