On 30 November we hosted an online update for the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan (ITP). It was a packed session with plenty of content focussed on actual progress rather than ‘plans for transformation’.
The language of ITPs was inherited from similar economic development approaches in the United Kingdom and Singapore. The specific principles of this approach include taking a sector specific focus and working with both industry and ‘all of government’ to coordinate a series of actions in the short – medium term that are intended to have a long-term impact or transformation.
‘All of Government’ is a term that often gets used and yet for those that work in or with government it is a term of intent rather than a reflection on standard practice. So, it’s significant that the intent of an all of government approach finds meaning in the execution of a shared plan. In my role during the last year, I’ve spent a reasonable portion of each week working with agency teams either individually, or in collaborative sessions. It has been a privilege to see the skills and talents of different groups coming together to focus on our sector. In particular it has been exciting to see the in-market capability of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) matched with the sector affinity of Callaghan Innovation.
It is highly significant that Ministerial ownership for the Agritech ITP is now shared between Minister O’Connor and Minister Nash. Their portfolios cover agriculture, trade and SMEs – a landscape capturing the varied interests of agritech very well. As a sector we are the enabler for sustainable agriculture, a promise for growing international trade and an assembly of innovators building individual businesses.
This year, despite the restrictions, we need to recognise the progress and beginnings of transformation. We also need to continue challenging what will make the aspirations of our agritech sector come to life in the next five years. We look forward to continuing the conversation in 2022.
Sometimes it’s useful to glance backwards and reflect, as you forge ahead. This week we had our Annual Meeting and reviewed the year beginning in April, 2020. Just one week earlier, we had entered COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown and the year became a defining moment in our lifetime. Thankfully, the impact on our activities was not as dramatic as it potentially could have been. It was a solid year for AgriTechNZ as we firmly stepped away from establishment and planning, and strengthened our capability to collaborate on unleashing New Zealand’s agritech expertise locally and globally.
Last year was active, as we developed our online skills and revelled in the opportunities to get together once we were able to. We had several thousand webinar registrations, squeezed in eight regional Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) updates, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with AusAgritech, released the Aotearoa Agritech Unleashed Report and grew our membership to over 160 proactive organisations!
Speaking of strengthening our capability, at our Annual Meeting we announced the member representative election results for three positions on the Executive Council. We are delighted to confirm that Juliet Ansell from Zespri now joins Dan O’Brien from AWS to represent our Major Corporate members. Bridgit Hawkins from CropX joins Kenneth Irons from Precision Farming to represent SME members and Sophie Rebbeck from Lincoln Agritech was reelected and works with Peter Nation from the New Zealand National Fieldays Society representing Other Corporates. Even though Dion Cawood from LIC and Dan Bloomer from Landwise have stepped back from the Council, we’re already focused on ways to continue benefiting from their experience and wisdom. They have both been foundational in the creation of AgriTechNZ and the sector owes them a great deal.
We had 17 nominations for the three election seats. This is a great measure of the level of interest and engagement that is driving the growth of our sector. For those who were not successful this year, and for anyone wanting to play a more active role, please know we will continue creating opportunities for you to be involved.
Recently, we confirmed the makeup of our Agritech Leaders Data Reference Group with 11 representatives across our membership groups, regions and sector interests. We had over 50 expressions of interest and will keep everyone informed on the group’s strategies and work. If you would like to be kept updated, please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have also received expressions of interest for the Agritech Skills Reference Group and will finalise this within the next week. This is an important focus for us all, as access to the right skills and talent may well be the biggest headwind we will face in growing the sector. It’s an issue we share with other groups in New Zealand. We will be collaborating with NZTech, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and other groups to align our activity. Again, if this is of particular interest, please email us to be added to the stakeholder updates.
We’re also in the final stages of a significant website update which will see the addition of a rich source of resources. We’re working with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and Callaghan Innovation to share information across a range of topics. For example, one of the opportunities to be showcased is Bayer’s global Grants4Ag program. The annual program awards researchers and scientists for sustainable solutions to agricultural challenges. If you would like to know more, please join the webinar on 26 July.
In other news, as a country partner for Farm 2050, we invite you to apply before 30 July for a New Zealand trial assessment. Farm 2050 is an initiative to validate new technologies in nutrient management whilst building valuable links and opportunities for counter seasonal trials in the Northern Hemisphere.
Earlier this month, AgriTechNZ attended the Primary Industries Summit hosted by Federated Farmers. It was an impressive gathering of leaders and influencers. The Summit recognised the role innovation is playing in our primary industries. Congratulations to all the Awards winners, especially our members like Emma Boase from Horticulture New Zealand.
In the next few weeks we partner with the IoT Alliance and BioTechNZ to host several events. Join us on 27 July in Christchurch to discuss connectivity and connected on-farm devices. We will explore the current state and future potential for connected agritech solutions. On 4 August, we’ll be in Palmerston North discussing the pressing need for developments in cellular agriculture and gene editing to secure access to food for future generations.
There is plenty happening in the sector and it’s deservedly gaining attention to foster growth and impact. Please stay in touch so we can help you make the most of the opportunities.
AgriTech New Zealand
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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.
Agritech New Zealand
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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;
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.
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:
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!