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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

Posted in General

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

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

Government & industry are working together to build New Zealand’s agritech sector

Monday, April 1st, 2019

This guest post has been written by David Downs, the New Zealand ‘All of Government’ agritech taskforce lead.

Its clear why Agritech is part of New Zealand’s future, as well as our past and present. The first ever innovation in New Zealand related to agritech, with Māori settlers creating a mechanism to elongate the growing day by building small stone walls around the kumara pits, and burying stone chips in the soil to soak up the sun’s rays. The success of our primary production in New Zealand is due in large part of the agricultural and technological innovations which allowed for higher productivity and superior quality. Yes, there is still work to do with ensuring our practices are sustainable and environmentally friendly in some areas, but overall our agritech industry is a source of great comparative advantage for New Zealand.

So it’s no surprise that the government wants to join with industry to super-charge the sector. Ministers have asked officials (bureaucrats like me) to work out ways that we can tune the various levers of government intervention to assist agritech companies to grow bigger, better and faster – not just in New Zealand (assisting with the productivity of our agriculture, horticulture and aquiculture sectors) but also in terms of exports. Somewhat surprisingly, New Zealand exports of agritech have been almost flat for 5 years, which doesn’t accurately demonstrate the potential for the sector.

A couple of weeks ago, representatives from 5 government agencies joined with the industry group Agritech New Zealand, and a number of industry representatives, (pictured above) to plot our joint action plan for government and the sector. Our plan is to work together on initiatives which can accelerate the growth of the sector and the companies within it. We looked at things like skills, management capability and expertise. We looked at science and R&D focus, and how we can line up innovation towards a clear market demand. We looked at the levers of government incentives, funding and policy. At this stage the action plan is still in draft, but significant progress was made and we are on track to draft a national strategy for the sector, along with a clear set of tactics, in the next few months.

With innovation a core part of the kiwi DNA, and the Agritech space a clear opportunity for New Zealand to succeed, it’s good to see government working in partnership with industry on growing New Zealand’s agritech sector.

Posted in AgriTechNZ News

Meet the 30+ New Zealand agritech delegates about to make history

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

In less than 3 weeks, 30+ New Zealand agritech delegates will be joining the 2018 Silicon Valley AgTech Immersion Program & Conference. This will be the third year that Wharf42 has helped facilitate the event, together with our partners Silicon Valley Forum, Callaghan Innovation & NZTE.

When we first embarked on developing the program back in 2015, we could not have envisaged just how significant the long-term impact would be on New Zealand’s emerging agritech sector. The economic ($$’s) return through increased cross-border trade is now being measured in the US$ multi-millions, with at least five of the original cohort of early stage companies now having an established presence in North America.

Later this month, a host of new faces and companies will be joining this journey. Welcome then: AgFirst Consultants, AGMARDT, AgResearch, AgriSmart, Agritech New Zealand, Autogrow, Blinc, Blockbit, Callaghan Innovation, Giltrap Engineering, Hop Revolution, IXOM, Jenkins Freshpac Systems, Marlborough Garlic, Miro Trading, Next Farm, NZTE, NZ Tech, NZVIF, Paysource, Plant & Food Research, Robotics Plus, Seeka, Sprout, Thelning Design, Trimax and Zespri. What an amazing cross-section of New Zealand’s world-leading agritech science & research capability joining forces with a number of the country’s most exciting, emerging agritech businesses, to meet and engage with Silicon Valley’s vast agtech ecosystem. We are absolutely stoked.

Last week, the delegation spent a day at the Waikato Innovation Park for a pre-program briefing. We heard from past delegates including Steve Saunders (Robotics Plus), Matt Flowerday (GPS-it) & Darryn Keiller (Autogrow) about their experiences of previous programs and where this experience has taken them since. We were also joined by representatives from NZ Story & NZVIF as we prepped the team on what to expect from, and how to prepare for, the week ahead. I think its fair to say that the delegation is pretty well pumped, locked and ready to go.

For me personally, this will be another opportunity to connect with a number of now established friends in the wider San Francisco Bay area’s agritech community. And this provides some glimpse to where history is about to be made. To build on the value that these successive programs have developed, we need to establish a more permanent set of bridges that connect New Zealand’s agritech businesses with the capital, networks and in-market farm access necessary to help scale our sector. Building those bridges and developing these connections has been a priority of several folk over the past 12 months and I expect to be able to share some of the results of that work when I report back from San Francisco later this month.

These are exciting times for New Zealand agritech. As the global demand for more food grows, we are well placed to provide the knowledge, the products and the services to help make that happen. This month’s Silicon Valley Immersion Program and Conference is just one more step in that direction. What happens over the next few months could well determine just where New Zealand sits in this global industry in the years ahead.

Posted in AgriTechNZ News