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Join Agritech New Zealand at Techweek2020.

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

Next week, Techweek2020 kicks off and Agritech New Zealand has three great events lined up for the country’s agritech community.

Tuesday 28 July – Techweek TV 2.00pm – 2.30pm

Join David Downs, the Agritech Transformation Plan Taskforce lead and myself as we discuss the next steps in the delivery and implementation of the Plan. If you missed the official launch of the Plan in Tauranga earlier this week, you can read about it here.

To view this ½ hour special, set your clocks for 2.00pm on the 28th and go to We hope you can join us then.

Wednesday 29 July – Elizabeth Fastiggi, global agritech lead at AWS 11.00am – 12.00pm

At 11.00am, I am hosting an exclusive one hour webinar with Elizabeth Fastiggi, global agritech lead at AWS. Dialling in the US, Elizabeth will talk about her perspective of the global agritech landscape and illustrate this though some customer journeys. Viewers of the webinar will be able to ask Elizabeth direct questions during the webinar. It will be the first time that Elizabeth has spoken to a New Zealand audience.

This is a free event, but registration is essential. To register, please visit

Thursday 30 July – Re-Imagine the Digital Economy: The Role of Technology in Food Assurance 2.00pm – 4.00pm

Online events don’t come much bigger than this. A live two hour webinar linking major thought leaders in New Zealand and Singapore.

Join this session as we hear from industry experts, technology providers and food producers on the role of technology for improving yields, optimising production methods and reducing waste, predicting demand, and safeguarding supply chains.

Speakers Include:

  • Peter Wren-Hilton, Executive Director, Agritech New Zealand
  • Bradley Busetto, Director, UNDP Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development
  • Paul Ryan, Director, Trust Codes
  • Claudia Roessler, Director Agriculture, Microsoft Azure Global Engineering
  • Amit Gupta, CEO, Ecosystm (Singapore)
  • Jannat Maqbool, Principal Advisor, Ecosystm  (New Zealand)

Starting at 2.00pm (NZT), registration is once again free, but essential. To register, please visit

Techweek2020 promises once again to be a festival of innovation. If you want to share in it, and have an interest in the progress of New Zealand’s agritech sector, we very much hope that you can join us for one of these free events.

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

The Agritech Industry Transformation Plan has finally launched!

Monday, July 20th, 2020

The Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) was finally launched by Hon Phil Twyford at Zespri’s HQ in Tauranga yesterday.

Phil was joined by Hon Damien O’Connor who took the opportunity to release Agritech New Zealand’s research report, Aotearoa Agritech Unleashed. The research provides a detailed analysis of the impact of agritech on New Zealand’s economy and the opportunity for productivity and export growth.

The launch of the Agritech ITP follows 15 months of engagement between industry and government. I have been fortunate to spend a large amount of my time working with ITP taskforce members, across a number of different government agencies; MBIE, NZTE, Callaghan Innovation, MPI and MFAT. It has been a really positive experience to see cross-agency collaboration at close quarters. Knocking down silos has never been so much fun!

At yesterday’s launch, I spoke about the role of industry in the delivery and implementation of the Plan. A number of Industry Reference Groups are being established to map the different high impact projects and workstreams contained within the Plan. Amongst other things, these will look at;

  • Global Opportunities
  • Investment
  • Commercialisation
  • Skills & Talent
  • Data Standards & Regulation
  • Government Process

The Industry Reference Groups will give industry, (including the research sector), the opportunity to work closely with the different agencies as they lead the workstreams. This input is critical to ensure the successful delivery and implementation of the Plan.

Whilst in Tauranga, Jacqui and I organised separate meetings for the Ministers with both PlantTech & Ballance. It was an opportunity to showcase some of the great innovation currently being undertaken in the Bay of Plenty.

At PlantTech, a number of their partners, including Robotics Plus, BlueLab, Eurofins, Trimax, Cucumber, Zespri & the University of Waikato talked about their work. It’s safe to say that both Ministers were impressed. Collaboration and transformation became the main themes of the day.

