Peter Wren-Hilton

Listen to global experts speak at the launch of Farm2050’s New Zealand Nutrient Initiative session at National Fieldays on Thursday 13 June.

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Under the leadership of Finistere Ventures and Innovation Endeavors, Farm2050 recently launched its newest focus and project: validating new technologies in nutrient analysis, delivery, efficient uptake, and environmental mitigation. The intent of a major project such as this is to bring together knowledge, resources and inputs from members of the network to advance the mission of Farm2050, in order to help feed the planet sustainably and affordably.

Macronutrient fertilizers, (N, P, K or Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potash and compounds thereof) are one of the single largest input spend on modern pastoral farming systems. Globally, the total quantum applied annually averages 200M Metric Tons.  It is estimated less than 50 percent of this immense volume is utilized by the targeted planted crops to which they are applied.  This is particularly true for Phosphorus, the global reserves of which are being depleted.  The balance is volatilized or is transmitted into the water table and often from there into stream/river/estuary systems with often negative environmental impacts.  Micronutrients are also an important part of individual plant nutrition and applied in much smaller quantities, but a lack of understanding of how these compounds react with each other and with the macronutrients also lead to inefficient utilisation.  Organic fertilisers, including animal waste generally in the form of manure, are also an important part of soil amendments, including as supply to the organic food industry, or utilisation of available waste (as in dairy slurry).

The Nutrient space has seen both direct and supplemental technologies developed to help farmers in production with Yield as the primary target.  However, increasing scrutiny of environmental impact on farms has also raised the need for remediation and analytics to meet increasing and stricter regulatory requirements.  As an example, in New Zealand the growth of the dairy sector since the mid-1980s has seen Nitrogen fertiliser use increase 10X, while farm energy inputs doubled over the last 20 years and has led to a negative regulatory and public reaction to fertiliser over-use.  The rise of regulations (and penalties) is also an economic motivator for farmers and Ag industry players and an opportunity to accelerate new technologies in this space for the program participants.

At Agritech Unleashed, leading global experts will be talking about the 3-year initiative, why New Zealand will be taking a lead role and how players in the nutrient sector in New Zealand can take part.

This is Alexey Rostapshov’s first visit to New Zealand. It’s fantastic to have John Deere’s global Head of Digital Innovation at Fieldays and I look forward to learning more about John Deere’s current work in this space. Likewise Michael Levin from Chicago-based Germin8. New Zealand is represented by industry veteran, Rob Ford.

Alexey Rostapshov; Global Head of Digital Innovation, John Deere
Michael Levin; Founder & Managing Director, Germin8
Rob Ford; GM Innovation, Environment and Technology, Landcorp

Major Farm2050 agribusiness partners including Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, Nutrien & Corteva are actively supporting this initiative. Some will be in the audience at Agritech Unleashed. In my (personal) view, I’ve heard the talk and I’ve seen the regulation. If New Zealand’s agritech community is serious about supporting our farmers & growers address some of the major environmental impacts necessary to continue to secure the social license needed to operate, this initiative will go a long way down that path. Farm2050 venture partners have potentially significant $M’s to invest in this space. As Arama Kukutai, co-founder of Finistere Ventures, said at the ’10 billion mouths’ conference in Tauranga last year; ‘it’s time New Zealand to put on those big boy & big girls pants’!

Time then to engage.

It is proposed that the main technology components for evaluation during this initiative will be products/tech that:

  1. Analyse nutrient content and usage in soil with both chemical and biological/genetic datasets, enabling improved insight into agronomic practices
  2. Improve soil nutrient content (both traditional fertilisers, formulations and via novel modes of action including biologicals) and economic/sustainable usage
  3. Improved application of nutrients, through digital agronomy and improved physical delivery systems
  4. Mitigation of the environmental effects from nutrient application, with a particular focus on the dairy industry in New Zealand.

The formal New Zealand launch of Farm2050’s Nutrient Initiative takes place in the Bledisloe Function Centre at Mystery Creek on Thursday 13 June from 11.30am – 12.15pm.

Access to the launch is strictly by ticket only. You can register for a (free) ticket by logging onto the Agritech Unleashed ticketing system here: https://avenues.eventsair.com/agritech-unleashed-2019/registration/Site/Landing

If you have an interest in this space, this is one event you cannot afford to miss. I look forward to seeing you there.


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.