Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Growing NZ’s agritech revenue will take an innovative approach

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While covid made one of the original goals of the ITP, getting out and making global connections, difficult, the pandemic did heighten the importance of agritech for food supply and security.
AgriTechNZ chief executive Brendan O’Connell says for the agritech sector to reach $8 billion in annual revenue, the industry needs to look at new ways of growing businesses.
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This article first appeared in our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.

Growing New Zealand’s agritech sector revenues to $8 billion annually by 2030 is the goal of a refreshed version of the Industry Transformation Plan expected to be launched by the government in June this year.

AgriTechNZ, working with the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, has just completed a countrywide tour, bringing the agritech industry up to date with the latest tweaks to the ITP and giving feedback that will be digested before the 2023 version is finalised.

AgriTechNZ chief executive Brendan O’Connell says achieving the $8bn target will be challenging. 

“If we’re growing businesses in the same way as we’ve grown them in the last 10 years, we won’t reach $8bn by 2030, so the ITP is looking at the new ways of growing businesses or the new types of behaviours we’re seeing internationally that could grow the sector by that much,”  O’Connell says.

That will include looking at ways to commercialise science and making sure New Zealand is getting its share of global investment in agritech. 

There are seven desired outcomes listed in the updated plan, including fostering global connections, operating as a “smart ecosystem” across all the different players that make up agritech in NZ, getting the right skills, talents and investment, and connecting better with Māori farming.

“The seven outcomes listed in the plan are effectively creating the conditions to create the desired level of growth,” O’Connell says.

He says AgriTechNZ is pleased to see large companies like Gallagher not only growing their own businesses but also investing in other enterprises.  

“We see Silver Fern Farms, along with Fonterra and Zespri and others, joining the Sprout Agritech startup ecosystem and we think that type of behaviour is new and will create different types of value going forward.”

Sprout both invests in “agrifoodtech” start-ups and runs intensive courses to train food tech entrepreneurs. O’Connell is optimistic the involvement of established companies will accelerate the growth of the agritech sector in NZ

While covid made one of the original goals of the ITP, getting out and making global connections, difficult, the pandemic did heighten the importance of agritech for food supply and security.

“The pressure and challenge on food systems around the world to produce more but with lower footprints has intensified and that speaks directly to agritech solutions,” O’Connell says.

He describes He Waka Eke Noa, the government and the farming industry’s effort to agree on how to reduce primary sector emissions, as effectively one of the largest agritech initiatives NZ has seen.

“Finding those technologies that may be in the research phase now and getting them applied on farms as quickly as possible will have an impact not only by reducing emissions but also in the size of the sector and meeting that 2030 goal.”

The discussions that have been held over the past few months with agritech businesses around the country will lead to what O’Connell says is a “more refined focus”.

“We’re doubling down on some areas we think will have the biggest impact and that’s what we’re discussing right now, and when the launch is done, we’ll go through what the actual work programme is to put interventions around those areas.”

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