At Ballance, CEO Mark Wynne spoke about the positive strides being undertaken by the cooperative, particularly in the area of sustainability. The move away from being seen as a fertiliser company to a nutrient management one is playing a major role in the organisation’s transformation.

Back at the launch, I had referenced the day as being the end of the first chapter. The next chapter, the delivery and implementation part, starts today.

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

Agritech New Zealand AGM 2020. The election results.

Sunday, May 31st, 2020

On Thursday, Agritech New Zealand hosted its 2020 Annual General Meeting.

In keeping with Level 2 restrictions, the AGM was hosted over ZOOM. Because of that and because the organisation’s membership is so widely dispersed across New Zealand, it guaranteed a large turnout.

I was able to talk about the achievements of the past 12 months and some of the opportunities and challenges for the next 12. Given the effect of COVID-19, it will inevitably impact on some of our operational planning. Proposed NZ agritech delegation visits to the US and Ireland / UK later in the year have already been cancelled. Other in person events will almost certainly replaced by ZOOM.

The 2020 AGM marked in some ways the end of an era. As we moved from an Establishment Council to an elected Executive Council, it was time to say au revoir to a number of Council members who had been part of Agritech New Zealand’s organisational structure since Day 1.

I would like to pay a personal tribute to the support and energy they provided Jacqui, myself and the wider management team since our formation in May 2018. Without it, Agritech New Zealand would not be where it is today. They include;

  • Brendan Mahar – NZTE
  • Brendan O’Connell – PAANZ
  • Dean Tilyard – Sprout Accelerator
  • Mark Ennis – Fonterra
  • Rob Heebink – Gallagher
  • Sarah Hindle – Tech Futures Lab (Interim Agritech New Zealand Chair)
  • Simon Yarrow – Callaghan Innovation
  • Simon Neale – Spark

At Thursday’s AGM, we welcomed the newly elected and appointed members of the Executive Council. They include;

  • Dion Cawood – LIC
  • Daniel O’Brien – AWS
  • Peter Nation – National Fieldays
  • Sophie Rebbeck – Lincoln Agritech
  • Dan Bloomer – Landwise
  • Kenneth Irons – Precision Farming

There remain four additional positions to be appointed

  • Government
  • Practitioner
  • Iwi Rep
  • Independent

There was considerable interest in the Executive Council elections and I would like to thank the 19 different individuals and organisations nominated for the 1 available Major Corporate and 1 available SME position. It spoke volumes for just where the organisation is today.

Looking ahead, the recent Budget announcement of $11.4M funding to support the delivery and execution of the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) remains a core focus for the organisation. We are currently looking at establishing working groups to support the 3 High Impact Projects and 6 workstreams contained within the ITP recommendations.

I’ll be publishing updates on the progress as soon as I can.

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

The NZ Ag Data "Insights & applications" Webinar Series

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

This series of four webinars was designed to enable people across the spectrum* to acquire factual insights on which to make informed management, technology and interoperability decisions, with an emphasis on real-world application.

Data is at the heart of business decision-making in any industry, especially so in the ag sector.

For NZ agriculture-related companies to remain competitive in an increasingly globally-connected world, their data must be more complete, timely, accurate, and comprehensible. Standards help make this possible.

A challenge for implementers is knowing what standards are available and the purpose of each. How and if standards relates to other standards, and how various technologies and tools inter-relate.

This four-part webinar series addressed these points, prioritising breadth over depth, and with references to resource libraries to enable participants to dig deeper.

Guest presenters during the series included:

  • Andrew Cooke, MD, Rezare Ltd, Head of DataLinke
  • Sir Bill English, 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand
  • Alexey Rostapshov, Head of John Deere Labs, San Francisco
  • David Downs, MBIE

*for example agtech businesses, agribusinesses, research organisations, primary producer co-ops, regional and central government regulators

The agenda covered, in four sessions

Session Two: Tuesday 21 April

Business Processes, Message Data Standards from a global perspective, with implications for NZ business.

