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Tech Continues to Enhance New Zealand’s Agri-economy

A New Zealand-based Agritech organisation says that technology is shaping the future of agriculture which will help inject a massive impetus into the New Zealand economy, with exports of agricultural technologies growing and many of those same technologies transforming what agriculture and horticulture look like in Aotearoa.

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 genetic gains, farm modelling and management systems have enabled the growth of the country’s primary industries. Now, new tools are building on these digital foundations to drive the next levels of productivity and sustainability in farming.

New Zealand’s agriculture sector is now 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.

Also, 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 farms while mitigating environmental impacts.

The 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 in 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. Agritech experts say that these strengths are recognised in a new US$40M investment fund aimed at companies capable of amplifying New Zealand’s ability to curtail environmental impacts while producing better foods, globally.

The fund was launched by a US-based ventures company in partnership with New Zealand’s growth capital partners and will be based in Palmerston North, at a leading R&D and company incubation cluster.

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

Accordingly, New Zealand’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan 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 the agriculture sector’s ability to match research and development capabilities with international opportunities.

The Minister of Economic Development said that New Zealanders have been on a journey to work out ways on how to be productive and sustainable in their farming practices and they believe that they have value and ideas to offer the world.

He emphasised that they need to learn from others, and further accelerate their efforts. That is why the ‘Industry Transformation Plan’ is a blueprint for how to build on New Zealand’s traditional strengths while also accelerating the development of technology for use on the farms, oceans and orchards of Aotearoa, and beyond.

The Minister added that New Zealand can be a world leader in this area. They are aiming to see significant economic benefit from its activities, while also using technology to reduce the impact on the land. Agritech is right at the nexus of New Zealand’s past, and future.

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