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Peter Wren-Hilton

Introducing the Trans-Tasman Water Challenge

Building stronger trans-Tasman ties in the area of innovation and agri-technology provide a unique opportunity for some really big thinking. Connecting our respective research and entrepreneurial communities has the potential to address key major global issues. Few are bigger than the scarcity and management of water.

Australia is currently grappling with one of its worst droughts on record. Water is its most precious natural resource. The agrisystem, which includes the entire agri food supply chain, needs to become more efficient with its use of water and build its long term resilience and preparedness for drought.

Australia is not alone in facing water issues. New Zealand understands this. Water scarcity is a universal problem being exacerbated by changes in our climate. Together, we need to urgently find solutions to address the immediate and longer term challenges posed to our region’s entire agricultural ecosystem.

Introducing the Bridge Hub 2020 Water Challenge. Bridge Hub, based in New South Wales, launched its 2020 Water Challenge at the evokeAG conference, in Melbourne, in February. The Challenge’s current supporters in Australia include CSIRO, Commonwealth Bank, AgriFutures Australia, the University of Canberra, the Government of South Australia and a number of regional development agencies across multiple Australian States.

Following discussions at the most recent Australia New Zealand Agritech Council, it was agreed that New Zealand’s Council members would invite New Zealand’s research and entrepreneurial community to join the Challenge. It was also agreed that in order to identify significant solutions to the Water Challenge, we would pose 4 questions to our research and entrepreneur community;

1. How can the agrisystem use less water and increase productivity and profitability?

2. How can we turn arid agricultural areas into vibrant, sustainable and productive regions?

3. How can we ensure the quality of water optimises the outcomes for farmers, growers and the environment?

4. How can different sectors outside the agrisystem align to optimise water usage?

Four major questions that are looking for innovative answers.

The New Zealand input is being supported by the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, New Zealand’s Agritech ITP, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise & Callaghan Innovation. A number of additional New Zealand research and commercial organisations are signing up in support.

So what are we looking for?

Under research, we want to identify cutting edge New Zealand research that can help solve the water related problems we have identified in the agrisystem. The research solutions must have high commercialisation potential that can scale globally to have maximum impact.

Under entrepreneurship, we want to unlock and demonstrate the next generation of leading New Zealand water technology solutions for the agrisystem. The Challenge is looking to provide a testbed for the research and business entrants, in both New Zealand and Australia.

Finally, to encourage trans-Tasman research collaboration on the Water Challenge, we are looking to welcome submissions with at least one Australian and one New Zealand researcher on the team. Expect further announcements on what this might look like as the Council engages with different agencies on both sides of the Tasman.

To register your interest in the Trans-Tasman Water Challenge, please visit https://www.waterchallenge.co/ 

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.