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Technology shaping the future of NZ productivity

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

Tāmaki Makaurau – Technology is shaping the future of agriculture which will help inject a massive impetus into the New Zealand economy, AgriTechNZ chief executive Brendan O’Connell says.

It’s a double impact, with exports of agricultural technologies growing and many of those same technologies transforming what agriculture and horticulture looks like in Aotearoa, he says. 

Agritech underpins current levels of primary industry productivity and is leading new levels of performance and sustainability. Much of what is happening now is building on the digital foundations for agriculture in and from New Zealand.

“The technologies behind our genetic gains, farm modelling and management systems have enabled the growth of our primary industries. Now new tools are building on these digital foundations to drive the next levels of productivity and sustainability on farm.

“We are seeing the use of environmental sensors to quickly identify and manage a range of farm issues. That includes automating the right time, rate and place to irrigate on a pastoral farm as well as addressing problematic microclimates in controlled environment systems such as indoor and vertical farms, which are extensive around the world.

“Image sensors are used in the development of facial recognition for animal identification and fruit counting and sizing applications. These are all tasks that, when automated, significantly improve the productive output of our farms whilst mitigating environmental impacts.

“This ability to match farming knowledge with technology development is a New Zealand strength and links well to findings in the recent Productivity Commission report.”

The report encourages government investment on areas of existing or emerging economic strength and competitive advantage. A small country can excel in only a limited number of areas that can get to critical mass and support sustained world-class competitive performance.

Exporting distinctive products at scale is the way to reach for the global frontier, and New Zealand’s ability to innovate in food production is surely distinctive in the eyes of both global consumers and food producers.

O’Connell says these strengths are recognised in a new $40 million dollar investment fund aimed at companies capable of amplifying New Zealand’s ability to curtail environmental impacts whilst producing better foods, globally.

The fund was launched by US based Finistere Ventures in partnership with New Zealand Growth Capital Partners, and will be based in Palmerston North at The Factory, a leading R&D and company incubation cluster that has a longstanding relationship with Finistere. 

The agritech industry transformation plan released last year sets out key areas for the economic development of the sector and lines up well with many of the findings of the Productivity Commission.

“In addition to addressing issues around investment, it is targeting our ability to match our research and development capabilities with international opportunities.”

O’Connell sees abundant potential in bridging current gaps in the outputs from New Zealand’s investment and resources in research, compared to similar sized countries.

He identifies with the Productivity Commission’s determination that, to make progress, the right level of sustained investment is required. The government will need to make significant investments in infrastructure, research and people to complement the efforts and investments of the business sector, he says.

For further information contact Brendan O’Connell on 021 369740 or NZTech’s media specialist, Make Lemonade editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188

Posted in General

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.

Posted in General

Join the Hon Damien O’Connor and Arama Kukutai as they talk about the importance of connected global capital at Agritech Unleashed on Thursday 13 June

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

For many early stage New Zealand agritech companies, securing connected global capital is a key ingredient to support scaling and growth.

At Agritech Unleashed, the Hon Damien O’Connor, Minister of Agriculture and Minister for Biosecurity, Food Safety, and Rural Communities and Arama Kukutai, Co-founder & Managing Director of San Diego-based Finistere Ventures will talk about the importance of connected capital and New Zealand’s opportunity to secure it.

Over the past 12 months, several early stage New Zealand agritech companies have secured offshore funding. These include Biolumic, Robotics Plus, Halter and most recently Invert Robotics. Several offshore funds have been active in this space. They include Finistere Ventures, Innovation Endeavor, Rabobank & Canopy Rivers. Directors & partners from all four of these global investors are attending the Agritech Unleashed event at National Fieldays.

‘Connected capital’ is more than just cash. It’s about connecting into a wider ecosystem of potential partners. The Farm2050 model epitomises this. With major global agribusinesses such as Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, Corteva, Nutrien, Mars & PepsiCo on board as partners, the opportunity to engage and grow with these players is real. Just ask Warren at Biolumic.

The panel discussion includes directors from Rabobank’s global agri fund (flying in from the Netherlands) and two major kiwi recipients of connected capital; Biolumic and Zeakal. They will talk about their own story and how connected capital has positively impacted their business.

The New Zealand Connected Agritech Capital session takes place in the Bledisloe Function Centre at Mystery Creek on Thursday 13 June from 10.15am – 11.00am.

Access to this exclusive session is strictly by ticket only. You can register for a (free) ticket by logging onto the Agritech Unleashed ticketing system here:

If you have an interest in this space, perhaps looking to either raise capital or as an existing investor, this is one event you cannot afford to miss.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

Global Investors look to NZ agritech to develop Disruptive Technologies in Nutrients

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

On 31 August, Farm2050, the global collective of leading agritech venture funds and corporate agribusinesses, selected New Zealand as its first country partner as a first step towards creating an ecosystem that will allow Kiwi agritech companies to scale in a non-linear way.

