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Introducing the Trans-Tasman Water Challenge

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

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 

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Agritech New Zealand is delighted by the NZ Government’s Budget commitment of $11.4M to support the Agritech ITP

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Today is a major milestone in Agritech New Zealand’s intense 12 month engagement with the NZ Government’s Agritech ITP taskforce. This afternoon’s announcement by Minister Twyford that $11.4M had been committed in Budget 2020 to support the Agritech ITP is massive.

You can review the final draft Agritech ITP documentation here:

You can view yesterday’s Budget statement here (It appears on page 4).

Whilst this post is an immediate reaction (literally) to the Budget announcement, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have made this possible.

  • To the Agritech New Zealand Executive Council who have supported the Agritech ITP initiative from Day 1
  • To Agritech New Zealand members who have not only contributed to the consultation process, but who have gone the extra mile
  • To the 500+ industry representatives who attended the regional ITP workshops across the country that we organised through 2019 and early 2020. Your contribution was awesome. Without significant industry input, we frankly would not have got to where we are today.

I would like to finally thank my colleagues and friends on the government’s Agritech ITP taskforce.

  • In particular, David Downs, the government’s Agritech ITP taskforce lead and Arek Wojasz, our MBIE policy team go-to.

    It’s impossible to underestimate the impact that both David & Arek have had on the success on the Agritech ITP submission. Jacqui and I have had weekly calls with David & Arek for months and many discussions in between. Not only did we organise the regional consultative workshops together, we have discussed all the opportunities that an effective Agritech ITP can offer New Zealand’s agritech sector. David & Arek totally got it. Thanks guys!

  • Finally, the rest of the government’s Agritech ITP taskforce. For the record that’s MBIE, MFAT, MPI, NZTE, Callaghan Innovation & NZVIF. On a more personal note, that’s Arek, Gavin, Lucie, Brendan, Simon & Richard. Behind every government agency name, there is an amazing individual making this happen.

Over the coming days and weeks, I’ll be working with the wider government Agritech ITP taskforce to ensure that industry’s input into the ITP delivery and execution remains absolute.

That works starts now.

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The Australia New Zealand agritech ecosystem just got a MASSIVE post-evokeAG boost

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

The key theme at last week’s evokeAG conference in Melbourne was the power of collaboration.

In New Zealand, this has been a key driver for the past two years. Agritech New Zealand has succeeded in bringing together different key stakeholders from across the agritech ecosystem to create a sector-wide community; a community made up of industry, research, investment and government partners. Over the past 12 months, we have worked together to develop a long-term Agritech Industry Transformation Plan. You can view and download the final draft of this work from the MBIE website here.

This power of sector collaboration is now well understood in Australia and it was great to see the formal launch of the Australian Agritech Association (AAA) earlier this month. Its co-founders are Andrew Coppin, Sarah Nolet, Craig Shapiro, Matthew Pryor and Mike Briers. I’ve worked closely with these folk for a long time and it’s a hugely positive step for New Zealand’s own agritech sector, that the AAA has been established. A strong Aussie agritech sector is helping generate a viable and powerful regional ecosystem. To create global impact, that’s absolutely critical for New Zealand.

For the past nine months, I have been working with the same awesome Aussies to develop a dynamic framework for sector collaboration between Australia and New Zealand. The formal establishment of the Australia New Zealand Agritech Council last September was an important step in this journey. It brought together key ecosystem builders on both sides of the ditch.

This collaborative framework was formally recognised at a meeting organised by the Council on Thursday morning immediately following the evokeAG conference. (Thanks to Austrade for hosting). It has provided a MASSIVE long-term boost to the Council’s vision for the region’s agritech ecosystem.

On the New Zealand side, we were joined by Dame Annette King, the NZ High Commissioner to Australia; Vanessa O’Neill, the NZ Consul General & Trade Commissioner to Victoria; David Downs, the NZ Government agritech taskforce lead; Grant Bryden, Director for Primary Sector Futures at MPI, together with Angela Traill & Mitali Purohit, key representatives from NZTE & Callaghan Innovation. Dame Annette made it clear that she and the NZ Inc. team based in Australia would provide enthusiastic ongoing support for the vision.