Session Three: Tuesday 28 April

Reference Data; Data Ownership, Moving data around (APIs etc) (NZ & globally).

Session Four: Tuesday 5 May

Practical Strategies for New Zealand entities wanting to implement technologies in line with global best-practice standards; Relevance of AgGateway for New Zealand (and Australia); Alignment with New Zealand’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan.

The webinar series is built on the work undertaken by the Precision Ag Association of NZ (“PAANZ”) over the last two years, the investment in Datalinker and NZ Farm Data Standards, the NZ Government’s Industry Transformation Plan, as well as emerging dialogue within and between New Zealand and Australia to facilitate greater collaboration between ag sector organisations.

These webinars were convened by:

  • Kenneth Irons, on the boards of PAANZ and AgriTechNZ, and CEO of Precision Farming Ltd, and were lead by
  • Jim Wilson, Global CEO and President of OAGi and CTO of AgGateway.

AgriTechNZ members are also welcome to access the substantial library of resources made available free of charge with the complements of AgGateway, to attendees at the webinar series. If you can not access this page please contact Tim Cutfield on

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

The Agritech New Zealand Insights webinar series is now available online

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

We are delighted to publish the eight Agritech New Zealand Insights webinar sessions which were recorded over the past three weeks. 2,200+ registered attendees signed up to view the series and the feedback we have received since has been hugely positive.

As with any first time Hollywood blockbuster, I’m pleased therefore to announce that we will be launching the Insights webinar series Season 2 during Techweek 2020. This takes place during the last week of July. We plan to host major global thought leaders who will once again provide valuable insights for New Zealand’s agritech sector.

To view any or all of our ‘Season 1’ recordings, please click on the links below and enter the relevant password. I hope you enjoy.

Dr. Adrian Percy: Former global Head of R&D at Bayer Crop Science: CTO of UPL

The role of major agribusiness corporates, early stage collaboration and the impact on innovation Password: 4j!*@J#e

Arama Kukutai: Co-founder and Managing director of Finistere Ventures

Understanding the Global Agritech Investment Landscape Password: m1$Y0!5D

Claudia Roessler: World wide director of Agriculture, Microsoft

Microsoft’s investment in agriculture, the role of agritech and how local companies can partner. Password: 8n+2ygwu

David Downs: The government’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) Lead

Supporting the growth and scaling New Zealand’s agritech sector – an update on the planned delivery of the government’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan. Password: 9y+$4F00

Dennis Donohue: Director of the Western Growers Technology & Innovation Center

Stateside challenges and how New Zealand agritech businesses can help solve them Password: 1U&EL4Kq

Ian Proudfoot: Global Head of Agribusiness, KPMG

AgriFood’s ‘Now Normal’ post COVID-19 Password: l7+++4=4

Richard Dellabarca: CEO, New Zealand Capital Growth Partners (formerly NZVIF)

Navigating the NZ Investment Landscape post COVID-19 Password: 8Z&lCF9w

Vic Crone: CEO, Callaghan Innovation

New initiatives to support early stage businesses in the current environment  Password: o7+kvP7R

I would like to personally thank all our presenters for their time and contribution to the Insights Series. During our COVID-19 Level 4 & 3 lockdown, it was great to be able share their knowledge and vision with New Zealand’s agritech community.

I will post details of our Season 2 line-up closer to the Techweek 2020 programme.

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

The Agritech New Zealand Insights Sector Survey results are in. What next in a post COVID-19 world?

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

UPDATED: 11 May 2020: On Thursday this week, the Hon. Grant Robertson will announce the government’s 2020 Budget. It will be against the almost surreal economic background created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, Agritech New Zealand released the results of its Insights Sector survey. It reflected several areas of major concern for New Zealand agritech businesses.