Since then, Agritech New Zealand has been working closely with the Farm2050 collective to identify strategies to address some of the really big challenges facing both New Zealand and worldwide agriculture. Following recent discussions, we are therefore delighted to advise that Innovation Endeavors and Finistere Ventures have decided to collaborate on leading the first major Farm2050 project focused on disruptive technologies in nutrients, both from a standpoint of application, measurement and efficiency, as well as novel nutrient technologies such as microbiome/soil health technologies. This will include accelerating trials around nutrient measurement, new products and methods of delivery as well as approaches to managing and mitigating environmental impacts such as runoff.

From Agritech New Zealand’s perspective, this initiative addresses some of the key issues facing the country’s primary sector. Over the coming weeks we will be sharing further detail around this first project and invite New Zealand research organisations, government agencies and the private sector to engage in shaping its scope and focus, as well as participating in its execution. Working directly with globally connected capital and some of the largest international agritech businesses will enable New Zealand’s agritech community to accelerate this activity in ways not seen before.

As part of our wider Farm2050 strategy, Agritech New Zealand will be organising field trials and partnering with industry stakeholders to work on specific areas of need, initially focusing on nutrients, automation and the creation of a “digital academy”.

On a recent conference call with the collective, I spoke to the innovation leads of many of the world’s largest agritech firms. These included Bayer CropScience, Syngenta & Corteva. Scaling New Zealand’s agritech sector with connected capital and access to these multinational partners is critical if we are going to not only contribute to feeding 10 billion mouths by 2050, but in ways that are sustainable and friendly to the environment.

Identifying New Zealand disruptive technologies in nutrients is a great place to start.

Imaged sourced: Chesapeake Bay Program

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

NZ Agritech is officially recognised by globally connected venture capital

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

On Friday, I signed a Partnership Agreement with Farm2050, a collective of major global venture firms and agribusinesses dedicated to supporting innovation in Agtech.

New Zealand has become Farm2050’s first ‘Country Partner’.

The Agreement was signed on the final day of this year’s Silicon Valley AgTech Immersion Program. I was joined at the signing by the NZ Ambassador to the US, Tim Groser & NZTech CEO, Graeme Muller. The co-signatories from Farm2050 were Arama Kukutai of Finistere Ventures & Dror Berman of Innovation Endeavors.

This is a big deal for New Zealand’s agritech sector. The Farm2050 initiative was established at the back-end of 2014 by Google Chair, Eric Schmidt, and his investment vehicle, Innovation Endeavors. It provides emerging and established New Zealand agritech businesses with the opportunity to engage with major global agribusinesses such as Bayer Crop Science, Corteva Agriscience, Mars & PepsiCo on significant new innovation-driven initiatives. These activities will increase the visibility of emerging New Zealand agritech businesses seeking capital to scale to Farm2050’s venture partners who include Finistere Ventures, Innovation Endeavors, Syngenta Ventures, Fall Line Capital, S2G Ventures & Rabobank.

Agritech New Zealand has been tasked to drive the Partnership. In discussions with Farm2050 partners over the past few months, we have identified a number of areas of potential significant value to our agritech sector. I have made a commitment that New Zealand will not only meet the Farm2050 collective’s initial expectations: It is my intention that we smash them.

The significance of the Farm2050 Country Partnership was enhanced by the signing of the Western Growers Strategic Partnership Agreement on Wednesday. This provides emerging New Zealand agritech businesses with access to not only the Western Growers Technology & Innovation Center in Salinas, but also to farmer and grower members across the States.

Whilst these two Agreements are not directly connected, their outcomes are. They provide New Zealand agritech businesses looking to enter the vast US market with;

  • Access to globally connected capital through the visibility generated by the Farm2050 collective
  • Access to a ‘landing pad’ at the Western Growers facility in Salinas
  • Access to farms, ranches & orchards across the States
  • Access to major potential agribusiness partners to trial or license our tech

What then next?

I fly back to New Zealand tonight and our Executive Council will begin to immediately socialise the opportunity within the wider New Zealand agritech community.

We are setting up a nationwide roadshow in the Spring where we will explain the opportunity and its potential outcomes for the sector. Details of the roadshow will appear on this website in the next few days.

In summary: I cannot remember a time when there has been such an opportunity for New Zealand’s agritech sector to scale in the global market. It’s an opportunity that I personally intend to drive home.

Posted in General

Introducing Sanjeev Krishnan, Chief Investment Officer & Managing Director, S2G Ventures

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

Agritech New Zealand is excited to introduce Sanjeev Krishnan to a New Zealand audience. Sanjeev will be joining the high-profile delegation of leading global agritech thought leaders and investors, led by Arama Kukutai of Finistere Ventures, when they visit the country from 22 – 25 May.

Sanjeev will be attending and speaking at the ‘10 billion mouths’agritech conference in Tauranga on Wednesday 23 May. As an investor in Beyond Meat & Ripple, he knows a thing or two about the disruption taking place in the foodtech sector.


Posted in AgriTechNZ News