This guest post has been written by David Downs, the New Zealand ‘All of Government’ agritech taskforce lead.
Its clear why Agritech is part of New Zealand’s future, as well as our past and present. The first ever innovation in New Zealand related to agritech, with Māori settlers creating a mechanism to elongate the growing day by building small stone walls around the kumara pits, and burying stone chips in the soil to soak up the sun’s rays. The success of our primary production in New Zealand is due in large part of the agricultural and technological innovations which allowed for higher productivity and superior quality. Yes, there is still work to do with ensuring our practices are sustainable and environmentally friendly in some areas, but overall our agritech industry is a source of great comparative advantage for New Zealand.
So it’s no surprise that the government wants to join with industry to super-charge the sector. Ministers have asked officials (bureaucrats like me) to work out ways that we can tune the various levers of government intervention to assist agritech companies to grow bigger, better and faster – not just in New Zealand (assisting with the productivity of our agriculture, horticulture and aquiculture sectors) but also in terms of exports. Somewhat surprisingly, New Zealand exports of agritech have been almost flat for 5 years, which doesn’t accurately demonstrate the potential for the sector.
A couple of weeks ago, representatives from 5 government agencies joined with the industry group Agritech New Zealand, and a number of industry representatives, (pictured above) to plot our joint action plan for government and the sector. Our plan is to work together on initiatives which can accelerate the growth of the sector and the companies within it. We looked at things like skills, management capability and expertise. We looked at science and R&D focus, and how we can line up innovation towards a clear market demand. We looked at the levers of government incentives, funding and policy. At this stage the action plan is still in draft, but significant progress was made and we are on track to draft a national strategy for the sector, along with a clear set of tactics, in the next few months.
With innovation a core part of the kiwi DNA, and the Agritech space a clear opportunity for New Zealand to succeed, it’s good to see government working in partnership with industry on growing New Zealand’s agritech sector.