Over the past few weeks, Agritech New Zealand has been working closely with the government’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) taskforce to promote the ITP’s inclusion in Thursday’s announcement. We believe it can create significant opportunity for New Zealand’s agritech businesses, both short-term and long-term. We now await the outcome of that work.

The Agritech New Zealand Insights Sector Survey results are out. You can view the detailed Survey results here.

The purpose of the Agritech New Zealand Insights Survey was to get a better understanding of the New Zealand agritech sector’s resilience and business continuity planning, both during the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond. The Survey took place between Tuesday 31 March and Thursday 9 April 2020.

The respondents’ answers to the open and closed questions highlighted several major areas of concern. These included:

  • Access to funding
  • Access to customers
  • Access to markets

In this post, I am going to provide some detailed commentary on each area of concern. In later posts, I will talk about some of the actions that government and industry can take to address them.

Access to Funding

One surprising feature of the survey was the relatively small number of startup businesses taking part in the survey (26). This might be because their focus is on survival. Anecdotally, a significant number of pre-revenue startup businesses across New Zealand’s tech landscape are in survival mode. On Friday 17 April, Callaghan Innovation released figures based on research conducted during the current COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown, which suggested that perhaps 50-60% of New Zealand’s pre-revenue tech businesses might fail.

More established agritech companies are also under funding pressure. This was confirmed by Arama Kukutai, co-founder and managing director of Finistere Ventures and Richard Dellabarca, CEO of New Zealand Capital Growth Partners (formerly known as NZVIF) during two Insights webinar sessions hosted by Agritech New Zealand during the weeks of 13 & 20 April. Portfolio companies are being asked to re-set their business plans and financial models to extend cash runways to the end of 2021. In many cases, this will result in a reduction of R&D spend and a reduction in headcount.

When asked about the most significant need post COVID-19 lockdown, the survey respondents pointed to financial support as the most relevant support mechanism required for economic recovery. This was cited by 50% of all respondents. Anecdotally, Callaghan Innovation is accelerating its Project Grant application process to support ongoing R&D activity by some customers. The survey also indicated however that a number of companies, particularly in the start-up / SME phase were either reducing investment into R&D or going into full R&D hibernation.

It is clear that novel solutions need to be considered to address the funding issue. During any severe economic downturn, poorly performing businesses are likely to fail. The unprecedented nature of the current COVID-19 pandemic however means that many potentially high growth New Zealand agritech businesses have been exposed at the most important part of their funding cycle.

Access to Customers

At the time of the survey, the biggest risk to ‘current business activity’ was access to customers. This was cited by 50% of all respondents. This was particularly apparent for the SME sector.

It is likely that for domestic customers, access will become less of a problem as New Zealand reduces its COVID-19 alert level. At the time of the survey, a large number of agritech businesses, corporate as well as SME, were not classified as ‘essential’ businesses. This meant that they were not able to support or service customers in the primary sector. A number of respondents were critical of the government’s process for determining an ‘essential service’ at a time when the primary sector was the main driver of the country’s economy during lockdown.

Access to offshore customers however remains a significant challenge. Just over 50% of respondents cited that the restriction on international travel had impacted their business. With no end-date in sight for the relaxation of New Zealand’s closed borders, this is a challenge whose impact is likely to grow. Responses to the open question, enabling respondents to comment further on the impact of travel restrictions, indicated that a number of agritech businesses had already lost overseas sales and others were putting their offshore market development plans into hibernation.

Access to Markets

New Zealand’s closed borders threaten a number of agritech businesses medium to long-term offshore market development plans. This is significant.

Over the past 5 years, New Zealand’s exports of agritech products and services have flatlined at approximately NZ$ 1.5 billion per year. Compared with international peers such as Israel & the Netherlands, this figure suggests under-performance given the size of New Zealand’s agricultural sector.

One of the key drivers behind the government’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) initiative was to identify actions that could accelerate the growth of New Zealand agritech export sales. This activity would not only generate more export dollars, it was designed to create more highly paid jobs, particularly in the regions where much of the sector is based.

