Peter Wren-Hilton

Agritech destined to save New Zealand?

Silicon Valley – Agritech could be destined to save the New Zealand economy, leading New Zealand tech expert Graeme Muller says.

The tremendous worldwide demand for food continues to soar with some estimating the market to be worth $US3 trillion and much of the growth coming from specialty and healthy foods, Muller, the NZTech chief executive, says.

He is one of 30 New Zealand agritech delegates attending the Silicon Valley forum agritech immersion programme this week in San Jose, California, and they are finding that New Zealand is well placed to respond to the substantial changing demands.

“There is growing evidence that the abundance of processed foods is the underlying cause of a global obesity epidemic which is also impacting New Zealand which is ranked third worst in the OECD for obesity,” Muller sais today from Silicon Valley.

“Combining two of New Zealand’s leading sectors, agriculture and technology, shows just how we can improve New Zealand farming, food production and health while also growing our exports. We are on the cusp of some massive and exciting tech changes in our lives.

“There are some amazing agritech developments in Silicon Valley such as Granular Software a farm operations startup that was recently purchased by DuPont for $US300 million, or the synthetic protein companies like Clara Foods for eggs, Memphis Meats for beef and Finless Foods for fish.

“Yet most of the major pain points in the US farm systems are similar to New Zealand such as water management, nutrient management and labour shortages so New Zealand agritech solutions are viable for this massive market.

“For example, award-winning Tauranga company Robotics Plus has an automated apple packaging system that will be able to help US growers address labour shortages.

“New Zealand is also well positioned to meet increasing demands for specialty and healthy foods. Miro berries, a Maori owned and driven company, is deploying the latest agritech in New Zealand to build high value blueberry production to replicate our success in kiwifruit and meet domestic and global demand for the superfood,” he says.

New Zealand is one of the top 10 world’s biggest blueberry producers. About 700 ha of blueberry crops are grown in New Zealand with expectations the export industry could be worth more than $100 million in coming years.

Muller says New Zealand is achieving good agritech export growth rates relative to other nations. Global agritech investment is expanding rapidly, with investment in agritech firms in 2014 was estimated at more than $US2.36 billion.

The New Zealand tech sector is the country’s third largest and fastest growing export sector, worth over $6.3 billion in 2015 and employing more than six percent of the New Zealand workforce.

For further information contact New Zealand Technology Industry Association chief executive Graeme Muller on 021 02520767 or Make Lemonade media specialist Kip Brook on 0275 030188

Peter Wren-Hilton Peter is Executive Director of Agritech New Zealand and founder of Wharf42 in Tauranga. Peter helps organise major agritech conferences in New Zealand and offshore and connects early stage New Zealand agritech companies with international markets.