On the Australian side, we were joined by Chantal Jackson, Director, Agricultural Innovation and Productivity, Ministry of Agriculture; Tim Lester, Executive Officer of the Council of Rural R&D Corps; Michiel Van Lookeren Campagne, Director of Agriculture and Food at CSIRO; Charlie Thomas, General Manager, Digital & Industry Partnerships, National Farmer’s Federation; John Harvey, Managing Director of AgriFutures Australia, together with leading representatives from a number of Australian states.

The meeting discussed the Council’s vision for identifying opportunities for trans-Tasman collaboration. One of our first key missions is to promote the region to the global investment community. Attracting international capital into the region will help support and scale some of our most promising early stage companies. Both the New Zealand and the Australian government representatives recognised the value of this collaborative approach and it will be tested for the first time next month during the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in San Francisco. This event provides a platform for several Australia New Zealand Agritech Council members to share that vision with leading global investors and agribusinesses. I look forward to joining my Aussie colleagues in the Bay area as we make that pitch.

In his closing remarks on Wednesday at the evokeAG conference, John Harvey, Managing Director of AgriFutures Australia talked about how the first evokeAG conference in 2019 had created a splash, the 2020 version a ripple, and how he wanted the 2021 event to create a wave. Thursday’s Agritech Council meeting was designed to help generate that first wave. It’s scheduled to hit the shores of San Francisco Bay on 17-18 March.

I look forward to updating on the impact it causes.

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The NZ agritech mission arrives in Melbourne

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

Over 60 Kiwi agriculture innovators and leaders are now in Melbourne to showcase their technologies at the high-profile evokeAG event, create export and partnership opportunities, and build on New Zealand’s reputation as a leading agricultural innovator.

evokeAG is a two-day international event all about innovation in agriculture, drawing delegates from the entire agriculture ecosystem from across the Asia Pacific region and internationally. The mission is led by Callaghan Innovation in partnership with NZTE, Agritech New Zealand, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Simon Yarrow, Callaghan Innovation’s Agritech Group Manager, says New Zealand’s startup ecosystem for ‘agritech and new food’ has been ranked in the top 10 globally and there is an opportunity for our agritech to become a multi-billion-dollar sector by 2025 (currently $1.4 billion).

“We’ve got a strong mix of Kiwi startups, larger firms, research institutes, investors, commercialisation experts, and ecosystem connectors joining our mission this year,” says Mr Yarrow. ‘That’s a reflection of New Zealand’s agritech ecosystem being more advanced than most, though still young’. 

“We’re seeing real potential for global success in robotics and automation, cloud-based platforms to manage day-to-day tasks, environmentally friendly pesticides and fertilisers, and visual artificial intelligence for animal health.

“But what we don’t have is access to the same level of investment and global channels to market. It’s why our innovators need to go the extra mile to build these global partnerships.”

As well as showcasing their products and services to international agritech leaders, members will be validating their products and strategies in the Australian market, while meeting investors and checking out research institutes and farming operations in the Mildura region.

For as long as there has been farmers,  New Zealand has had the ability to turn local agritech Dsolutions into global success stories,” says Vanessa O’Neill, Trade Commissioner. “That means accelerating the growth of agritech innovations from NZ start-ups into scalable, investable and global companies.

“Global partnerships are second nature in New Zealand business. As Australia is New Zealand’s largest two-way trading partner it makes sense to look for opportunities to work together and take our agritech advantages to the rest of the world. ​Proven agritech innovations from New Zealand, boosted by Australian resources and networks, are a winning combination in global markets.” says O’Neill.

New Zealand speakers include Mitali Purohit (Callaghan Innovation), David Downs (NZTE), Darryn Keiller (Autogrow), Steve Saunders (Robotics Plus) and Dean Tilyard (The Factory).

Organisations joining the 2020 evokeAG mission include:

Agritech innovators

AgriSmart: cloud-based digital agritech company specialising in timesheet & payroll software for Horticulture and Viticulture.

Allied Farmers: NZX listed with a range of agricultural solutions for farmers including the MyLivestock livestock stock trading mobile app and trading platform.

Autogrow Systems: Controlled Environment Agriculture with automation solutions supporting growers in over 40 countries producing more than 100 different crop types.

