A core focus of the delegation, which reflects its make-up, is on how New Zealand robotic, automation & sensing technologies can assist US growers address their single most important challenge. Labor. Lack of and cost of.
In August last year, Agritech New Zealand signed a partnership agreement with Western Growers, the largest producer of fresh produce in North America. Their members account for over 50% of all fruit and vegetable production. At the time of the signing, we were supporting another delegation of New Zealand agritech delegates as they took part in the 2018 Silicon Valley AgTech Immersion Program. In Central Valley, Northern California, we saw at first hand, on a tomato and water melon farm, the challenge. These farmers were hurting.
Since then, the situation has seriously deteriorated. Whole specialty crops are now at risk of either shutting down or moving out of the US. Mexico and other countries south are the major destination. So the sense of urgency is real and the opportunity for New Zealand agritech experts is now.
The first two days of our week in Salinas will involve meeting key representatives from different major grower associations. This will provide the delegation with a more in-depth understanding of the challenge and the core crops at risk. At the Forbes Live conference, we will be able to meet a number of the growers in person to better understand the challenge on-farm. I attended this event last year. It was one of the most productive US-based agtech-focused conferences I have attended.
It promises to be a hugely valuable week and Agritech New Zealand is delighted once again to be working with Callaghan Innovation to make this happen. When we return to New Zealand, we will sit down with delegation members to attempt to create an all of NZ approach to address the challenge.
Building new commercial pathways for New Zealand’s agritech expertise is a key purpose of Agritech New Zealand. Next month’s Salinas engagement is testament to that.