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Peter Wren-Hilton

Day 1 at Irish Plough. Major opportunities emerge for the New Zealand agritech sector

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Photo above: Nick Swallow, Trade Commissioner, United Kingdom and Ireland; Peter Wren-Hilton, Agritech New Zealand; Brad Burges, NZ Ambassador to New Zealand; Jacqui Wren-Hilton, Agritech New Zealand; Pat Breen, Ireland’s Minister of Data Protection; Peter Ryan, Ireland Ambassador to New Zealand.

The New Zealand agritech delegation arrived at the Carlow showground this morning fully prepared. The weather we were told would be ‘soft’. That’s Irish for grey and damp. It wasn’t. 100,000 visitors on Day 1 are down to T-shirts and hats. 30+ kiwis are amongst them. It’s hot!

That’s not however 100% reflective of the mood amongst farmers here.

I was in Ireland for the Agtech Nexus Europe conference in December. Then, the ‘B’ word was the major concern. With 31 October approaching and Westminster in meltdown, it’s still a major topic of conversation. This week however, there is a significant focus on another “B”. Beef. The price at the farm gate is severely depressed and there is a major dispute between processors and farmers.

Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed warned yesterday that ‘real self-harm’ is being inflicted on the beef industry sector. At Plough, this discontent is evident. Its international reputation is on the line. I hope that Beef & Lamb in New Zealand is taking note.

Dairy is a totally different proposition. Since the abolition of EU quotas five years ago, herd size and production has increased significantly. It’s a trend that’s likely to continue over the next 3-5 years. This is providing major opportunities for NZ agritech. The traditional Irish dairy farm has been family owned. Maybe 30 hectares in size with a herd count of perhaps 70. Today that herd size is closer to 120-130. Milk production is up 100% in 10 years. Sound familiar? It means that dairy farmers are now looking to automation to improve everything from the performance of the milk shed to animal health monitoring. EU environmental standards are tough, so addressing the impact of intensification is high on the mind of farmers. NZ agritech sectors in this space; please take note.

Several already are. New Zealand agritech companies exhibiting at Plough this year include Abacusbio, Figured, Gallagher, Hansen, Kaiwaka, LIC, Rezare, Saber, Techion, Tru-Test, Waikato Milking Systems & Yardmaster. It’s great to see this level of engagement on the ground. Interest here in New Zealand’s agritech sector is high. We have a great reputation for nutritious food production and many of the Irish farmers I have spoken to over the past 48 hours have spent time in NZ. This week is providing these farmers with a glimpse of some of the tech that makes this possible.

New Zealand’s Ambassador to Ireland, Brad Burgess, ormally opened the New Zealand Pavilion this afternoon and a good number of Agritech New Zealand partners and friends joined us for the reception. They were not alone. A number of senior Irish government officials and business leaders also attended. It reflected the real potential for future collaboration between the two countries.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be joining Brad as we formally launch the New Zealand Agritech Story at an NZTE breakfast reception. If today is anything to go by, it’s going to be another busy one. I’ll report back via this website and our social media channels on developments. NZ agritech companies should take note. This is a serious conversation that is just staring. Agritech New Zealand intends to be a key part of that.

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.