Agritech

Is agritech destined to save New Zealand?

Graeme Muller

Graeme Muller

Agritech could be destined to save the New Zealand economy, leading New Zealand tech expert Graeme Muller says.

The tremendous worldwide demand for food continues to soar with some estimating the market to be worth $US3 trillion and much of the growth coming from specialty and healthy foods, Muller, the NZTech chief executive, says.

He is one of 30 New Zealand agritech delegates attending the Silicon Valley forum agritech immersion programme this week in San Jose, California, and they are finding that New Zealand is well placed to respond to the substantial changing demands.

“There is growing evidence that the abundance of processed foods is the underlying cause of a global obesity epidemic which is also impacting New Zealand which is ranked third worst in the OECD for obesity,” Muller says.

“Combining two of New Zealand’s leading sectors, agriculture and technology, shows just how we can improve New Zealand farming, food production and health while also growing our exports. We are on the cusp of some massive and exciting tech changes in our lives.

“There are some amazing agritech developments in Silicon Valley such as Granular Software a farm operations startup that was recently purchased by DuPont for $US300 million, or the synthetic protein companies like Clara Foods for eggs, Memphis Meats for beef and Finless Foods for fish.

“Yet most of the major pain points in the US farm systems are similar to New Zealand such as water management, nutrient management and labour shortages so New Zealand agritech solutions are viable for this massive market.

“For example, award-winning Tauranga company Robotics Plus has an automated apple packaging system that will be able to help US growers address labour shortages.

“New Zealand is also well positioned to meet increasing demands for specialty and healthy foods. Miro berries, a Maori owned and driven company, is deploying the latest agritech in New Zealand to build high value blueberry production to replicate our success in kiwifruit and meet domestic and global demand for the superfood,” he says.

New Zealand is one of the top 10 world’s biggest blueberry producers. About 700 ha of blueberry crops are grown in New Zealand with expectations the export industry could be worth more than $100 million in coming years. 

Muller says New Zealand is achieving good agritech export growth rates relative to other nations. Global agritech investment is expanding rapidly, with investment in agritech firms in 2014 was estimated at more than $US2.36 billion.

The New Zealand tech sector is the country’s third largest and fastest growing export sector, worth over $6.3 billion in 2015 and employing more than six percent of the New Zealand workforce.

 

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Major international agritech announcement expected for NZ

Peter-Wren Hilton

Peter-Wren Hilton

In less than a fortnight, more than 30 New Zealand agritech leaders will make history in Silicon Valley.

They will be part of the international 2018 Silicon Valley agritech immersion programme and Conference, involving Silicon Valley Forum, Tauranga’s Wharf42, Agritech New Zealand, Callaghan Innovation, and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

Agritech New Zealand executive director Peter Wren-Hilton says the four-year-old Silicon Valley agritech connection will have a significant and long-term impact on New Zealand’s emerging agritech sector.

Agritech New Zealand is helping build a world class agritech ecosystem but New Zealand needs to integrate agriculture and technology to strengthen its primary export sector,” Wren-Hilton says.

“An exploding world population and climate change is increasing the urgency for more sustainable use of natural resources in farming. Cutting-edge agritech is providing alternatives to traditional farming methods and revolutionising the sector.

“The economic return through increased cross-border trade is now being measured in the high hundreds of multi-million dollars for the New Zealand economy. This is huge with at least five of the original cohort of early stage Kiwi companies engaged in the first Silicon Valley AgTech Immersion Program now formally established in North America.

“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 event is just one more key step in that direction.

“We are hoping for a major international agritech announcement later this month, directly involving New Zealand which needs to catch up with some of the world’s leading agritech players including Israel, Ireland, the Netherlands and the USA. What happens over the next few months could well determine just where New Zealand sits in this global industry in the years ahead.

“Innovation in the agritech sector is growing at an exponential rate, with emerging technologies such as AI taking a serious chunk of both attention and investment.

“New Zealand agri-technology competes with the best. If we simply sit back however and don’t take proactive steps to engage with the wider global market, both ag and investment, then we will never reach our full potential.

“As the world’s demand for food increases with its ever-growing population, New Zealand can expand its primary sector further by focusing on producing higher value produce for the world.

“The application of smart technology will not only assist this growth but ensure that it is achieved in far more sustainable long-term ways, caring for our environment and protecting it for future generations.

“New Zealand invests nearly $750 million in research and development for food and agriculture but is only just starting to see innovation startups commercialise the tech resource coming from public and private investment.

“Our country is a big primary producer and tech will very soon make a big difference to agriculture. Digitisation of the farm is impacting agriculture globally,” he says.

 

 

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