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Collaboration is key to growing NZ’s agritech sector

open this image in new window: Collaboration key agriculture

This article was published on 13 June 2018

Callaghan Innovation’s Nicky Molloy says through a united approach, innovative New Zealand companies can play a greater role in feeding the world. This comes as New Zealand celebrates 50 years of Fieldays, the country’s biggest farming event.

New Zealand has a proud history as a food exporter but with global population growth, changing consumer demands and technological advancements, our primary producers face a future full of challenges and questions.

How will the rise of alternative proteins impact our farmers? What role will robots and artificial intelligence play in the growing and harvesting of crops? What sustainable production solutions will New Zealand be able to offer global consumers?

The convergence of technology and food production was a hot topic for discussion recently at 10 Billion Mouths, as part of Tech Week 2018, and is hot on the minds of the industry as they gather from across the country in Mystery Creek this week for Fieldays’ 50th event this year.

Nicky Molloy, Callaghan Innovation Agritech Business Innovation Advisor
Nicky Molloy, Callaghan Innovation Agritech Business Innovation Advisor

A key focus for New Zealand, and for us at Callaghan Innovation, is how kiwi producers and exporters can work together to best tackle the challenges of the global food market.

At the heart of any successful product or business is great people – when you bring great people together, with common goals and ambitions, and an openness to work together, you create incredible impact.  A great example is Holsim who has just won this year’s Fieldays Callaghan Innovation Partnership and Collaboration Award.

This is the essence of what collaboration is about and the reason Callaghan Innovation supports taking early stage businesses offshore to events like the World Dairy Expo and or on US agritech missions. Along  with  the Silicon Valley Forum and Agritech New Zealand, we are taking registrations of interest for our delegation to the Agritech Immersion Programme and Conference from 27- 31 August 2018 near Silicon Valley.

At the early stage of developing a great technology solution there is so much uncertainty and so many unanswered questions. Who can I talk to in a new market? Will my product meet that market’s needs? How do I sell it there? These are hard questions to answer about a market like the US or Europe when you’re sitting in New Zealand.

When we talk with experienced New Zealand exporters – those companies that have developed technology and got their products offshore – we often hear stories of how they spent years developing new products before launching them offshore only to find they didn’t meet local regulations or didn’t work with local farming systems so had to be redeveloped and relaunched.

If this country is going to build more successful growth companies we need to shift the focus from developing tech in New Zealand that solves only New Zealand problems to ensuring our potential exporters think about building in global solutions earlier so they can scale faster.

There is great capability within New Zealand to get companies prepared to be globally focussed. Our government agencies share the common vision that we need to develop locally and think globally.

The support and resources export-focused companies can draw on include:

Callaghan InnovationAs New Zealand’s innovation agency we help businesses to innovate and create new products and services the world wants;

NZTEKnow-how and know-who to help export focussed businesses grow bigger, better, faster;

NZVIFEarly stage capital to help tech companies scale;

NZ Story – Helping kiwi companies tell their story offshore;

Agritech NZ – Launched last month to work collaboratively to connect the agritech community to international capital and new market opportunities. Building the New Zealand Story around agritech.

By leveraging the capabilities these agencies offer, our agritech exporters can build the knowledge and knowhow they need to enter new markets, learn how to talk about their products and their company without giving away valuable IP, know what they want to achieve and who to connect with, and have the ability to “hit the ground running” in a new territory.

Tapping into these resources does take time, energy, and commitment from everyone involved but the benefits that we see are huge as companies learn that they need a different mindset when they’re selling their products offshore.

And yes, collaboration is not easy! It takes willing partners and time to build up trust, find common ground between participants and identify a range of champions and sponsors from each organisation. These sponsors and champions need to have regular updates on the successes throughout so they stay engaged. However, the evidence of the benefits this approach eventually delivers is overwhelming.

New Zealand has an impressive agriculture sector with a strong history of developing great food to feed the world. Technology is enabling us to do that a lot more efficiently and effectively, and this country is also a great test bed for new ideas and innovations.

We’re in a prime position to make the most of the agritech initiatives that will help feed the world’s 10 billion mouths and, if we do it effectively, we’ll prosper.

Nicky Molloy is a business innovation advisor within Callaghan Innovation's Agritech team. She has over 20 years’ experience working across the food supply chain for companies such as Goodman Fielder, Kiwi Dairies and Tatua Co-op Dairies.

Callaghan Innovation is New Zealand’s innovation agency. We activate innovation and help businesses grow faster for a better New Zealand.