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Dennis Donohue, Head of the Western Growers Technology & Innovation Center and Peter Wren-Hilton, Executive Director of Agritech New Zealand

I’m delighted to able to announce that Agritech New Zealand has signed a significant MOU with Western Growers, the largest producers of fresh produce in North America.

The agreement addresses some of the significant challenges that New Zealand agritech companies have faced when entering the US market. Where to land? Who to speak to? How to validate tech in-market and on-farm? This Agreement answers these questions.

Today, the 30+ New Zealand delegates attending the 2018 Silicon Valley AgTech Immersion Program & Conference are visiting the Western Growers Technology & Innovation Center in Salinas. It’s a place I have been visiting regularly over the past three years as the relationship with Western Growers has grown. Several of the delegates today are already discussing how their businesses and entities can leverage the Agreement to establish a more formal presence within the US market.

Yesterday, we visited Fresno and the Central Valley here in Northern California. We saw at first hand the scale of the region’s agricultural sector. We also experienced some of its challenges: Water, labor & lack of automation. These are challenges that New Zealand’s agritech sector players are uniquely qualified to address.

This is not a one-way agreement. It includes a provision to enable US-based agritech businesses to establish a presence in New Zealand to continue R&D during the northern hemisphere ‘off-season’. This is designed to enable two-way tech transfer between both countries.

Most programs of this type end after a week and everyone heads home to ‘business as usual’. For the delegates in Salinas today, the signing of this agreement has changed all that. This is the start of an exciting new journey and a significant opportunity that Agritech New Zealand will share with the rest of the country’s agritech sector on our return to Aotearoa.

The Media Release in full:

SALINAS, CA, USA (30 September 2018) – Western Growers (WG) has formalized a new strategic partnership with Agritech New Zealand to strengthen, share and accelerate the development of agricultural technologies, as well as help businesses in both countries access U.S. and New Zealand agriculture markets.

“We are currently facing a myriad of issues that are severely impacting agriculture and the production of food globally,” said Hank Giclas, Western Growers’ senior vice president, strategic planning, science & technology. “Building a two-way bridge for agricultural technology will result in international collaboration where we can create, transfer and share knowledge and experiences about new technologies that can help solve the industry’s most pressing issues.”

The signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a business relationship focused on providing in-market support for agtech companies in New Zealand. It also opens doors for New Zealand agtech companies to enter the U.S. market via WG’s Center for Innovation & Technology (WGCIT) in Salinas, California, and for U.S.-based agtech startups to access the New Zealand market and opportunities.

“Connecting our agriculture innovation ecosystems will benefit innovators, growers, investors, regulators, researchers and public stakeholders not only in our two countries, but around the globe,” said Peter Wren-Hilton, executive director at Agritech New Zealand. “We are excited to embark on this new partnership to foster economic growth in the U.S. and New Zealand through international connections and missions.”

The WGCIT provides a co-working space that offers agtech start-up companies access to training and mentorship; monthly seminars; regularly scheduled events; and exclusive events with WG members – specialty crop farmers in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. As part of the MOU, the community that Agritech New Zealand serves will now have access to WGCIT offerings. Additionally, the WGCIT will work with Agritech New Zealand to evaluate opportunities to conduct R&D trials with potential New Zealand partners during the Northern Hemisphere off season.

About Western Growers:
Founded in 1926, Western Growers represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. Our members and their workers provide over half the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including nearly half of America’s fresh organic produce. In December 2015, WG opened an agtech incubator—the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology—in Salinas, California to provide startups with the resources and mentoring needed to get their companies and technologies up and running. The Center now houses 47 startups. Connect with and learn more about Western Growers on our Twitter and Facebook.

About Agritech New Zealand:
Launched in 2018, Agritech New Zealand is a purpose driven, membership funded organization whose members share a passion for the opportunities that agritech can generate. Agritech New Zealand connects innovators, investors, regulators, researchers and interested public.  It promotes opportunities and challenges raised by agritech.  Agritech New Zealand advances the ecosystem through advocacy, collaboration, innovation, talent and economic growth through international connections and missions.