The two-week Ireland & UK AgriTech Mission was led by Callaghan Innovation and its agritech group manager, Simon Yarrow, said the aim of the trip was to support agritech initiatives. He is conscious that there are a lot of good agritech companies in NZ but they are not always in a position, either due to cost or a focus on local markets, to gain overseas exposure.
So Callaghan Innovation, in partnership with Agritech New Zealand and NZTE, co-ordinated the mission around 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.
The delegation, which included mid to late stage start-ups and mature businesses along with researchers and capability providers, were given an insight into both the UK and Ireland’s agri industries, research, innovation systems and channel partners.
The trip also provided New Zealand companies and agencies with the opportunity to showcase their abilities and technology.
In the UK those taking part visiting organisations like Agri-EPI, an agritech centre created by the UK government that focuses on the delivery of research, development, demonstration and training on precision agriculture and engineering; the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock, Europe’s largest farm animal research alliance; and Hands Free Hectare, a project working towards the complete automation of farming processes.
They also went on-farm to see what farmers were doing, including a visit to the Waitose farm.
In Ireland, as well as the ploughing championships, visits included Origin Green, an initiative that brings together the Irish food industry – from farmers to food producers, retailers to foodservice operators – with the common goal of sustainable food production; the University College of Dublin’s Lyons Farm; and agriculture and food development agency Teagasc.
Yarrow said the mission aimed to build networks with sister and brother organisations in the UK and Ireland. In Ireland that it is largely a case of strengthening connections that have already exist, with many similarities between the NZ and Ireland pastoral farming systems, while in the UK it more about building new relationships.
He said Brexit, once it is sorted out, is likely to produce a variety of opportunities for NZ agritech companies.
UK politicians have already publicly said they will be looking develop free trade agreements and NZ is likely to be one of the first cabs off the rank.
Ireland, which will remain in the EU, which will mean it will be a perfect launch pad for NZ agritech companies wanting to get into European markets.
The 20-strong mission included well-established companies and organisations such as AbacusBio, AgResearch and Fonterra, through to more recent arrivals like electronic cup remover designer MilkTechNZ, farm monitoring and control platform developer Next Farm and farm reporting tool designer Trev Holdings.
Yarrow said doors for NZ agritech companies are beginning to open.
“Now we just need to walk through them.”