BumperCrop: precision insights for covered crop farms using automated wireless sensors, intuitive labour management tools and a data management platform.

Cucumber Ltd: sources technology for business challenges, delivering digital solutions for improved insight, decision-making and operational efficiency.

Ecolibrium Biologicals: builds transitional technology for biopesticide pest control, allowing growers to achieve the same outcome as synthetic ag-chem.

Ecrotek: innovative solutions helping beekeepers of all sizes run sustainable, efficient and profitable operations.

Eko360: technology controlling nutrient release and fertilisers for food crops to optimise plant growth, reducing impact on soils, the atmosphere and waterways.

GPS-it: better farming decisions and navigation using the latest aerial mapping technology to produce the most accurate maps available.

Halo Systems (TagIT Technologies): a cloud-based monitoring, controlling and dashboard platform allowing inputs from other company’s technologies.

Instep (a division of Asian Scientific Technologies Ltd): provides a suite of carbon and sustainability programmes to a wide range of Australasian and international businesses.

Iris Data Science: artificial intelligence and machine learning specialists for the agricultural, horticultural and other sectors. Developed sheep facial recognition software. 

Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC): farmer-owned co-operative providing dairy genetics, information technology, herd testing and DNA parentage verification services.

Marama Labs: the business and its flagship product, the CloudSpec, gives winemakers unprecedented access to flavour and colour data of their wines.

Mastaplex: veterinary point-of-care diagnostic tests for bovine mastitis treatment. Mastatest provides dairy farmers and vets an easy, precise and fast mastitis diagnostic.

NuPoint: system providing real time asset and people tracking which is used to provide accurate traceability and proof of placement.

Page Bloomer Associates Ltd: supports sustainable food and fibre production by connecting the primary sector with science and technology providers. 

PICMI: technology making hiring seasonal staff easier with technology streamlining the employment process delivering prepared, compliant workers ready to start work. 

Radius Robotics: automating most tasks associated with arable crop production. Its robotic polyculture farming system with machine learning reduces soil depletion.

Rezare Systems: helps agribusinesses embrace digital technology, streamline their operations and get closer to farmers and customers.

Robotics Plus: develops and commercialises mechanisation, automation, machine vision, robotic and sensor technologies to address global challenges.

Sparrows: connects growers, distributors and freight forwarders on one platform to enable tracking and monitoring of freight, reducing stock loss and food wastage.

Trust Codes: traceability cloud-based platform helping food and beverage businesses combat product fraud, engage with consumers and comply with regulations.

Zespri: global horticulture marketing company interested in innovations around crop prediction and addressing labour shortages on the orchard and in the supply chain.

Webtools: delivers innovative solutions through a suite of SaaS products and custom development, using cloud-based systems, native applications and IOT.

Agritech researchers

AgResearch: improving pastoral agriculture practices and outcomes with science

Auckland UniServices: helps commercialise intelligent ideas largely out of the University of Auckland, through partnerships with business the primary sector.

Lincoln Agritech: combines leading-edge science and engineering to deliver real solutions for the environment, agriculture (food and fibre) and associated industries. 

PlantTech: using cutting-edge artificial intelligence solutions to address scientific challenges in New Zealand’s horticulture industry.

Plant & Food Research: using world-leading science to improve the way its partners grow, fish, harvest and share food – healthy foods with sustainable production systems.

University of Waikato: Robotics and Sensing group develops smart machines, robots and visual sensors for horticulture and agriculture including harvesting and grading.

Agritech investment and support

Agritech New Zealand: a membership-based organisation advancing agritech through advocacy, collaboration, innovation, and missions to global markets.

Callaghan Innovation: NZ’s innovation agency helping big and small frontier firms get ahead with tech, science and commercialisation skills, co-funding, connections and advice.

Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research: a NZ crown research institute working with primary industry to develop science, research and technology solutions for commercial realities.

Ministry for Primary Industries: the NZ Government’s primary sector champion enabling, improving productivity and sustainability, and ensuring safe food production.  