Based on the results of the survey, Agritech New Zealand believes that the closed borders will significantly impact the ability of agritech businesses to grow their offshore sales in the short to medium term. To compensate for the inability of entrepreneurs to travel overseas, a novel set of support mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure that international markets remain open to New Zealand’s agritech sector post the relaxation of border controls.

Access to offshore markets, includes one additional key metric; access to global capital to support potentially high growth agritech businesses invest and scale. Based on conversations that have taken place over the past 3 – 4 weeks with a number of global offshore funds – particularly those associated with Farm2050 (, new investment into New Zealand agritech companies at a Series A scale is unlikely to materialise until 2021. For a number of New Zealand agritech companies looking to start a Series A or B funding round, this is likely to impact significantly on cash runway and operations unless other finance options can be found.

Addressing these Challenges

In my next post, I will provide some insight into the potential mechanisms that government and industry can use to begin to address these real challenges that a number of businesses in our sector face.

Over the past 4 weeks, Agritech New Zealand has been in constant contact with government officials to promote ongoing support for the sector as we enter the economic recovery phase. Working collaboratively together, I express the hope and the belief that New Zealand’s agritech sector will emerge stronger as we go forward.

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

Day 2 at Irish Plough. The kiwis killing it. Yes Minister. Looking for Investment? And much more.

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

Yesterday, I provided an update on Day 1 at the Irish Ploughing Championships in Carlow. The official attendance stood at 105,000. Looking at the crowds today, I expect that number to be significantly larger. It’s been hot once again and just crazy busy.

Yesterday, I shared some of my takeaways of Ireland’s agri-business landscape. Today, I want to talk about the kiwis who are here and killing it; the investors we have met and the opportunities for New Zealand agritech’s sector.

Any offshore New Zealand agritech mission is a sum of its people. The delegation to the UK and Ireland have been superb. Great ambassadors for the country, they have engaged every step of the way. Hat therefore tipped to these great NZ representatives.

  • AbacusBio
  • AgResearch
  • Agritech New Zealand
  • Auckland Uniservices
  • Callaghan Innovation
  • Fonterra
  • GPS-it
  • Lincoln Agritech
  • MilkTechNZ
  • Next Farm
  • NZ National Fieldays
  • Paysauce
  • Rezare Systems
  • RiverWatch
  • Trev Holdings
  • Zero Home Farm

As well as the formal delegation, we have met independent NZ exhibitors from Figured, Gallagher, Hansen, Kaiwaka, LIC, Saber, Tru-Test, Waikato Milking Systems and Yardmaster. Add in Ambassador Brad Burgess and the team of in-market supporters from MFAT & NZTE. All up, we have over 45 kiwis on-site. (The photo above shows some of this team inside the NZ Pavilion this morning).

Collectively we are ‘Powered by Place’. At an NZTE breakfast reception this morning, we formally launched the NZ Agritech Story. We were joined by leading Irish agribusiness players. It’s taken 8 months of preparation and it’s great to say that the Story is now officially ‘live’. To view it, check out the Agritech New Zealand website here; the new home of the NZ Agritech Story

I had invited a couple of leading venture investors to join us for the launch; Cathal Fitzgerald, Head of the Irish Sovereign Fund’s agritech investment team and Richard O’Gorman, Director of Rabobank’s Global Agritech Fund. We spoke about New Zealand’s current agritech landscape and the work of the ‘All of Government’ agritech taskforce to help build and scale the sector. I know both Cathal and Richard through our joint partnership with Farm2050. It was great to be able to facilitate this connection on the other side of the world. Their interest in the New Zealand investment landscape is as strong as ever.

Today is our final day at the Plough. Tomorrow, we head off to spend the day with Teagasc, Ireland’s state agency providing research, advisory and education in agriculture, horticulture, food and rural development. The value of this Mission is building. I look forward to updating tomorrow from the home of Ireland’s agri research excellence.

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

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

Monday, September 16th, 2019

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.

