At the recent Hi-Tech awards it struck me how many agritech businesses are making an impact. There were notable mentions across many categories, not just the specific Agritech Award taken out by Halter – a worthy winner given their backed vision of disruption. Rocos took away the Most Innovative Hitech Software Award with their visionary robot operation platform. Other champions across the categories on display included WayBeyond, Landkind, Levno, Hectre, Bluelab and Agrisea. All up there was plenty of evidence that agritech is set to be New Zealand’s big export category. More importantly, when you look at what these companies are doing it’s clear that our agricultural innovations can be good for the world.
This week we’ll see the launch of the Technology Investment Network’s (TIN) second Agritech Report. This report serves as an excellent baseline of where our agritech sector currently sits. We know from looking at the global opportunities, levels of investment and performance of similar economies that the potential for agritech from New Zealand to be 5-10 times larger is a viable ambition. We’ll be hosting a review of this report and what it means for the sector on Fieldays TV this week, Thursday 17th 2.10pm.
Some of the early activity in the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) is paving the way for this growth. We took note of the improved access to capital since the announcement of the Finestere Aotearoa Fund (an ITP High Impact Project) at a recent event in Tauranga where we brought together Investors and Innovators to discuss what ‘investability’ looks like for agritech, and asked agritech business leaders to share their capital journey stories and insights. A recording of this lively session will soon be available online at https://agritechnz.org.nz/resources and the conversation will continue at a session we’re hosting at the National Fieldays in Mystery Creek on Thursday morning (yes, that’s tomorrow!) Capital games: raising capital for agritech business.
Another ITP project is being presented by Callaghan Innovation at Fieldays. Their session on Maximising Government support for agritech (also tomorrow) will show how agritech businesses can better tap into government support (across all agencies) to launch their innovations. This flow of funding support from the public sector to private investment is an improved environment for growing agritech businesses. It’s a great start to the ITP.
There’s a lot of work still to do though, not least in one of the biggest headwinds to these growth ambitions: access to talent. We know this is a significant concern to many of our members and to the wider tech community. We are currently forming an Agritech Skills Reference Group to collaborate with other initiatives focused on skills and workforce gaps. Our intent is to lean into the shared responses and highlight the unique challenges for agritech businesses (like finding talent that translates data science with biological systems). We’ll have more activity in this space over the coming months, and right now we’re working with our partners in NZTech to understand the realities of critical worker border exemptions. If this is an option you have tried for bringing talent to New Zealand, please share your experiences in the NZTech Critical Worker Border Exemption Survey.
We’ve also made progress by enabling stronger agritech representation in discussions relating to data use and digital foundations in the primary sector. The Agritech Leaders Data Reference Group will be formalised imminently. This group will expand upon existing work such as discussions relating to data standards and the data that enables Farm Environmental Plans; as well as defining other areas where collaborative effort can strengthen digital foundations for agriculture.
The international teams at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) are busy uncovering opportunities for agritech businesses. The team in Japan have established an online business matching platform to provide a convenient gathering ground for Japanese businesses and New Zealand agritech companies to interact and discover where they can best support each other’s needs. You can sign up here and we’ll run some joint webinars in August. The Middle East team are preparing for some specific agritech focus at Expo 2020 Dubai, you can learn more here.
We’re delighted to announce that Kenneth Irons, our Chair, signed an agreement with AgTech Ireland to identify collaborative opportunities that will mutually benefit the members of both organisations. Launched in 2021, AgTech Ireland is a membership funded organisation which will act as a single point of contact for government, media, foreign trade missions and research for its industry. Our organisations share the same goals of promoting and advocating for the opportunities and challenges in agricultural innovation around the world. We look forward to introducing member companies to each other as they explore opportunities in each market, as well as working on matters of common interest in the development of global agritech opportunities.
With all this activity we need some extra hands on deck! Luckily there has been an awesome response to our requests … both for Industry Reference Groups and Executive Council positions. We were delighted to appoint Kylie Horomia and MJ Alavarez to our Executive Council recently AgriTech New Zealand appoints two new Executive Council members and look forward to the upcoming elections for the three elected seats this year. We’ve had 17 nominations across these seats, so we can expect some real campaigning and discussion on what representation looks like. There’s never been a better time to be a member … make sure your membership is up to date to vote, and if you’re not currently a member join up now to get your vote in before June 29, for your chosen representative in each category.
We look forward to seeing many of you at events over the next week at Mystery Creek.
Ngā mihi Brendan
AgriTech New Zealand