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment: NZ Government department developing and delivering policy, services, advice and regulation to support business.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise: the NZ Government’s international business development agency, a key partner in supporting our exporters to succeed

NZ National Fieldays Society Inc.: Southern Hemisphere’s largest agricultural event in Hamilton, NZ. A key launch platform for cutting edge technology and innovation.

Sprout: incubator/accelerator for bold agritech businesses and entrepreneurs who move fast, think big, with solutions that reach from farm to fork.

The Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust: an independent charitable trust making targeted investments in agricultural, horticultural and forestry.

WNT Ventures: incubator empowering early-stage frontier tech firms in commercialising deep-tech solutions and ideas, often in agriculture and horticulture.


Callaghan Innovation: Melanie Tuala, + 64 27 609 4502

NZTE: Mitchell Blincoe, + 61 427 801 843

Agritech New Zealand: Peter Wren-Hilton, + 64 21 791 120

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The United States Study Centre recommends Australia's agritech sector develops mutually-beneficial initiatives with New Zealand

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

The United States Study Centre (USSC) at the University of Sydney has today released details of a joint project between researchers at USSC and LinkedIn that has found that Australia’s agricultural technology (agritech) networks are less dense and less connected to the United States than New Zealand’s.  

The following text is taken from this morning’s USSC media release.

‘Using proprietary data from LinkedIn, the research released today uses social network analysis to examine the strength of connections in one of Australia’s emerging high-tech, high-growth industries. Dense networks are an essential component of innovation, and Australia is clearly lagging behind its trans-Tasman neighbour. 

Australia is also failing to leverage its relationship with the United States. New Zealand’s smaller agritech industry has denser connections to the US agritech network than Australia’s. The US agritech market is the largest in the world – estimated to be valued at US$10.2 billion. As it accounts for roughly 65 per cent of global agritech investment, connections with the US are vital and Australian agritech is not taking advantage of the strong cultural and economic ties between the two countries as other sectors have.  

Compared to Australia, New Zealand does more with less. New Zealand’s smaller agritech network is not only more cohesive and interconnected than its Australian counterpart, but its total number of connections to US networks is on par with Australia’s, despite its smaller market size.

The report offers a number of ways that Australia can work to address these shortfalls in what should be a booming future industry. These include implementing mutually-beneficial initiatives with New Zealand to increase foreign venture capital investment in the region generally. 

“Lack of access to funding, customer, supplier or partner networks is one of the often cited barriers facing Australian startups. This research makes an important contribution to understanding the linkages between Australia and the United States in the emerging agritech ecosystem.” said Claire McFarland, Director – Innovation and Entrepreneur Program at USSC’.

You can view the full report at

In September, I joined Australian colleagues for the launch of the Australia New Zealand Agritech Council ( at the ANZLF conference in Auckland. It was no secret that New Zealand’s agritech ecosystem was better developed than Australia’s. Agritech New Zealand is one of the major reasons. By connecting everyone and everything in New Zealand’s agritech ecosystem, we have sought to promote and scale the agritech sector both domestically, but perhaps more importantly, offshore. That has generated visibility in key capital markets in the United States and beyond.

For New Zealand, a poor performing Australia is absolutely not in our best interests. Yep. You read that right. For investors sitting in San Francisco, London or Singapore, they want to see a strongly performing trans-Tasman region. It’s one of the reasons that the ANZ Agritech Council was established back in September. Its mission, which is supported in the recommendations made in today’s USSC report, is to position the region as a strong performing global agritech hub with significant opportunity for inbound venture investment. I strongly endorse this strategy.

Over the next two days, 1,350 delegates in Melbourne attending the evokeAG conference, are going to learn more about the opportunities that the trans-Tasman region offers. It’s been a privilege to sit on the evokeAG steering committee and it continues to be a privilege to work with some awesome Aussies keen to help build that regional hub.

The next 48 hours are going to be truly awesome. To follow the NZ Agritech delegation in Melbourne on Twitter, check out our hashtag @agritech_nz

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What will drive Agritech in New Zealand in 2020?

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

As we look into our crystal ball, one thing is certain. 2020 will be a very different to 2019.

