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Kia ora,

As New Zealand’s agritech sector settles into life in Alert Level 2, I wanted to share news of our substantial progress. The contribution so many of you made during the Government’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) consultancy process was rewarded last week. The 2020 Budget announced $11.4M funding support for the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan. This is a fantastic achievement and will cover implementing large parts of the Plan over the next two years.

Looking ahead, the delivery of the Agritech ITP is even more strategically important than ever before. Some of its mission may have to be re-prioritised as we accelerate its purpose, but the collaborative framework it created between industry and Government is enduring. In my view, the Agritech ITP offers the best hope we have for a reinvigorated and stronger New Zealand agritech sector.

What are the next steps? The Agritech ITP taskforce is developing a robust project management process for the Plan’s delivery. Industry will play a central role and its input is critical for the Plan’s long term success. Agritech New Zealand is establishing working groups to map the Plan’s work streams and I am currently drafting Terms of Reference for these groups to ensure maximum industry input.

However, for many of our agritech businesses, I am very aware of just how challenging the current COVID-19 climate is. From the outset of Alert Level 4, we knew it was important to gain a better understanding of our sector’s business continuity planning. We conducted a major survey and three immediate challenges were identified: access to funding, markets and customers. While New Zealand’s borders remain closed, the opportunity for new early stage company funding is grim. I’m not sugar coating this. Anecdotal feedback supports early assessment by Callaghan Innovation that up to 50 percent of pre-revenue agritech companies are likely to fail. It is imperative that every opportunity is taken to increase your visibility. For example, if you haven’t already, please create a free profile on Scale-Up New Zealand.

As we progress through COVID-19 alert levels, our agritech sector needs to embrace a new way of thinking and test new opportunities. For example, increased collaboration with Australia’s agritech ecosystem. Given the impact on global supply chains, the importance of developing regional supply chain platforms is likely to increase. For Agritech New Zealand, it also means changing the way we work. Traditional events have been replaced by digital events. During Alert Level 4, we established a webinar series that hosted over 2000 attendees plus local and international thought leaders. In case you missed it, the AgriTechNZ Insights webinar series is now available on demand.

During the past seven weeks, I have also been speaking to our global network to help ensure the world knows that New Zealand agritech is still open for business. Even though individual travel is not possible, it further underscores one of the immediate priorities of the Agritech ITP schedule; to further promote New Zealand’s Agritech Story offshore.

There is one specific offshore opportunity that is occupying my focus; the potential creation of a Trans-Tasman agritech bubble. As co-founder of the Australia New Zealand Agritech Council we work with the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF) who are currently advising on the practicalities of opening our mutual borders without the need to quarantine. We have identified a major opportunity for both country’s ecosystems to collaborate at an entrepreneurial and research level. Our hope is this may form the basis of a longer term collaboration model across our region as we navigate our new normal.

Introducing the 2020 Bridge Hub Water Challenge

Water is our most precious natural resource and the entire agri food supply chain needs to increase its efficiency and resilience. Bridge Hub, an Australian partner of the ANZ Agritech Council, launched its 2020 Water Challenge to address the issue. Now, New Zealand experts, innovators and researchers have been invited to participate. Please email me to learn more.

Finally, our Annual Meeting is next week. Special thanks to the Establishment Council for their on-going support, input and energy since the organisation was formed two years ago. I look forward to working with the newly elected Executive Council who will be announced at our Annual Meeting.

Ngā mihi,

Peter Wren-Hilton
Executive Director
AgriTech New Zealand

PS: Fieldays Online Innovation Awards applications close on 15 June.

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