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

Join leading New Zealand agritech businesses, researchers and capability providers at the 2019 Irish National Ploughing Championships and UK Dairy Day.

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

Callaghan Innovation, in partnership with Agritech New Zealand and NZTE, is coordinating a mission around the 2019 Irish National Ploughing Championships and UK Dairy Day.

If you think National Fieldays is big, think again. The Irish National Ploughing Championships attracts over 300,000 visitors. With similar pastoral farming systems to New Zealand, I believe that Ireland offers huge commercial opportunity to kiwi agritech firms. I recognised this when I attended the Agtech Nexus Europe conference in Dublin in December. The same opportunity applies in the UK. Our comparative pastoral farming systems and yet different northern & southern hemispheres, provide a great platform for NZ agritech firms to conduct 12 month R&D and field trials across two growing seasons.

In September, this mission of New Zealand mid to late stage start-ups and mature businesses along with researchers and capability providers, will get a deep insight into both the UK and Ireland’s agri industries, research, innovation systems and channel partners.

This trip will also offer New Zealand companies and agencies a chance to showcase our abilities and technology.

As well as in-market visits and meetings, the mission will attend the 2019 Irish National Ploughing Championships – one of the largest agricultural exhibitions in Europe – and UK Dairy Day, a dedicated annual one-day event for the dairy industry featuring over 300 exhibitors demonstrations and seminars.

Those participating in the mission will benefit from the opportunity to:

  • Gain insights into the UK and Ireland’s agri industries, research, innovation systems and channel partners. 
  • Take part in UK in-market visits to the AgriEPI Centre and CIEL, and Hands Free Hectare, among others.
  • Take part in Ireland in-market visits to Origin Green, UCD Lyons Farm, and Teagasc, among others.
  • Network with Irish and UK agritech organisations and businesses.
  • Attend a pre-mission workshop in Auckland to prepare for the mission.
  • Gain specific advice and support on event, accommodation and flight bookings to ensure the mission stays connected, as well as transportation and logistics arrangements over the two weeks.
  • Enter the Ploughing International Innovation Awards.

To register for the mission, please complete this form by Friday 19 July.

Callaghan Innovation will co-fund a limited number of companies based on stage, strategy and suitability. Co-funding criteria is available on the registration form. 

Confirmation of your place on the mission is subject to Callaghan Innovation approval and availability. The mission will begin the evening of Sunday 8 September in London, UK and conclude on the evening of Friday 20 September in Dublin, Ireland.

For any questions prior to application or to discuss funding opportunities please contact: 

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

The New Zealand agritech delegation has returned from the US. What happens next?

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

On Friday morning, Jacqui and I were invited to a small ‘town hall’ event just outside Watsonville in Northern California. We joined 60+ local specialty crop growers listen to US Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue (pictured above) and Congressman Jimmy Panetta talk about the US Federal government’s support for the sector.

Questions from the floor covered the whole range of issues we had seen during the week. Labor (lack of & cost of); immigration policy, water & rural infrastructure including lack of broadband, climate change & public sector investment (lack of) into research.

My take? High value produce in Salinas Valley does not translate into high margin. Rising labor costs on the one hand and crazy pressure from retailers on the other are squeezing growers like never before. Whole crop varieties are shutting up shop. A number of major growers are moving their operations south (to Mexico in many cases). According to the CEO of Driscoll at the Forbes Live conference, strawberry growers, the largest single specialty crop variety in California might only have 5 years left. These folk are worried. Big time.

For New Zealand’s growing agritech sector, this environment offers huge opportunity. Our work in the field of robotics and automation was recognised by several speakers at the conference. On Wednesday morning, the New Zealand delegation was given a 90 minute slot to present to Board members of Western Growers, including its President, Tom Nassif. This session over-ran by 30. Automating many in-field processes is seen as a priority for Western Grower members. It is also one of ours.