We have, of course, 2019 to thank for this. It was the year when a number of major foundations were put in place for the scaling and growth of the country’s agritech sector. Some of the key milestones for Agritech New Zealand included:

  • The vote taken at the Precision Agriculture Association of New Zealand (PAANZ) AGM in November to disestablish itself and join Agritech New Zealand within the NZ Tech Alliance. Agritech New Zealand’s own Executive Council approved the move in December meaning that the country now has a very significant industry body representing both the demand and the supply side of the agritech coin. I look forward to welcoming PAANZ members to our team.
  • The decision by the New Zealand Cabinet in December to support the recommendations made in the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan white paper. This provides a major opportunity for a wide range of government levers to be leveraged to address some of the key challenges and opportunities that the sector collectively faces. By working together, industry and government now have a powerful framework to build on. This will be a major focus for Agritech New Zealand through the year.
  • The increasing depth of global capital being attracted into emerging New Zealand agritech companies. Interest in our sector is growing exponentially as offshore partners get a better understanding of our core capabilities and strengths. Further major offshore delegations in 2020 are designed to increase this level of global connectivity.
  • The launch of the Australia New Zealand Agritech Council at the ANZLF meeting in Auckland in September. This is designed to position the trans-Tasman region as being a key agritech hub in the global market. Expect more news at next month’s evokeAG conference in Melbourne when over 100 kiwi delegates are expected to attend.

As I write this post, it’s hard not to think about the plight of Australian farmers and growers in the ongoing bush fire tragedy. It has brought the impact and reality of ‘climate change’ into sharp focus. I believe this is going to be a key theme for New Zealand’s own primary sector producers through 2020 and beyond.

There are a number of emerging global mega themes. Climate change, more extreme weather events, the environmental impact of agricultural production and the license to operate are some of the most significant. I believe that through 2020, these will be some of the key drivers in terms of agritech innovation and development in New Zealand.

Perhaps some of the most important opportunities for supporting the wider farmer and grower community by the country’s agritech sector are to be found in the provisions of the Zero Carbon Act, passed by Parliament in 2019. These set out the impact of an emissions pricing scheme designed to make New Zealand carbon neutral by 2050.  In supporting legislation, the Emissions Trading Reform Bill, the primary sector is still set to pay for emissions, but not until 2025. The sector will work with Government to come up with its own on-farm pricing scheme, aiming to reduce emissions in the meantime. A review in 2022 would develop the alternative pricing scheme, access the sector’s progress in reducing emissions and consider the barriers it faces. 

Significantly, “If the review finds there isn’t enough progress, the Government can put the agriculture sector into the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) at processor level earlier than 2025”.

From my perspective, this provides two key opportunities for NZ’s wider agritech ecosystem to collaborate together. And here I am looking at four key stakeholder groups: industry, research, producers & government.

The first is to support our primary sector producers by developing the key technologies necessary to reduce emissions and so meet the major targets set out in the legislation. Our farmers and growers have seen enough of the regulation, the media commentary and the negative bile from naysayers. It’s time to come up with the investment and innovation necessary for our key producers to assist them address the issues that they and the rest of the community (urban dwellers included) face around cleaning up our waterways and any other negative environmental impact.

The second, and perhaps much more significant opportunity, is for New Zealand to take a global thought leadership position around climate change and the environmental impact of agricultural production to rapidly scale our major agritech businesses on the international stage. This has to be a core sector goal. It meets the demand and supply side metric. Farmers and growers worldwide need the technology. Our researchers and commercial companies can deliver it.

Over the next 12 months, Agritech New Zealand will be working with the Government’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan taskforce to accelerate some of these opportunities. They meet both an urgent domestic and a global need.

In 2019, Agritech New Zealand helped develop the emerging multi-stakeholder platform. Over the next 12 months, we have the opportunity to assist execute and deliver.

Welcome to 2020!

Posted in General

Why New Zealand agritech can become a global leader

Monday, October 28th, 2019

Yesterday, I posted a piece that talked about New Zealand agritech’s role in assisting New Zealand farmers create their own emissions pricing and testing regime. This comes off the back of the government’s announcement last week that New Zealand will be the first nation in the world to fully fold agriculture into an emissions pricing scheme, with a comprehensive price on greenhouse gases introduced by 2025.

