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In New Zealand, when we think of countries known for their agritech prowess, we frequently refer to Singapore, Israel, The Netherlands, Ireland and the United States of America (USA).

Already under way, but accelerated by the global pandemic, more countries with strong agricultural contributions to their gross domestic product (GDP) are investing significantly in advancing their agtech sectors.  For example, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

This further highlights the importance of New Zealand’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) developed in partnership with the All of Government taskforce and supported with a significant 2020 Budget allocation. Brendan O’Connell, our interim CEO, tells me he recently attended one of the early industry reference groups (the Horticulture Automation Activator) advising and creating ITP project activity. He was impressed by the genuine collaboration that is directing further investment and creating industry capabilities to address systemic issues.

I recently had the opportunity to meet virtually with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s (NZTE) global team, so they could be updated on our deep and broad ITP engagement, and its focus to enable New Zealand’s agritech sector to punch above its weight domestically, across Australasia and globally. But there was a salient message from the NZTE team, and one we do well to heed. Currently, New Zealand does not have global brand recognition as a leader in agtech – agriculture, for sure – but not agtech. At least not as much as we think, if we fall victim to believing what we hear in our own echo chamber.

We have a solid foundation with the ITP, and we have some great companies doing remarkable work. There is still much to do before New Zealand is recognised as the agritech country we aspire to be. There are three practical steps we can undertake to help achieve this aspiration.

Firstly, members get members – if you know of colleagues in the agritech sector who are not members of AgritechNZ, please invite them to join. Having a strong industry voice will direct efforts in areas that most benefit New Zealand agritech businesses.

Second, collaborate domestically – support the data standards and interoperability work that is being ably undertaken by our Practitioner Working Group. It is unglamorous back-room work, about as fascinating as underground power cables or cell phone towers, but essential to enable the free flow of permissioned data, on which farmers and growers, global suppliers and buyers can make better decisions.

Third, partner with Australia – adding our two sectors together still leaves us as a drop in the ocean in terms of global spend. We are stronger together, and can’t afford to duplicate resources to produce identical outcomes on both sides of the pond.  AgritechNZ and AusAgritech are forging deeper and better relations at both association and individual member level.

Ngā mihi

Kenneth Irons
Agritech New Zealand

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