Now as we arrive back in Aotearoa, we are planning our next steps. In the next 3-4 weeks this will include an all-day workshop at which we will download our learnings from the week. This will likely include identifying the specialty crops which offer the best opportunity for our tech to address.

The composition of the delegation means that a number of our universities, crown research institutes and industry players will collaborate together to make this happen. It maps one of Agritech New Zealand’s main purpose statements; to build export sales by connecting everyone and everything in the country’s agritech ecosystem.

Last week we saw the value of that in spades. New relationships were developed and a common resolve emerged. If New Zealand is to scale globally, it has to work together. The workshop later this month will translate that ambition into action.

It’s great to be back home. It’s now time to get this done.

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

LIVE from Salinas, California: The New Zealand agritech delegation arrive to support US specialty crop growers address a major crisis

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

Today a large delegation of experienced New Zealand agri robotic and automation researchers and entrepreneurs arrived in Salinas, Northern California. We are here to meet Agritech New Zealand partner, Western Growers, the largest producers of fresh produce in North America. 

That’s 50%+ of all fresh vegetables, 50%+ of all fresh fruits, 50%+ of all organics. This is big.

We are here to learn more about one of Western Grower members’ most significant challenges. Labour. Lack of and cost of. Whilst the US public focuses on the merits, or otherwise, of a Mexican wall, the sad reality for most North American farmers &  growers is that more Mexican farm labourers are returning home than heading north. The labour crisis here is real. And its costing growers. Big time.

I have worked for several months with the Agritech team at Callaghan Innovation (big nod to Nicky & Simon) to bring a large and experienced team of kiwi specialists to Salinas.  We have representatives from;

  • AgResearch
  • Agritech New Zealand
  • Auckland University
  • Callaghan Innovation
  • CR Automation
  • Figured
  • GPS-IT
  • Lincoln Agritech
  • Massey University
  • New Zealand Trade & Enterprise
  • Plant & Food Research
  • PlantTech
  • Robotics Plus
  • TracMap
  • Uniservices
  • Waikato University
  • Zespri

It’s a fantastic group. We are here for a week and we are here to get stuff done.

I am writing this post during our Monday (PST) lunchtime break. This morning we have been on-farm looking at three crops; Romaine, Lettuce & Broccoli. This afternoon we are joining the Western Growers Trial meeting here at the WG Innovation & Technology Center in Salinas. This is when we will discuss the opportunity for conducting field trials of NZ agritech on Western Grower properties. This is when the rubber really hits the road.

Western Growers provides a huge commercial pathway for New Zealand agritech in the global specialty crop market. For context, according to a report published by Persistence Market Research in March 2018, the global specialty crops market is expected to witness a CAGR of 3.7%. from a valuation of US$ 1,382.3 Bn in 2017, to touch a valuation of US$ 1,842.3 Bn by the end of 2025. That’s NZD 2.77 trillion. Go figure.

It’s a massive opportunity, but for US growers, it’s also a massive challenge. Margins in this sector are often in the 3%-5% range. That’s tops. Increasing labour costs are wiping this out. The need to automate on-farm processes, particularly the harvesting of crops, is therefore front & centre for these growers. And this is where this week’s New Zealand’s agri robotic and automation delegation come in.

Back in August last year, Agritech New Zealand & Western Growers signed a strategic partnership agreement. It was designed in part to address this challenge. In case you missed it, this is what Western Growers had to say about it on US TV:

Tomorrow, we are in the field again, this time in Watsonville talking to growers of strawberries and other berry products. A major outcome of these discussions is that the technologies that we are focusing on this week will help growers back home; kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty, apples in the Hawkes Bay and grapes in Marlborough. All suffer seasonal labour shortages and all will benefit from the increased application of on-farm and in-orchard harvesting automation.

This mission is one of the most significant I have been on. It’s not just about learning about real on-farm experience in a general sense. It’s about enabling New Zealand’s agritech sector to understand and address a very specific grower need. And to do so in a very big market.

We have a major week ahead.

Posted in AgriTechNZ News