This is a major move and one that provides New Zealand’s agritech sector with the opportunity to take a global leadership role. As I said in yesterday’s post, consumers around the world are becoming more sensitive towards climate change and the size of agriculture’s carbon footprint. The New Zealand farming organisations & representatives who worked with government to facilitate last’ week’s announcement are fully aware of this. And so are New Zealand farmers on the ground.

This is not however just a New Zealand issue. It’s one that affects the whole world. By becoming the first nation in the world to fully fold agriculture into an emissions pricing scheme, this provides the country with a massive opportunity. Some of the first placeholders are already in place.

Working with Farm2050, Agritech New Zealand looks forward to facilitating a three-year nutrients initiative that will see disruptive nutrient technologies tested and benchmarked in New Zealand. By running field trials in different locations from Northland to the Waikato, Hawkes Bay to Taranaki and the Canterbury plains to Southland, we will be able to analyse the application and measurement of different nutrient-focused solutions that will not only provide insights into their impact on plant yield, but also their mitigation effect against negative environmental impact. By bringing international solutions to New Zealand, our own domestic agritech sector will be able to learn, compare and then compete.

As part of this process, the all of government agritech taskforce is working with Agritech New Zealand to recommend actions and initiatives that support these deliverables. Thinking big is driving a lot of this discussion and this means viewing major issues such as climate change and the carbon footprint from a global perspective. If we can address these challenges in New Zealand, then we have every opportunity to export that knowledge and technology to the rest of the world.

For New Zealand farmers and growers, this is great news. I’ve watched them get bagged from some sections of the media over the past year and for the vast majority of these hardworking folk, the criticism is largely unjustified. Over the past few months, I’ve also seen some of the personal toll that this has taken on farmers I know. My simple message is that you are not on your own and that there are a very large number of people in New Zealand’s agritech sector working on the technologies and innovations that can help address some of the key environmental challenges that we all face.

Perhaps a bit more personal than most of my posts, but it’s important to put things into perspective. New Zealand’s farmers and growers continue to be the backbone of much of our economy. I detect a real desire from both industry and government to tackle some of the key environmental challenges we face, together. Whilst much of the recent focus has been on regulation and the cost of implementing this, I believe it’s time to start looking at the amazing innovation and technology coming out of New Zealand’s agritech sector that will help industry reach this major milestone by 2025.

With the correct mindset in place, this will happen.

It is this fantastic opportunity should be driving the current discussion.

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New technology will support NZ farmers create their own emissions pricing and testing regime

Sunday, October 27th, 2019

Last week, the Government announced plans to make New Zealand the first nation in the world to fully fold agriculture into an emissions pricing scheme, with a comprehensive price on greenhouse gases introduced by 2025.

It will do this by accepting a proposal from leading farming organisations, including Dairy NZ and Beef & Lamb New Zealand, to give them the next five years to develop a farm-level pricing mechanism separate from New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Farmers will pay no additional levies or charges in the meantime. If this new scheme is not established however, agriculture will be folded into the ETS by default in 2025.

In short, the ball is now firmly in our farmers court.

Agritech New Zealand stands 100% behind the country’s farming community. The technology being developed by our members is designed to support increased productivity whilst maximising sustainable on-farm practice. This extends beyond the ETS and includes reducing the impact of poor nutrient application and management and its potential for run-off into our waterways.

Farming’s license to operate is real. Consumers around the world are becoming more sensitive towards climate change and the size of agriculture’s carbon footprint. The New Zealand farming organisations & representatives that have been working with government are fully aware of this. And so are New Zealand farmers on the ground. What they need over the next five year’s are solutions that will assist them address the challenge set out by the government last week. It’s an agenda that our members are keen to support.

As I write this post, the all of government agritech taskforce is considering a series of actions and initiatives designed to assist scale New Zealand’s agritech sector. It is a priority for the government’s Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) first announced back on 2 July in Parliament. The ITP programme is designed help New Zealand’s agritech sector develop the technologies necessary to assist farmers meet some of the major challenges they face.

Regulation goes so far. At the end of the day it will be the technology and innovation that New Zealand’s agriculture sector is known for that will enable our farmers meet the farm-level emissions pricing scheme that government and industry signed up for last week. Agriculture has, is, and will continue to be a major contributor to our national economy. Championing that cause and our hardworking farmers and growers is why we do this.

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Guest Post by David Downs: The NZ Agritech Story gets its formal launch today

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

Tēnā koutou

I’m delighted to let you know that the New Zealand Agritech Story will be launched on Monday in NZ, and in Ireland as part of the Irish Plough. The Story is a key component of the wider initiative to accelerate the growth of the Agritech sector for NZ (part of the ‘Industry Transformation Plans’ that MBIE is leading).

Our opening lines of the media release are:

New Zealand has a new story to tell, one that highlights the nation’s ingenuity, development of cutting-edge technology, and care for its people and place.

The New Zealand Agritech Story provides a compelling way of promoting New Zealand’s agricultural technology internationally, to build awareness and preference for New Zealand solutions and ultimately help more New Zealand agritech businesses succeed on the world stage.

The central theme of the story is Powered by Place. All the materials will be housed on the website, which is linked to Agritech New Zealand’s main website. There is more to the work than just a video (although there is an excellent video as part of the toolkit!) – we also have case study material, facts and figures, speech notes, pitch decks and more.

We are looking to launch the story on morning TV this week, and will follow this with a media release, a story on the NZTE website, social-media campaign, and support from across NZ Inc through their many newsletters. As mentioned, it will also be launched internationally, with the NZ Delegation at the Irish Ploughing Competition (Europe’s largest agricultural show) featuring it as part of the NZ presence there.

This has been six months of exhaustive work. A project team included representatives from industry body Agritech New Zealand, the NZ Story group, from across the agritech ecosystem and government. The overall narrative and messages were informed by a series of industry workshops in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Palmerston North and Lincoln, involving around 300 representatives from across the sector.  

Consulting firm Deloitte also conducted offshore market insights research on current perceptions of New Zealand agritech by key industry stakeholders in priority markets – the United States, United Kingdom and Ireland. Their report is available as part of this toolkit.

We should be very proud of the work done by our teams have done, working in partnership with the Industry – this is an outstanding, innovative marketing campaign, and feedback from early previews are excellent. One industry veteran described it as brilliantly capturing the way he felt about the industry: ‘it brought a tear to my eye’.

Ngā mihi o te wiki o te reo Māori

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Agritech Unleashed 2019 – The wraps come off the NZ agritech sector roadmap

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

On Thursday 13 June, Agritech New Zealand, with the support of National Fieldays, and the generous sponsorship of the Ministry of Primary Industries, are hosting Agritech Unleashed; a major one-day event at National Fieldays which will provide visibility and insights into some of the major initiatives being planned for New Zealand’s agritech sector.

These include:

  • A preview of the New Zealand agritech story. This is a major project that Agritech New Zealand has been developing with New Zealand Trade & Enterprise over the past 6 months
  • A preview of the establishment of a New Zealand agritech venture fund. For New Zealand’s early stage agritech sector looking to scale, this has often been cited as the missing link.
  • The formal New Zealand launch of Farm2050’s Nutrient Initiative. This 3-year initiative is designed to identify nutrient-related technologies that will not only increase plant yield, but also mitigate against negative environmental impact such as run-off. A critically important opportunity for New Zealand to lead the world in sustainable farming
  • The 2019 NZ Aerospace Challenge is also addressing one of the biggest issues facing the agricultural sector – sustainability. 20 companies are developing a product or service that detects, monitors or measures water or soil pollution using the very latest satellite and unmanned aircraft (UA) technology. Learn how NZ is leading the world in this space.
  • The Government has launched an ‘all of government’ agritech taskforce. At this session, the taskforce lead will focus on the initiatives under discussion and how they are being designed to support and scale New Zealand’s agritech sector.

Five ground-breaking sessions designed to truly unleash the potential of New Zealand’s agritech sector. Like any set of new initiatives however, there is a significant back story to these.

The story began three years ago when it became apparent that whilst global investment into the agritech sector was accelerating very rapidly, very little was finding its way to New Zealand. Industry and government sat down together to understand the ‘why’ and the answer became quickly apparent. Whilst the core individual components necessary to build a dynamic agritech ecosystem were in place, fragmentation and silos within government & industry meant that huge commercial opportunity was being lost. New Zealand did not have a coherent & compelling story to share.

One year ago this month, Agritech New Zealand was established to help address this challenge. It was a case of industry, government, research & investor stakeholders coming together and working through the issues. Since then, we have signed global partnership agreements with major players including Farm2050 & Western Growers. Globally connected capital has begun to find its way into New Zealand to the likes of Robotics Plus, Biolumic, Halter and most recently, Invert Robotics.

Agritech Unleashed 2019 is the culmination of this three year’s work. As well as providing a platform for industry and government to announce some major new long-term initiatives for New Zealand’s agritech sector, it is also providing a unique opportunity to showcase some of our great companies and their technology to a global audience.

Delegates from over 40 countries will be attending National Fieldays this year. The Agritech Unleashed event is enabling New Zealand companies to reach out, connect and engage with this audience. Keynote speakers, including the Hon Damien O’Connor, Minister of Agriculture and Minister for Biosecurity, Food Safety, and Rural Communities, will talk about New Zealand’s competitive advantage in this space and how our agritech sector is today addressing key global challenges. These include developing more sustainable farming practices to improve food production whilst at the same time reducing negative environmental impact.

To support the event, Agritech New Zealand has published a landing page on our website that will be updated over the coming days with the names of our speakers, panellists and how to apply for tickets.

Agritech Unleashed marks the beginning of the next chapter of the sector’s exciting journey. We hope you can join us.

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World-first NZ tech changing the global agricultural landscape

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

New Zealand agritech companies are creating world-first technology to help feed the world and lead the way in their industry, AgritechNZ chief executive Peter Wren-Hilton says.

Technology is making life easier, from eco-friendly cars to faster software and tech improvements are benefitting Kiwis in everyday life, he says.

“The same goes for agritech innovation such as crop protection and plant biotechnology which is improving the lives of farmers and consumers around New Zealand.

“Robotics Plus is one New Zealand agricultural robotics and automation company which has been largely responsible for seeing revolutionary robotic apple packers going global.

“They are initially targeting the US, Australian and New Zealand markets which is fuelling a period of accelerated growth.”

Apple packhouses already use automation extensively for sorting and grading, but the process of arranging apples in trays for export is still highly labour intensive.

Robotics Plus and their packing technology is a game-changer for the industry. The Robotics Plus apple packer identifies and places apples in their trays and can safely handle up to 120 fruit per minute which is the equivalent of two people, Wren-Hilton says.

“Another Kiwi company, Autogrow, works with growers to create automated hardware, software and data solutions to help new growers set up their grow sites and existing growers to modernise theirs.

“They are leveraging the power of technology, data science and plant biology to provide growers affordable, accessible and easy-to-use innovation – 24/7, anywhere in the world.

“Autogrow supports growers and resellers in over 40 countries producing over 100 different crop types in a variety of environments.

“Their technology feeds the world and its technology is found in greenhouses, hoophouses, tunnels, indoor grow rooms, nurseries and vertical farms running and optimising 2556 individual grow rooms across 637.34 hectares which is enough growing power to produce 372,844 tonnes of tomatoes a year.

“A third NZ company, BioLumic, has produced UV technology which delivers ultraviolet light to seeds and seedlings to trigger biological mechanisms that increase plant growth, vigour and yields. Their world-first technology is clean, green and GM free.

“BioLumic has created a seedling treatment using UV light that it says boosts the yield of specialty crops by up to 22 percent while also making plants heartier and more pest resistant.

“Globally, pesticide applications rates are down 95 percent since 1960 as today’s products are 10 times more effective and have an improved safety profile.

“In 2015 high yield biotech crops around the world used 19.425 million fewer hectares of land to produce the same amount of feed, fuel and fibre crops. With less land available for agriculture that efficiency is necessary to keep up with growing populations.

“New Zealand invests nearly $750 million in research and development for food and agriculture but is only just starting to see innovation startups commercialise the tech resource coming from public and private investment.

“Our country is a big primary producer and tech will very soon make a big difference to agriculture. Digitisation of the farm is impacting agriculture globally,” he says.

For further information contact Make Lemonade editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188

Posted in General